New Director to lead National Institute of Education

New Director to lead National Institute of Education

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Education stalwart Professor Lee Sing Kong hands over the reins to Professor Tan Oon Seng

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) today announced the appointment ofProfessor Tan Oon Seng, 56, as the new Director of the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore. Prof Tan will assume the position on 1 July 2014.

Current NIE Director, Professor Lee Sing Kong, 62, will relinquish his appointment on 30 June 2014 after holding office for more than 7 years since 1 November 2006. He will continue his appointment as professor of biological sciences at NTU.

Professor Bertil Andersson said, “NTU is proud to have had Prof Lee helm the NIE through these crucial years. Under Prof Lee’s leadership, NIE has achieved an outstanding reputation as a leading teacher education institution in the world. He has made invaluable contributions and launched many key initiatives that have greatly impacted teacher education in Singapore and abroad.”

Prof Lee had spearheaded the articulation of NIE’s strategic directions since 2006 and guided NIE in achieving its vision of becoming an “Institute of Distinction” renowned for excellence in teacher education and educational research. He was also instrumental in establishing the International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes (IALEI) in August 2007 with seven other world leading education institutions. As the think tank that will influence the education sector globally, IALEI draws expertise and research in education to generate ideas, identify trends and serve as a collective voice on important educational matters and thus influence policies and practice in education.

Under his stewardship, NIE took a systematic review of teacher education programmes in partnership with MOE and its schools, using the revised National Curriculum as key guides. The resulting 21st-century teacher education model was launched in 2009 to develop teachers with the key values, skills and knowledge necessary to function in the 21st-century classroom. The Thinking Teachers framework that crystallises NIE’s unique paradigm of value-based teacher education in the design, delivery and enhancement of NIE programmes and courses, is often cited as a reference point by the international teaching fraternity.  

Prof Lee was instrumental in bringing together top academics from NIE and USA’s Teachers College, Columbia University, to develop a new Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change programme jointly offered by the two institutions. Launched in 2012, this is the first of its kind programme focused on moulding candidates from Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to meet the demands for developing leaders in education with both local and global perspectives.

The NIE also plays an important role in providing education research and research based-pedagogical curriculum and direction to the Ministry and its schools to transform the teacher preparation system and to ensure it continues to meet changing needs of the education system. In tandem with these advancements, Prof Lee saw to a further elaboration of the new pedagogies and transformed NIE’s tutorial rooms campus-wide, to promote a more conducive and collaborative environment for learning and teaching that would enable the acquisition of 21st century skills.

For his outstanding contributions to Singapore and the nation’s teaching education system, Prof Lee received the prestigious Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 2011. He has also been lauded internationally for advancing the teaching profession. Prof Lee is the first Singaporean to receive the Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest honour bestowed by the Teachers College, Columbia University, USA last year. Prof Lee was also awarded Vietnam’s Medal of Honour in 2012 for the Cause of Education, in acknowledgement of his contributions in sharing NIE’s best practices on leadership programming and to mark the successful launch of the country's National Training Programme for School Principals.

In a heartfelt message to his NIE colleagues and counterparts today, Prof Lee said, "The best teacher is one who can inspire the heart of every student and, through this, change their lives not only in the classroom but beyond. I wish to thank everyone in the NIE family who had helped lay such a foundation in the heart of every student teacher, such that when they graduate from NIE, they can be the best teachers to their students. Because of its daring spirit to confront change and adopt innovations in the process, NIE has been recognised as a leader in several educational initiatives by our international peers."

On his successor, Prof Lee said, "I have known Oon Seng as a dedicated leader whose passion in teacher education knows no bounds. I am confident that he will bring NIE to a new height as an Institute of Distinction."

Prof Andersson said, “On behalf of NTU, I would like to thank Prof Lee for his passion, dedication, distinguished years of service and his capable leadership as Director, NIE. His relentless passion and drive for education and his contributions to NIE, NTU and Singapore will continue to inspire generations of teachers to come.”

“I am also confident that as the new NIE Director, Prof Tan would build on the excellent foundation laid by his predecessors and bring NIE to greater heights of excellence,” Prof Andersson added.

New team to chart NIE’s future directions

Incoming NIE Director Prof Tan is renowned in the areas of cognitive psychology and problem-based learning. A tenured professor of NTU, he has an outstanding track record as a teacher, lecturer, school leader and university professor. He started his career as a teacher in 1983 and rose through the ranks to become a Vice-Principal in 1991. He joined Temasek Polytechnic as a lecturer in 1992 and served in several positions in teaching as well as in administration. He was Director of Temasek Polytechnic’s Centre for Problem-Based Learning before joining NIE as an Associate Professor in September 2001. 

At NIE, Prof Tan headed the Psychological Studies Academic Group from 1 July 2003 to 31 December 2008.  His current appointment as Dean, Teacher Education is a position that he held since September 2008.

Speaking of his new appointment, Prof Tan said, “NIE plays an integral part in growing the teaching fraternity in Singapore. I feel greatly honoured and blessed to have an excellent team of colleagues with me as I take on the helm of the NIE directorship. As an advocate for the strengthening of the calling and scholarship of the teaching profession I believe NIE is poised for exciting opportunities to work with the MOE, the university, schools, the community and our international partners.

“The legacy of NIE's leadership and positioning enables us to lead in teacher education and education research in unique ways. With a strong base in a research-intensive university we want our teachers to be highly thinking and grounded with multiple perspectives to face a changing world. In close collaboration with MOE, we desire to build strong professionalism with clear ethos and responsible citizenship. In partnership with the professional community and schools we aspire to develop highly competent teachers. I hope to contribute my insights and experience as a teacher, pedagogy-innovator, cognitive educator and education researcher in helping NIE's catalytic role of flourishing learning for our future generations in Singapore,” he noted.

Sustaining Excellence in Teacher Education and Development

Taking over Prof Tan as the Dean of Teacher Education is Associate Professor Liu Woon Chia. Assoc Prof Liu, 46, joined NIE as an Assistant Professor in the Psychological Studies Academic Group in 2001.  She served as Sub-Dean, Diploma Programmes from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.  She is currently the Associate Dean, Practicum and School Partnerships in the Office of Teacher Education since 1 July 2009.

Assoc Prof Liu said, “As a former teacher myself, I recognise the inordinate demands placed on teachers and am humbled to be given the opportunity to play a part in initial teacher preparation. With my team of esteemed colleagues, I hope to continue the good work laid by my predecessor, Prof Tan Oon Seng, in developing teachers with the competency and motivation to improve their professional practices through their own learning process, and the vision and passion to mould future generations of children and youth.”

Professor Paul Teng, 64, the current Dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning (GPL), will be appointed NIE’s Principal Officer when incumbent Dr Quek Jin Jong, 67, retires from NIE in July 2014. Prof Teng previously headed the Natural Sciences and Science Education (NSSE) Academic Group from 2004 to 2006. Under his leadership, NSSE saw an increase in student enrolment, expanded staff strength and significantly increased its research funding and teaching contributions. He has also heightened NSSE’s local and regional visibility and the Academic Group held its first International Science Education Conference in November 2006. Prof Paul Teng assumed the position of Dean, Office of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning, NIE in November 2006 till now.

Taking over as Dean of GPL from 1 July 2014 will be Professor Christine Goh, 55.  She joined NIE as a lecturer in 1994 and was appointed as Assistant Professor in 1998. She served as the Deputy Head, English Language and Literature Academic Group NIE from January to December 2008, and was subsequently appointed to her current position of Associate Dean, Higher Degrees in GPL in January 2009.

Prof Goh said, “As the new Dean, I would like to see our effort in providing short courses, executive programmes as well as masters and doctoral programmes reach new heights of excellence. To achieve this, I will count on the support of GPL’s talented team of academic leaders and expert colleagues in NIE Academic Groups and Research Centres. Beyond this, my team will seek out new partnerships with forward-thinking local and overseas educators who share our goal of offering new and exciting learning experiences to existing and future students.”

Prof Andersson said, “We congratulate and welcome Prof Tan Oon Seng, Assoc Prof Liu Woon Chia, Prof Paul Teng and Prof Christine Goh on their new appointments and wish them every success in their journey ahead.

“We would also like to thank Dr Quek Jin Jong for his distinguished years of service in the various key appointments of Dean, School of Physical Education, Dean, Academic and Principal Officer, NIE. His unwavering commitment to teaching has created many important inroads for NIE in Singapore and beyond.”

For the past three decades, Dr Quek made many significant contributions to NIE including influencing the launch of NIE’s Sport Science and Management degree programme at the Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) Academic Group. He joined the College of Physical Education in 1985 and was the first Dean of School of Physical Education from 1991 to 2000, followed by the appointment as Principal Officer, NIE from 2000. From July 2003 to June 2006, he was appointed Dean, Academic of NIE, with 11 academic groups directly under his charge. In a secondment to the Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE), Abu Dhabi, UAE, Dr Quek served as its first Vice Chancellor to launch the BEd and PGDE programmes there and mounted professional development courses for the teachers in the Abu Dhabi Emirates from September 2007.

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