Sowing Innovation & Creativity: A Story of a Gardener Extraordinaire

Sowing Innovation & Creativity: A Story of a Gardener Extraordinaire

Wednesday, 07 June 2017

Sowing Innovation & Creativity

A story of a gardener extraordinaire

Often referred to as a gifted gardener of trees and teachers for his unerring ability to nurture and grow both, Prof Lee Sing Kong's success lies in his unique ability to define and refine the smallest detail without losing sight of the big picture and perhaps, in the seeds he used: innovation and creativity.


A Time to Plant, A Time to Harvest, A Time to Rest

Professor Lee Sing Kong was arguably a legend while he lived; respected by peers, colleagues, institutions of learning both at home and abroad, civil and corporate organisations, the Singapore government, and her leaders.

He garnered praise, accolades, awards and medals at every turn in his career, but it was his special blend of truly connecting with people and being able to inspire them to want to push boundaries, to see how the future could be and, to invent solutions to realise dreams, that made him the visionary he was.

Laying Down Seeds

Planting came naturally to Prof Lee. As a horticulturist by training, his pioneering efforts to plant trees brought about Singapore’s vision of a rich tropical green paradise. Then, combining aeroponic technology with his passion and creative approach he fertilised the development and adaptation of aeroponic production of vegetables.   

Deemed the brain behind the success of growing temperate vegetables in the tropics, his aeroponic farming technique was in 2009 ranked among the top three green solutions worldwide, and televised by the Discovery Channel.

A less energetic, curious, optimistic, forward-thinking, entrepreneurial person would probably have then been content to continue to further grow within that field. Not Prof Lee. He embarked on a second career.

What seemed a career change when Prof Lee moved into the education pasture, was in essence a different opportunity for him to do what he loved best – growing and nurturing. This time round though it was educators. As he once said “... education and farming share a very strong parallel — they involve the process of nurturing and the goals are to help unleash the potential of either a plant or a child.”

Cultivating Growth & Harvesting Quality 

Bringing his dynamic personality and original thinking to bear, in just six short years as the Director of NIE, Prof Lee built on the strong foundation he inherited and used it to grow an innovative and differentiated strategy: to mould NIE into an institution that has ambition, to excel in teaching, to perform useful research, and to be a valuable member of the education fraternity.

2008 Aug 22 - DR (54)

This he did while always acknowledging the work of thousands who contributed. In her tribute Professor Low Ee Ling, succinctly sums up his immense contributions. “Prof Lee, though you have gone way too soon, rest assured that your enduring legacy of transforming teaching, inspiring learning and lives locally and globally will far outlive the brevity of your life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me, for our institute, our university and our nation. May you Rest In Peace and enjoy everlasting life in heaven.”

To read what Prof Lee accomplished in the education industry alone is breathtaking, but it is the how he achieved it that is inspiring, especially to educators.  

He made innovating seem doable and the notion that it was a natural way to think and teach; to see to the core of situations and craft creative actionable solutions; to be a life-long learner, as he was himself.

Watching The Shoots & Blooms

The legacy that he leaves behind is something that current and future educators can draw on as they strive to be the best teacher they can be - “one who can inspire the heart of every student and through this, change their lives not only within the classroom but beyond.”


Prof Tan Oon Seng, Director NIE elaborated, “…as an NIE community, let us build on Professor Lee’s legacy by continuing to take our mission of teacher education with devotion and excellence. Working with a heart of care to transform teaching and learning and ultimately impacting young lives for the better. For this is what he would have hoped for all of us.”

As tributes poured in with news of Prof Lee’s demise, what was revealing was the many facets of Prof Lee’s personality. From humble, inspiring, dynamic, innovative, determined, persuasive, positive, passionate and charming to wise, warm, kind, humourous…

However, from an educator’s educator standpoint it is his fierce believe and championing of pedagogy that he’ll be watching as he rests from above to see that it continues to shoot and bloom.

Prof Cho Youngdal College of Education, Seoul National University summed it well by once saying, “Making the world a more pedagogical place” is a pun for teacher educators, but no truer words could be said especially with reference to Professor Lee Sing Kong.

Click here to visit the tribute page.