Responsible for moulding the future generations of Singapore through holistic learning, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has remained committed to its mission of nurturing the spirit of lifelong learning in every learner.
In fact, the ministry’s mission is so central to its being that it even translates to how MOE takes care of its own staff.
With more than 30,000 employees (of which approximately 3,500 are at HQ), MOE ensures that everyone has the capacity to learn, grow and develop, regardless of delegation.
“In addition to serving external stakeholders (students and parents), MOE also looks after our internal stakeholders who deliver the service to the students and parents,” Imran Yusof, Senior Manager (Performance Management) at HR Solutions and Capabilities Division, said.
The freedom to diverge
When Hazel Toh, Lead Manager (Communications and Engagement Planning) at Communications and Engagement Group (Planning Office), first joined MOE as part of the HR Strategy and Leadership Division, it was after much reflection after her graduation from Nanyang Technological University.
“When I graduated from school, I was not very sure about what I wanted to do. So, I was looking back on my past part-time experiences, and I tried to see where I felt the most comfortable at and where I would like to invest my time in for the next ten years,” she recalled, adding that she later realised that she wanted to work in the social sector.
But after more than seven years of working in HR, she made the switch to work in communications and engagement. Her decision was received with approval from her supervisors, and she also found that the soft skills she had honed in her previous position came in handy.
“It was through conversations with my bosses and also through my own area of expertise in HR that I realised it was not good for my professional development to stay in the same place for too long,” she explained. “So, we decided that it was time for me to make the move.”
On the other hand, Dr Darren Wong, Assistant Director and Master Specialist (Physics) at Curriculum Planning and Development Division, had not expected to diverge so much from being a physics teacher. After being given opportunities to experience various roles such as being a Subject Head, an officer at HQ and a Teaching Fellow at the National Institute of Education (NIE), he eventually progressed to be a Master Specialist (Physics) at HQ.
Much of this is possible due to the porous nature of MOE’s career tracks, especially for Education Officers. While there are three tracks—Teaching, School Leadership and Senior Specialist, they are able to move across the tracks as long as they meet the requirements of the job.
“When I first started out teaching, I definitely was not thinking about it,” he admitted. “If you were a good teacher, the general track was to just work your way up to being a School Leader. But I learnt that MOE Education Officers can consider different career tracks, decide where their strengths and inclinations lie and where they can contribute best.
Thankfully, easing into new roles is made easier by MOE’s efforts to ensure officers are up to speed, through various induction programmes that not only help them catch up on job responsibilities but to also meet new colleagues.
In addition, for those interested in exploring their options within the ministry, deployment exercises allow them to do so by receiving advice and guidance from senior officers and hiring divisions, as well as volunteering to take up attachments for short-term exposure to other areas.
“If I want to learn about other areas of work and stretch myself professionally, I could just raise my hand to indicate my interest and dedicate a portion of my time for the next six months to do so,” Hazel explained. “Such attachments benefit us both ways: my new colleagues learn from me, and I learn from them as well.”
Opportunities to upskill are also aplenty, be it refining existing skills or learning something entirely new. For one, Imran would discuss the areas he wants to develop in with his supervisors whenever possible, and they would provide suggestions on courses he can take.
“I was quite keen to develop my skill set in data analytics, and my supervisors were very supportive. They gave me the time and space to go for courses and developmental opportunities and use those skills to contribute to my job,” he said.
MOE also offers professional development opportunities for those wishing to pursue further education. Hazel and Imran are both benefitting from it, as they are both able to take time off to pursue further postgraduate studies in business analytics. Darren completed his postgraduate studies at NIE, where he learnt useful knowledge and skills related to science research.
Serving with passion
Unsurprisingly, in line with MOE’s spirit of lifelong learning, a love of learning burns bright in Imran, Hazel and Darren. In fact, all three encourage graduates to adopt lifelong learning in their career paths, even long after their formal education ends.
“Back then when I graduated from university, I felt that I had concluded my learning. I thought once I received my degree, that was it, and I would spend the next 30 years of my life just working,” Hazel said.
“But I realised it was premature to close that chapter so quickly, and my experiences thus far have shown that my interests would continue to evolve over time. I am still discovering my strengths and inclinations to date. With MOE being such a big ministry, the types of jobs and the job scopes of individual jobs have also evolved to keep up with the times and to meet the needs of our stakeholders.”
“Through different postings and job assignments, you get to learn new experiences and pick up skill sets,” Darren agreed. “And along the way, the important thing is that we learn from the new colleagues we meet, who share with us new perspectives.”
MOE’s strong organisational culture ensures that everyone shares common values and goals.
“Even if we go into meetings with different objectives, we know that ultimately, the student is at the centre of everything we do,” Hazel said.