This was the speech I gave at the High School Graduation Ceremony.
I was reminded of Harry Potter when I put on my gown and saw the high school students with their gowns on. Harry Potter had to deal with many things in his years at Hogwarts, including risking his life to take down Voldemort. Unlike Harry Potter, my students will not need to face down the greatest evil ever in order to graduate from HWA.
Our Grade 12 students are currently taking their IB Diploma examinations. While the IB Diploma programme is a 2-year programme, these two years are but a marker in a process of education that began when a child first comes into this world, and has to learn how to draw his first breath. His first teacher was probably the midwife, who gave him a whack on his butt, inducing pain and thus a reflex to draw breath.
Singapore is probably one of the strictest nations when it comes to the quality of education. Such strict oversight extends to even private education, governed by the Committee for Private Education (CPE). Schools have to meet a minimum quality of governance and educational administration, and with certain financial muscle, just to be in the business. Schools wanting to enrol international students (defined as students who are not ordinarily resident in Singapore) have to acquire the EduTrust certification.
In many top international schools, the Principal goes away on the same school holidays as their academic staff. It is accepted in these schools that foreigners need to return to their home nations during the school holidays. HWA is probably a school that bucks the trend, because the Principal is a local (albeit one who has plenty of international experience) and thus follows a different leave scheme.
This is the text of the speech delivered at the Teacher’s Appreciation Day, before the school assembly of teachers and students.
I normally deliver my speech in English first. As this speech has to do with my journey of learning Chinese, I shall break with tradition and deliver the Chinese speech first.
It was yet another busy Tuesday lunch-break when a bunch of students knocked on my doors and came in (for my candy, obviously – it is not like the Principal is the reason for them to come!). I smiled and reminded myself of the students whom I observed barging into their classrooms when their teacher was teaching – I shall have to remind my teachers to reinforce this habit in school. Proper manners is very much a part of society’s expectations, and as educators, it is our job to teach manners as well.
A Principal should be present to greet his students every morning, and all the more so after an extended school holiday and vacation. It was thus quite distressing to me that I had to deal with a terrible tummy on the Monday after the CNY holidays. It was no big deal – I am a fighter – a couple of carbon tablets and I can still continue the fight, but it was frustrating for me to be late for school on such an important day.
I realise I have readers who read this column who are neither students nor their parents. I thought I would reproduce the contents of my speech at the Chinese New Year celebrations (on 20 January 2017) for this post.
Before I begin, let me introduce to you a new member of the HWA family, Ms Katty Zhao, VP of Admissions, Marketing and Communications. She has lots of exciting ideas to contribute to the school, and I welcome this new addition.
There was a quiet knock at my door. My students are starting to understand and adopt proper school etiquette! I suppose my weeks after weeks of reminding the students to knock before they enter have borne fruit.
Three of my junior school girls came in, and they were not the usual ones who would come in to complain about one of their classmates. They came in, smiled, and asked if there were any more candies. I promised them that I would get Mrs Chan to get more candies. For some reason, my wife has become my Quartermaster of Candy, to my students.