Contributed By Jeremy Chua
Jazz performances and poetry recitals are not what one would expect from a gathering of educators. But that was exactly the scenario at the Educators Summit 2010 at the HDB Hub Convention Centre on Friday, March 19, as a 300-strong crowd of educators and corporate executives swayed to the buttery-smooth vocals of Robert Fernando, hailed by some as the Luther Vandross of Singapore.
Organized by Impactus!, a conference organizer, and supported by EduNet, this year’s summit was a step up from the previous one in 2008, which saw participants only from schools and the Ministry of Education. “This year, we had representatives from various organizations such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Voluntary Welfare Association,” said director of Impactus!, Sherman Low.
The one-day event was opened by Sylvia Liew, an advisor with Impactus!, who introduced the theme of the summit—“Embracing Changes, Enhancing Performance—with an elegant self-penned poem. Said Liew, “Change is the only constant in life. The question is, how do we respond and capitalize on change? How can we change our mindsets in order to increase productivity, raise standards and radiate possibilities?”
With the effervescent Diana Ser holding court as emcee and moderator, the event provided a platform for luminaries across a diverse spectrum of industries to share their thoughts on embracing change and enhancing performance.
|CN PHOTOS: Michael Chan|
“Educators need to learn from beyond their fraternities, to become better informed and better educated themselves,” explained Ng Yeow Ling, founder of eduNet and principal of North View Primary School. “We believe that the differing perspectives from various segments of the marketplace can be an inspiration to educators.”
Managing director of Microsoft Singapore and Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC, Jessica Tan, kicked off the first half of the summit by sharing about the Microsoft culture, urging the educators present to “develop an environment to push the envelope.”
Alex Yeo, managing director of McDonald’s Singapore, followed on to talk about the importance of valuing one’s employees in an organization, illustrating his points with a plethora of real life examples, which included many success stories of service staff rising through the ranks. He summed up, “Everything starts with the people. If you don’t have the right people, it doesn’t matter even if you have the right support, incentives and environment.”
Next, founder and group CEO of MindChamps Holdings, David Chiem, spoke on the topic of creativity and ways to encourage a champion mindset. “Whatever you try to communicate, you have to engage the audience’s minds; otherwise, what is the point?” CEO of brand agency Activiste, Kim Faulkner offered insight on how educators and their institutions can benefit from having a strong brand image, and create higher stakeholder value. “You are the best, the leader, because you have insight as to who you are and what you really want to achieve,” she said to the audience “You have the ability to turn that insight into reality.”
After a panel discussion, a luncheon and a light jig led by Fernando (most likely to fight off the after-lunch slump), AirAsia’s Regional Head of Communications Raman Narayanan shared on how the airline came to be, and urged everyone to embrace change. “Believe in the unbelievable, dream the impossible, and never take no for an answer,” he said, while advocating educators to foster a culture in which students are empowered and failure is not punished.
The entertainment and lifestyle scene may be far removed from the field of education, but CEO of club operator LifeBrandz, Bernard Lim underscored an important rule of survival in today’s world, applicable even in the education sector—maintaining one’s competitive edge in the face of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding clientele. “Anyone can sell a beer,” he said, “but whether people come back is another matter.”
Finally Georgia Lee, founder and director of Georgia Lee Skincare, rounded up the summit by sharing her take on perfection and success. “Giving and doing our best, that is perfection,” she said. “And success, especially for children, is self-perpetuating.”
For the attendees, it proved to be an inspiring and encouraging day. Said City College teacher Selena See, “We need to speak the language of the students to engage them.” Victor Lim Fei, a PhD research scholar from the National University of Singapore, agreed. “The importance of being relevant and passionate about what you do, is a common refrain that needs be constantly articulated to encourage educators.”
Reinforcing the fact that teachers can and must make a difference, PR director of City College, Jelaine Ang says, “The words of a teacher can truly make an impact in the lives of students.”
Organizer Low concluded that the purpose of the summit was not so much to change the education system in Singapore but to make an impact on the thinking of the educators.
“There are so many best practices and aspects of the corporate world that can make a difference in the education sector.”