Improving Schooling Quality: A Professional Learning Programme

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The HEAD Foundation, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), welcomed over thirty education specialists, policy-makers and middle-level education managers from five Developing Member Countries (DMCs), to participate in a five-day programme designed to strengthen capacity among policy makers to better implement education reform.

The two organisations conducted the customised, focused learning programme from 29 November to 2 December 2016 for mid-level officials and experts from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Indonesia so that they can develop an understanding about key features behind school effectiveness, benchmarking and monitoring school performance, and use this understanding as a basis for strengthening quality and improvement of their own national student assessment systems.

Prof Gopinathan, Academic Director at THF and Mr Brajesh Panth, Technical Advisor (Education) at the ADB, kicked off Day 1 with their welcome address which outlined the objectives of the programme. This was followed by representatives from all five participating countries presenting an overview of their countries’ education systems and provided context of where they are in terms of education policies and reforms. Mr Panth then gave a presentation on the Principles and Effective Practices in Developing and Implementing K-12 Reforms, after which Prof Gopinathan presented on the Singapore Education Reform Experience from 1965 to 2015, illustrating how Singapore’s lauded education system became how it is today.

Day 2 saw more presentations on different countries’ and regions’ education reform experience. Prof Clive Dimmock, Chair in Professional Learning and Leadership, University of Glasgow, spoke on the Vietnamese experience of implenting K-12 education reforms. Dr Sheldon Shaeffer, Former Director, UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education then spoke on the challenges and provocations in developing and implementing reforms in early learning and lessons from 49 years in international education. Participants then had an overview of the South Asian experience in teaching and learning from Prof Hitendra Pillay, Faculty of Education, School of Cultural and Professional Learning, Queensland University of Technology. Participants ended the day with a visit to the National Institute of Education (NIE) to get insights on Singapore’s teacher education and teacher development policies.

Presentations for Day 3 of the programme focused on innovative approaches to improving schooling quality. Prof Lim Cher Ping, Chair Professor of Learning Technologies and Innovation, Education University Hong Kong presented on leveraging technology for improving learning outcomes. Prof Allan Walker, Chair Professor Department of Education Policy and Leadership, Education University of Hong Kong, then gave a presentation on the role of leadership for tomorrow’s schools. This was followed by a visit to the Singapore Examination and Assessment Board (SEAB) to give participants an overview of Singapore’s policies and reform experience regarding assessments. After arriving back at the Foundation, the participants began their preparations for their countries’ presentations to be shared on the last day of the programme.

Day 4 began with a presentation that complemented the participants’ visit to SEAB, with Prof Esther Ho, Director, Hong Kong Centre for International Student Assessment, and Co-Director of Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, discussing assessment for improved learning outcomes and bringing in different countries’ experience on the subject. The speakers’ round of presentations then closed with the plenary session, which gathered the programme directors to address the participants’ questions. Prof Dimmock, Prof Gopinathan and Prof Pillay answered questions on topics including how to improve learning through innovatively-designed textbooks and how should countries even begin to approach reform. Taking in all the insights from the past four days, the participants then continued their preparations for their presentations.

The last day of the programme was opened by participants from Bangladesh who presented on the key learnings they picked up from the programme and what they plan to work on once they return to their home country. This was followed by presentations from Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and finally Vietnam. To mark the formal closing of the programme and celebrate its successful run, participants were invited to join THF and ADB to a Peranakan cuisine dinner and closing ceremony.

Watch the PLP speakers’ presentations here.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.