When I saw the headlines "ITE wins prestigious Harvard award", my heart was leaping with joy. It's about time! Why is this award so important to the Institute of Technical Education?
Well, in Singapore, if your child is unable to qualify for tertiary education, he'll likely end up in ITE. Sadly, in a nation that is obsessed with academia, ITE has always been referred to as "It's The End".
The Award is given out for the first-time by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. It is sponsored by IBM. ITE has been conferred the award for making Vocational and Technical Education a thriving option for Singapore’s academically-challenged youths through its unique 10-year Transformation Plan.
Formerly a last resort for low-achieving students, Singapore’s ITE underwent a 10-year reform plan, revamping irrelevant curriculum, upgrading learning environments and instating new academic requirements for current teachers. As a result, the programme reports a 33 per cent increase in graduation rates and a 50 per cent increase in students enrolled between 1995 and 2006. Over the last decade, 90 per cent of ITE students have graduated with high-paying industry careers.
Shortlisted from more than 100 applicants from 30 countries, ITE beat four finalists including a sweeping reforms plan from Georgia; a personalised social services delivery network from Canada, and a US Department of Health programme that cut operating costs.
According to the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Havard's Kennedy School, Professor Stephen Goldsmith, "Singapore's ITE has created a highly sustainable model for transforming poorly performing education institutions worldwide."
The chairman of ITE's board of governors, Mr Bob Tan said another unique feature of ITE was the nurturing quality. "When students come to the ITE, they have a self-image of people who cannot make it. It's a matter of raising their confidence," he said.
Hence I rejoice for ITE, and for the students in ITE. They will never feel like black sheep again.