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7.5.2022 | Wendy Ng

Country Lead, Wendy Ng on her hopes for education, the community & the power of young people

HundrED Country Lead for Singapore, Wendy Ng is an education and cultural relations specialist. She was an educator for almost a decade and had the privilege of teaching in Singapore, Japan, and around the world on Peace Boat. Passionate about international exchanges, she has spent time in the non-profit space managing projects and partnerships focused on social impact.

What was the moment, realisation or a person that made you excited about education in the first place? 

My elder sister was a good student from a young age and I was inspired by how much new knowledge and skills she gained when she returned from school each day. When I saw the variety of books she was reading, I was eager to go to school and learn new languages. As I grew up with my mother tongue, Chinese Mandarin, I was amazed that I could discover new worlds in books if I learned more English words. Thanks to the educational opportunities I had access to, I started my career as an educator as I wanted to “pay it forward” by guiding my students the same way my teachers had empowered me.

Now, when I see my niece and nephew reading books, I am so excited to see how they are growing in their education journey. I believe strongly in HundrED’s mission that the purpose of education is to help every child flourish, no matter what happens in life. Every child should have the right to go to school, develop literacy skills, and have access to all aspects of education. 

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for innovators in your region? 

Education and technology innovations are growing rapidly in Singapore to provide digital solutions for educators. Singapore-based innovations like Doyobi have developed a metaverse learning platform where children can learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The Singapore Education Network has set up an EdTech Marketplace to increase awareness and promote exchange between innovative digital solutions for the educator sector. 

Holistic education is another area to focus on as education should become more holistic where teachers and learners can develop as a whole and as global citizens. Chilli Padi Academy, a selected innovation for the HundrED Spotlight on Holistic education in South and Southeast Asia, has created an environmental leadership and education accelerator program to equip students with skills to solve complex environmental and social challenges. Other innovations like BEEP Lab use design thinking to engage children through the lens of architecture, and Developmental Play helps adults support their children through inclusive play and creativity.

What are the challenges that slow down innovation in your context?

When we define education through a pragmatic lens, we deprive our young generation the freedom to imagine possibilities, pursue their interests, and just dream. To innovate, we have to dream big and have the courage and resources to find solutions to improve education. 

I think one of the main challenges limiting innovation is the common conception that education is a means to an end. The goal of education is not just to get a good-paying job. Schools, teachers, and parents have to expand the scope of education and instil the idea that education is an enriching and enjoyable lifelong pursuit. 

One of the questions I was frequently asked by my students was, “Is this graded?” What have we done to make children think that they should only learn to pass examinations? When we define education through a pragmatic lens, we deprive our young generation of the freedom to imagine possibilities, pursue their interests, and just dream. To innovate, we have to dream big and have the courage and resources to find solutions to improve education. 

What little or big part do you want to play in improving education?

As a global educator for over a decade, I have gained insights to how inequitable access to education perpetuates social inequality. 

I hope to be a connector to bring education stakeholders together to exchange ideas and collaborate. Different sectors need to collaborate and pool resources to address challenges and drive sustainable change. I would like to support innovations and solutions that aim to close the educational gap. 

Access to equitable education empowers people and reduces inequalities. As a global educator for over a decade, I have gained insights into how inequitable access to education perpetuates social inequality. Students with higher socio-economic status benefit from robust school resources and enrichment opportunities like private tuition. In contrast, the lack of social capital and safety nets for students from less privileged backgrounds means that they are often found in low performing schools. This affects their higher education and employment prospects. 

If resources are redistributed, policies are revamped, and political will is strengthened, equitable education can level the playing field for all students and provide them with the opportunity to fulfil their potential. 

It is crucial to close the educational gap while we navigate emerging global challenges. Check out this video of my conversation with Natalie Miteva, HundrED Country Lead for Bulgaria, about education equity, that was presented as part of the HundrED Innovation Summit 2021. 

Who would you like to see joining the HundrED community to accelerate the pace of change?

I would like to see more policymakers, school leaders, and researchers join the HundrED community. 

Policymakers have to listen to and have conversations with schools, educators, parents, students, and communities. It is essential that important decisions in education are not made by only a few. The voices of the minority matter. 

Policymakers are the gatekeepers of the education system as they implement educational policies that guide schools and educators. To bring about change, policies should encourage creativity, experimentation, and innovation. Policymakers have to listen to and have conversations with schools, educators, parents, students, and communities. It is essential that important decisions in education are not made by only a few. The voices of the minority matter. 

School leaders manage school systems and support teachers. Their roles need to evolve from performing conventional, administrative duties to becoming pedagogical leaders. In the HundrED Global Collection 2022 report, teacher professional development stands out as the top priority. School leaders have to empower teachers and prioritise their personal and professional development so they make effective changes at the classroom level.

Researchers help to test ideas and validate outcomes and the impact of education policy and practices. Their research and work with education stakeholders will benefit the learning and growth of the HundrED community.  


What does a future worth aspiring to look to you? 

“There is only one thing stronger than all the armies of the world: and that is an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo captured the essence of how ideas have the power to spark change. As we reimagine and re-evaluate how we can improve the quality of and access to education during the pandemic, I am hopeful as young people hold the key to creating a better future. 

If we inspire the young through education and purpose-driven learning, they will aspire to take actions on issues they are passionate about. 

I see the energy of HundrED Youth Ambassadors who are passionate about education’s potential and eager to be part of its change. Hear their thoughts and feelings about climate change here.

I had a casual chat with my niece Amber when she was nine years old about ikigai, the Japanese philosophy of “life purpose,” I was surprised when she said the world needs people to care more. Stop polluting. Plant more trees. Ensure everyone gets clean water. 

If we inspire the young through education and purpose-driven learning, they will aspire to take actions on issues they are passionate about. 

If we can achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, we will have generations of young changemakers who can change the world. 

Let me end with a quote from the Dead Poets Society, my favourite film to show my students, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” 



Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn 

If you are interested in joining the HundrED community, you can find more information here.


ABOUT AUTHOR
Wendy Ng