In my career, I have experienced many highlights. Here are a few:


Review of Normal (Technical) Art Syllabus, Ministry of Education, 2012-2014

During my time at the Arts Education Branch (AEB), Student Development Curriculum Division, I was able to deepen my understanding of not just the Art curriculum in Singapore, but of curriculum development and education as a whole. Through the many robust discussions of this and other pieces of work, I acquired a greater understanding and awareness of both the intrinsic and instrumental values of Art learning on a student's life, as well as nurtured an appreciation of a higher purpose of Art and education. The review of the the Normal (Technical) syllabus was a challenging but ultimately fulfilling journey, and the framework and curriculum that we designed showed a commitment to meeting the needs of the N(T) Art students and providing them with a strong foundation for the further pursuit of Art as an educational and/or career pathway.

Aesthetics Development Framework & Applied Learning Programme,

Naval Base Secondary School, 2015-present

My experience in AEB definitely helped me in my next and current posting as Head of Department of Aesthetics, Craft & Technology at Naval Base Secondary School. My main responsibility is to oversee the aesthetics programme and the school's Applied Learning Programme (ALP) in Art. Prior to my arrival, the school had established a rich and exciting art programme for its students but it lacked structure and sustainability, as well as a clear conceptual framework. With my wonderful team of teachers, we developed a structure for the ALP as well as a framework that would inform all aesthetic programmes in the school. 


Throughout my years in education, I have worked with a number of wonderful people - colleagues (superiors, peers and those who have worked under my leadership),  partners from outside of my immediate environment, and of course, students. In recent years, I have come to understand why I enjoy and am committed to being a leader, and that stems from a genuine desire to see others succeed. This involves seeking and recognising the best in people, being genuinely curious about the very many facets of who they are, and helping them to create a vision for themselves and realise it. This applies to everyone I work with, including and perhaps especially, my students.


I am always exceedingly proud of those I work closely with whenever they do well. And while I am acutely aware that their successes are their own, there have been occasions when I have felt that I had contributed, in some small measure, to those successes.

One example is Ms A, an Art teacher. When I first met her, she was relatively new to teaching but within a few months, had already demonstrated many qualities of a strong leader, in particular, a willingness to look beyond the immediate, often-operational concerns of classroom teaching, towards a more aspirational view of how and what education could be. Over the next three years, I took a personal interest in her development as a leader, focusing on developing her confidence and sharpening her ability to conceptualise, plan and see an idea to fruition in the context of a people-centred environment, and was delighted when she was recently offered a leadership position, well ahead of her development curve.

Another example is Ms B, another Art teacher.  When I first met her, she had already received adverse assessments of her performance for two consecutive years, and was emplaced on a probationary programme. As I got to know her and her work, I realised that she had immense potential - her strongest suit was working with high-support students and being able to bring the best out of them, and she did this better than any other teacher I had worked with. She was a wonderful classroom teacher with excellent classroom management skills, and very much loved by her students. But there were gaps, and those had resulted in those adverse assessments. 

Working with her, I learnt how powerful demonstrating belief in a person can be to their levels of motivation, and that was something I genuinely had in her. She had never been entrusted with a leadership role for any piece of work, and that was one of the first things I did. I assigned her a school-level project, which she planned and executed very well, albeit with some guidance, which was needed due to her inexperience in that particular area of work. I worked with her closely on addressing the aforementioned gaps, which involved going beyond telling her what she needed to do but looking at the details of how to get there. 

This experience was definitely a challenging but ultimately enjoyable and fulfilling one, largely because she had within her a strong desire and will to do better. Within three years, Ms B's appraisal had improved by several notches, and that was a great testament to the significant progress she had made as a professional. And I could not be prouder of her.

© 2018 Saiful Idris

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