Ms Alexa Meng is quick to correct those who think the only career option for educators at the Ministry of Education (MOE) is teaching.
The recipient of the MOE Education Merit Scholarship is a poster girl for the diversity of roles scholars at the ministry can undertake.
Her first role when she joined MOE in 2015 was as a mathematics teacher at Outram Secondary School.
She now wears two hats — as a research analyst in MOE’s Research and Management Information Division as well as a planning officer in the Planning Division.
Is straddling these two roles difficult?
Certainly. But this is precisely the kind of challenge that Ms Meng relishes.
As a research analyst, she analyses data to support educational policy formulation and review, which informs the decisions she makes in her second role.
In this capacity, Ms Meng has worked on highlight projects such as the review of the new Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system and formulating ways to improve educational support for low-progress students.
Today’s world is changing fast, thanks to the advent of new technologies and business models, she says. “It’s challenging to develop new paradigms of thinking and pedagogies that will train students to function in this new era.”
Ms Meng credits her scholarship experience for cultivating her well-rounded skill set and “dare-to-dream, dare-to-fail” mentality.
While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and management studies at the University College London (UCL), she had to step out of her comfort zone.
“Being a foreign student in an unfamiliar environment, I had to start examining issues from different perspectives, become more independent and accept new challenges that arose along the way,” she says.
Ms Meng was elected as the only non-Caucasian student trustee of the Union Council, and even joined the UCL Incubator programme to develop her own start-up — both formative events that were the highlights of her university years.
She decided to embark on an additional master’s degree in statistics at Harvard University after completing a statistics research project in her final year.
It was this project that opened her eyes to the practical uses of statistics and computing, and how they could be applied to positively influence the education system.
While Ms Meng enjoys her current work in policy and data analysis, she is eager to return to the classroom when the opportunity arises.
She points out that even though Singapore’s education system has been producing a worldclass, highly efficient workforce, educators and policymakers need to keep finding ways to maintain this competitive advantage in the decades to come.
It is in solving these problems that Ms Meng feels she can truly shine.
Her work at the MOE Headquarters (HQ) has given her a better understanding of the intentions behind the various policies, as well as the constraints and trade-offs, she says.
“With the experience in the HQ, I’m now in a better position to implement policies and provide better guidance for my students.”