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MOE scholar is inspiring and nurturing young minds

Photo Caption: Secondary school teacher Daniel Tan says his experiences at MOE headquarters and Holy Innocents’ High School have helped him become a better educator.

By Rachel Ng

Every morning, when Mr Daniel Tan, 37, steps into the classroom, he is not just thinking about grades or examination prep.

The head of department (HOD) for English Language & Literature at Holy Innocents’ High School believes the “heart work” of connecting with students is sometimes even more important than the “hard work” of teaching academic content.

This was especially crucial during the circuit breaker period last year when schools had to switch to home-based learning. Despite huge advancements in technology and pedagogical resources, Mr Tan saw that these could not “bridge the need for human interaction”. 

“It was not easy reaching out to students socially and emotionally over a screen. I think it just took a lot of patience, determination and empathy,” he says.

A love for linguistics

Mr Tan decided to pursue teaching as a career because he wanted the opportunity to make a difference in young lives.

In 2003, he was awarded a Public Service Commission Local Merit Scholarship (Teaching Service) to study English Language at the National University of Singapore (NUS). There, he discovered a love for linguistics, which gave him the foundation to teach General Paper and English.

Mr Tan has had stints as a junior college tutor, and has also worked at the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Gifted Education Branch and University Policy Branch. These varied postings have allowed him to broaden his perspectives on different aspects of education.

After about a decade of teaching, he decided to take a sabbatical, during which he applied for and received an MOE Postgraduate Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree. In 2019, he returned to NUS to study English Language and Linguistics. 

The master’s course gave him a chance to take a break from teaching and focus on deepening his subject mastery. 

Says Mr Tan: “It was fun to go back to academia and read about things like syntax and comparative linguistics, which I don’t usually get to do in my day job!”  

Both scholarships have helped build his career, which he remains grateful for. Now, in his role as HOD, he hopes to pay it forward by developing others around him and continuing to serve the Ministry to the best of his abilities. 

As for those who aspire to become teachers, Mr Tan has this to say: “If you feel you have an interest in shaping the lives of young people and feel energised being in a school environment, do consider applying to be a teacher, even if you may have doubts. Teaching is indeed a calling, so follow your heart!”

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