A Champion of Positive Education in Singapore

17 October 2020
Feature
"We have realised that Positive Education is not a thing or a curriculum. It is something we all must live and breathe, and work into our lives, and transmit to those around us. The whole community is needed to build the environment for a child to thrive.” - Mr Ng Yeow Ling

A Fresh Challenge

When Ng Yeow Ling was appointed Principal and entrusted with a clean slate to articulate the vision, mission and values of a brand new school some 8 years ago, it was a serendipitous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement the philosophy of Positive Education he was passionate about.

And so, under Yeow Ling’s stewardship, Westwood Primary School (WPS) began its journey as one of Singapore’s pioneer schools on Positive Education, guiding and nurturing its staff and pupils with the mindset and skills for both excellence and wellbeing.

Yeow Ling believes that excellence and well-being are equally important and we need not pursue one aspect at the expense of the other.  Furthermore, his experience as an educator has made him conscious of the fact that amidst the pursuit of excellence, we have to promote the well-being of students and staff to nurture a thriving school community.

When Yeow Ling was preparing to start work at WPS, he often thought about how the school could bring forth an experience of education that would enable students and staff to flourish.  To this end, he conducted research on Geelong Grammar School and was struck by the efficacy of its Positive Education framework in fostering wellbeing and excellence in the school community – that not only affirmed his belief that we can pursue both goals in education, but also motivated him to initiate a similar framework in WPS.

Learning from Geelong Grammar

“The four-day programme that I attended at Geelong Grammar school taught me many of the concepts of positive education and that was how I started Westwood Primary– I wanted to create a thriving community, ' he said. By now, all the parents of the school, teachers, staff and children are convinced of the need to build a healthy environment in order for all to flourish.

THRIVE Model

At the start of the journey at Westwood, Yeow Ling and his team carefully learned the core principles of Positive Education advocated by Dr Martin Seligman's PERMA model. They then came up with their own model, called THRIVE. In this model, T stands for thinking mindfully, H for healthy coping, R for relationships, I for In the moment, V for Values-driven actions, E for Emotions and positivity. The model advocates a growth mindset through thinking mindfully where students are encouraged to learn and be better even after encountering failure. The THRIVE model encourages engagement of a child to develop character strengths and competencies to cope with life’s challenges.

When he was asked how parents, staff and students are exercising the elements of Positive Education, Mr Yeow Ling reiterated how teachers are impacting students by living the talk rather than just teaching in class. Teachers in his school put into practice the THRIVE model even when they are at home with their families. The growth mindset that is focused on positivity, is used to harness students’ potential and students are constantly encouraged to live the school values which are embodied in the following: a heart of gratitude, resilient mindsets, future-ready confidence and a passion for the community.

School Mascots to Bring Values Alive

The School’s mascots are another means used by the school to emphasizes positive values. Westwood Primary students love their giraffe mascot that symbolizes a heart of gratitude. The Rhino mascot symbolizes a resilience mindset. The Fox mascot symbolizes future-readiness and the Cat symbolizes a passion for the community.

Westwood Primary is guided by the 3+3+3 Principles of Positive Education:

academic development, nurturing character and values, and fostering well-being.  In a nutshell, the school strives for both excellence and well-being by leveraging values such as resilience, gratitude, community-spiritedness and future-ready confidence.

Focus on Professional Development

The school has been training staff frequently on professional development and the essence of positive psychology. Yeow Ling emphasizes the diversity of his school as he explains that his students come from different and sometimes, very challenging backgrounds. To help those from less privileged backgrounds, he has been engaging and influencing parents to reinforce positive education by providing them with well-being study resources.

“With the foundation we are providing to the students, I envision they will be flourishing, self-directed learners, who are active citizens, compassionate leaders and positive persons".

When asked how the students will keep living the mission after primary school, Yeow responded with enthusiasm and hope. “We have realised that Positive Education is not a thing or a curriculum. It is something we all must live and breathe, and work into our lives, and transmit to those around us. The whole community is needed to build the environment for a child to thrive.”

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