In this edition of Faces of Co-operators, we spoke to Alex Shieh, an SNCF Scholar who is currently working in SEED Institute. As part of First Campus Co-operative, SEED Institute offers quality training and continuous learning opportunities for Singapore’s expanding pool of pre-school educators. Alex is not new to educator training, as he had previously worked at Educare Co-operative, a co-operative of the Singapore Teachers’ Union.
Let’s learn more about Alex’s journey with SNCF and the Co-operative Movement!
Hi Alex, thank you for taking the time out to join us today. It is a pleasure to have you here with us. Could we begin with you telling us more about yourself!
Hi all, thank you for having me! I am Alex and I have been in the Co-operative Movement for the past 13 years.
Upon graduation from university, I started to work at Educare Co-operative and recently, I joined the professional services department of SEED Institute, which focuses on educator training in Singapore and overseas.
I shared with the SNCF Scholars on Educare Co-operative.
What made you decide to accept SNCF Co-operative Scholarship in 2008?
At that point in time, I had a few scholarship offers. However, I decided to accept the offer from SNCF as it aligned with my personal direction and career aspiration. Working in co-operative allows me to give back to the community. Secondly, the SNCF scholarship gives me flexibility in the choice of the workplace as there are many different co-operatives in a myriad of industries.
With over 60 affiliates available, what made you decide to join the Educare Co-operative?
I went for a few interviews with different co-operatives, but the one that stood out to me the most was Educare Co-operative. I found the idea of offering professional development for educators interesting, and thought it was more suited to my strengths and liking for education.
I understand your job requires you to travel frequently, could you share more about it?
A group photo with the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Seychelles.
In Singapore, we place emphasis on education and more recently lifelong learning. Our teachers are qualified, and well trained as well as are given ample professional development opportunities. However, teachers in other countries may not enjoy the same opportunities as our teachers. Many people look up to our education system and I think there are many good things that we can share with other countries when it comes to teacher training. I mainly coordinate the training programmes overseas and work closely with a team of specialists and former teachers who conduct the training.
Signing an MOU with Qatar Education Group.
Could you share with us some interesting or memorable experiences you have had while working on overseas projects?
I remember when we hosted some educators (including some top government officials) from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest land-locked country, and they were so delighted when they saw the beach in Sentosa. Some of them were quite senior or top government officials, but I could feel their excitement when they played in the sea and with the sand. Some even tried to climb the coconut trees!
Another experience was my trip to Russia where I had the opportunity to speak with one of its state-level Education Minister. I was enthralled by the Minister’s vision and plan for the education system in his state
Visiting a classroom in Tyumen, Russia.
We had a long-term project with them. It was extremely meaningful because we could see how the teachers, having undergone some of the trainings, could better engage and benefit their students in the classrooms.
What are some of the challenges you faced in your current role with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am currently focusing on digitalising training programmes so that the participants will be able to access them online and globally.
Another challenge is getting participants and trainers to adapt to new teaching methods such as online learning or project work, beyond the usual teacher-talk student-listen format. Some of them are resistant to learning a new set of the teaching method. Therefore, a paradigm shift in mindset is deeply encouraged so that it will aid growth in knowledge teaching for the teachers and students will get to learn better through new ways of teaching.
What can we as students or young adults do to excel in our work?
Grab every opportunity that was given to you to do your work well. Be it starting out from setting up a physical workshop to planning the programme of a workshop, always take the initiative to learn from others.
How do you manage your hobbies on top of your job?
I try to put forth my best in different aspects of my life. Among time, money and passion, I try to strike a balance. Apart from work, I enjoy travelling and watching pop concerts in Singapore and sometimes I travel overseas (e.g. Malaysia, Taiwan) to watch some of the musicians that I like
Attending a live concert with my friends.
I appreciate the hard work of what goes behind the scene to produce a good live concert experience for the audience. I find it well worth the money if the concert production is of quality value!
Do you have any advice for aspiring co-operators?
It is important to always want to learn so that we will be able to improve. Be proactive in your own learning. Learning does not just happen from a workshop or in school, it happens every day and at work as well. When we have new tasks, we can choose to take instructions and work blindly, or take the opportunity to be inquisitive, be daring to ask and learn from the task. Every task given to us can be a learning experience if we want it to be.
This article was written by Tok Yin Jie, who is a second-year Accountancy and Business Undergraduate from Nanyang Technological University currently interning in SNCF, Campus and Youth team. He is passionate about travelling and learning about new cultures. He hopes to be able to make a change in society in the future.