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They chose their careers at 18 – how were they so sure, so soon?

10 Aug 2023

They chose their careers at 18_how were they so sure so soon_c

Choosing a career may be a tough call for most teens, but not for these aspiring teachers. Chen Jueying and Kenneth Kwan, two National Institute of Education undergraduates, signed up for teaching awards straight out of junior college. Schoolbag catches hold of them during their internships to ask how they found their calling and what they did with their doubts.


Schoolbag: Hi, Jueying and Kenneth! So glad you could intern with us at MOE’s Design Office. Our team of writers, designers, and producers often say we can’t even decide what to watch next on Netflix. Yet you knew at 18 that you wanted to be teachers. How did you decide so soon?

Jueying: I see a lot of meaning in helping others realise their potential and chase their dreams. I have seen people who lack motivation to learn due to troubles at home or financial constraints. 

I myself had a time when I faced some personal issues in secondary school. I was also not doing well in History. I benefitted from having attentive teachers who brought out my interest in History that I never thought I had. They got me to see the joys behind learning. In time, whenever I felt down or had something on my mind, I’d turn to reading my History textbooks or play the erhu to feel better (Chinese Orchestra was my CCA).

As a teacher, I hope to be able to step in and change things for others, to inspire and motivate students to shape their own future and not be tied down by their challenges. 

Schoolbag: Sounds like school was your happy place.

Jueying: As cliched as it sounds, school was like a second home to me and I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy their time in school, learning and creating new experiences.

They chose their careers at 18_how were they so sure so soon_2Jueying has good memories of school, and would like to help others chase their dreams fearlessly and enjoy learning too. 

Schoolbag: What about you, Kenneth? Were you as sure as Jueying was from the start about being a teacher?

Kenneth: I wasn’t. I remember when the A-Level results day arrived, I was struck with a dilemma as to what to do next. I always thought that I would find my passion eventually and organically, but I was interested in Business Studies, Communications Studies, Sociology as well as Education.

Schoolbag: How did you narrow your choices down?

Kenneth: I began to think about my strengths and passions. I thought back of my six happy years at River Valley High School, where I was grateful to have had many opportunities to step out of my comfort zone, learn, make mistakes, and grow. 

I was in the Students' Council for most of my time there, and had the chance to inspire and mentor my juniors. To me, this was an incredibly meaningful journey. Not only was I able to share my leadership insights with them, but I was also able to see them grow as confident and humble leaders through the years, who would carry on this tradition for their future juniors. 

This was my reason for wanting to join the teaching service. I believe that as a leader and an educator, my job will not be to only pass down knowledge, but to also guide my students and help them realise their dreams. In this journey, I hope to also learn from them, and be inspired by their stories, making this entire process a meaningful one. I hope to empower them and impact their lives.  

They chose their careers at 18_how were they so sure so soon_3Kenneth (toting MOE’s corporate brochure produced by the Design Office) had several courses in mind but settled on a degree programme in education because he believes he will be able to more effectively make an impact on the next generation as an educator.

Schoolbag: Did you consult your Education and Career Guidance (ECG) counsellor along the way?

Jueying: I did. Despite my dreams, I still went ahead with my ECG counsellor’s advice and explored other options by researching different degree programmes offered by different tertiary institutions. As someone who enjoys learning History, I did think about pursuing an Honours degree in History at first, which would give me another four years to think about what career to pursue.

Schoolbag: So what helped you to make up your mind?

Jueying: Definitely, my experience working at a childcare centre after my A-Levels. It made me realise that teaching was definitely the career for me. I learnt that every child has a different learning style and interests and as teachers, it is important to find a style that works. It takes effort to get to know the students and build that relationship before you can create a good lesson that works for them. Hence, it was incredibly rewarding to see some of them finally open up to me and even enjoy my lessons. This made me feel even more motivated to spread the joys of learning.

Schoolbag: Have you ever doubted your decision?

Jueying: Certainly, from time to time. I see that teaching can be emotionally draining, but thinking about the impact and the joy I get from interacting with the students gave me enough reason to continue pursuing this career path. 

Kenneth: There were times I asked myself: Is this the right decision for me? Am I going to regret it? However, after attending the National Institute of Education (NIE) for one year, surrounded by like-minded individuals who have similar aspirations and dreams as me, I’m assured. I have learnt so much from my teachers and peers, and I’m looking forward to what the future would bring. 

Schoolbag: What stops those voices in your head?

Jueying: My time in NIE so far. It reinforced my desire to teach and reaffirmed to me that I made the right decision to join the fraternity. My peers have been more than willing to clarify any doubts I have on lessons and share notes to mutually help one another learn better. We’ve become friends, and often exchange ideas and opinions on teaching to better prepare us for the future. All of these experiences showed me the dedication and genuineness of my peers and pushed me to go the extra mile to be prepared in helping my students in the future.

Schoolbag: Would you suggest trying out a job before jumping in?

Kenneth: Yes, definitely! It would be great to try out some internships or related jobs before making a decision! Sometimes, what you expect may be very different from the realities on the ground. Fortunately, last year, I had the opportunity to teach at my alma mater for one semester. This relief teaching experience also affirmed that I made the right decision as that experience was incredibly memorable and worthwhile for me (shoutout to 2022’s 1CGFH and 4DK!). In this VUCA world, there will definitely be surprises and unexpected setbacks down the road, but I hope that these little experiences will serve as a constant reminder of why I decided to embark on this journey. 

They chose their careers at 18_how were they so sure so soon_4
As part of their undergraduate programme, Jue Ying and Kenneth spent five weeks as interns at MOE’s Design Office, where Schoolbag is produced, to trade skills in story-telling and content production

Schoolbag: What are your hopes for your career?

Jueying: My hopes are simple: Be there for my students, and provide a fun learning environment. The least I can do is to be able to give them the support and guidance they need so that they can eventually become someone who is not afraid to pursue their dreams. 

Kenneth: To me, education is incredibly powerful and meaningful for children. Students will benefit in different ways through the power of education. When I was young, I did not come from a very well-to-do family, but my family was able to make ends meet and I am thankful to be able to reach this stage of my life, undergoing my tertiary education. This would not be possible without the help of the Ministry of Education, various organisations, and individuals who have impacted my life, encouraging me to always, never ever give up. I hence believe that no students should ever be deprived of the opportunity to learn. As an aspiring educator, I hope to do the same for my students in future.

Schoolbag: Any thoughts for those sitting on the fence?

Kenneth: Even though Jueying and I decided on our careers at such a young age, there is nothing wrong with getting there later on in life. Take time to look back and figure out what you love and what truly makes you happy. To the adventurous, I would also encourage you to take a leap of faith and explore something different. Who knows? You might eventually find something that sparks your interest.