As An educator, “you get the privilege to change lives, not just those of your students but also their families and future children”, says Ms Hannah Chia.

Ms Chia enjoyed her school days, having benefited from opportunities provided by her schools and the care shown by her teachers.

She says: “These positive and formative experiences inspired my interest to join the teaching profession and contribute back to the environment and community that made me who I am.

“The reason I continue to stay in teaching, however, is slightly different.

“It is the personal satisfaction of seeing my students and department grow and succeed as well as the meaningful purpose behind education as a social leveller to bring opportunities to all that keeps me going.”

Equipping oneself

Ms Chia, 29, is the head of the humanities department at Hong Kah Secondary School, teaching history and social studies.

“As a history teacher, I believe that a good understanding of the past is integral to one’s understanding of the present and the future,” she says.

She gravitated towards an MOE scholarship as she saw teaching as a job that she would thrive in and enjoy.

It also helped that a six-month stint as a relief teacher at her alma mater, Singapore Chinese Girls’ Secondary, prior to the release of the A-level results made her confident that she would enjoy teaching as a profession.

On the MOE Teaching Scholarship (Overseas), Ms Chia headed to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in the United Kingdom.

In 2009, she garnered first class honours for her Bachelor of Science in Government and History.

Following that, she did her Postgraduate Diploma in Education at Singapore’s National Institute of Education and graduated with distinction. The MOE scholarship came with a six-year bond.

“As an organisation that looks into all things related to education and learning, MOE adds value to your journey as a scholar,” says Ms Chia.

She relates her personal journey, having received good advice from her scholarship officers, mentors, experienced teachers and principals.

She adds: “As an MOE scholar, you know that the people who mentor you have your interests and personal growth at heart and are not merely seeking to maximise your value and worth to them or the organisation.”

To those fearful about taking up scholarships as they think it limits their opportunities, Ms Chia says: “My MOE scholarship did not limit but rather helped to frame my learning and growth during my overseas studies.

“Each new experience gave me insights into what engaged learning could look like and it excited me to have the opportunity to bring my experiences back to the Singapore context where I had a ready space waiting for me to contribute back to.”

An all-rounder

As part of the scholarship, MOE also offered various learning and development stints during her overseas studies.

Every summer holiday, Ms Chia would be back in Singapore for an attachment in a school or to work on an education-related project.

“These experiences kept me in touch with the Singapore system and education landscape and allowed me to tie my learning in university to my future career,” she says.

It wasn’t all work and no play for her.

While in London, she represented the university for women’s rugby. Starting out as a winger, she went on to other positions before becoming captain in her third year.

She says: “It was a meaningful experience for me because it allowed me to get to know my non- Singaporean teammates better and learn to inspire and motivate them to put in good performances for each match even though we did not always win.”

Ms Chia has rotated through MOE in various roles — as teacher and as special project officer in the organisation’s headquarters’ schools division — to understand other aspects of the education service.

Why would she recommend teaching as a career?

Ms Chia says: “Teaching is a career that provides the meaning and purpose many people search for today in their work. “Instead of chasing profit margins and accumulating more sales, teaching offers the opportunity to participate in the deeply satisfying work of investing your own experience, knowledge and life into the lives of the young and the future of the nation.”