Interviewers: Mavis Teo (M16604) and Loo Wei Juan (M16505)
During SIMC/ISSF 2016, we got a chance to talk to Mrs Lee regarding her thoughts on SIMC, ISSF, and education in general. Due to space constraint, we couldn’t publish all of it in Epigraph, but felt that her responses were both intellectual and insightful. Here is a transcript of the interview:
Mrs Lee Bee Yann was a top student in Mathematics and Physics at the National University of Singapore, garnering several academic awards and graduating with a 1st class honours in Mathematics. In her professional capacity, she excelled in both educational theory and practice in the Further Professional Diploma in Education programme at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. An active proponent of research in education, she enjoys experimenting with new pedagogies for teaching and learning based on research-informed practices, and has worked with local and international researchers to develop new ways of learning.
About Both Events
- This is your first time hosting the participants of SIMC and ISSF 2016, as the Principal of NUS High School. It must have been quite an experience. How has the experience been? Have the two events been anything you’d imagined them to be?
Organising two big scale events for international participants is no small feat. There are multiple facets in the organization of the events to look into to make the programme a holistic and enjoyable one for students, educators and principals. I believe we achieved that with so many happy and fulfilled faces I have seen. I am impressed by the attention to details that my colleagues and students considered in the planning and execution to make both events a success, beginning right from the moment the participants stepped into Changi International Airport.
- Now that SIMC and ISSF are drawing to a close, what are the most memorable moments you have experienced in the past four days?
At the SIMC and ISSF, the communities of Principals, Educators, keynote speakers and judges are all high achievers in their own fields. Yet, I find such warmth, humility and camaraderie amongst us as we interacted with one another There is an invisible bond that binds us together as we strive towards the common goal of creating positive and stimulating learning experiences for our students and helping them realise their dreams in pursuit of excellence in math and science.
- In hosting two international events on an unprecedented scale, what do you find the most satisfying, and what is the greatest challenge you face?
As the programmes at SIMC and ISSF ran concurrently and they were both so exciting, I was pretty torn in choosing which events to attend. The challenge for me was to attend as many activities as possible from both events, while fitting in the time to forge strong relationships with the Principals for future collaborations.
- As a Mathematics educator, what excites you about SIMC 2016?
I see mathematical modelling as a great way to learn the rigour of Mathematics and develop an acumen to ‘connect the dots’ and induce relationships in the issues we face with plausible explanations and probable solutions in real life situations. It is exciting for me to see the students being highly engaged during the SIMC as they appreciate the elegance of mathematics used in sometimes unexpected ways through mathematical modelling.
- Applied Mathematics and mathematical modeling can be quite daunting for students and even educators. How do you think the teaching of applied Mathematics and mathematical modelling can be enhanced? How do you think schools can encourage students to take an interest in applied Mathematics and mathematical modelling?
There are different areas of specialization in mathematics and students’ passions in learning specific areas of mathematics might differ. Personally, I enjoy pure mathematics and statistics, and in my career, I have had many opportunities to put them in good use in educational research to enhance teaching and learning from empirical data. One of my fondest research involvements includes the use of ICT to develop 21st century competencies. This was carried out in collaboration with Stanford Research Institute International.
While the learning Mathematics can be enjoyed as a subject, some students might be inspired to apply Mathematics and mathematical modeling, in particular, to solve authentic problems in the real world context. An awareness of how this can be and has been done might excite students in exploring new possibilities in problems which can make a difference in bringing about better quality of life for others.
- NUS High School is hosting SIMC for the fifth year and we believe we are going to continue with it biennially. What do you envision and aspire SIMC2018 to be?
SIMC is more than a competition for students to pit their skills in mathematical modelling against other teams. SMIC is really an amazing platform for bringing together the educators and Principals to share great ideas and practices in enabling students to learn and acquire the mathematical skills more effectively and meaningfully. Moving on, our hope is for SIMC to be a rich platform for connecting and engaging like-minded students, educators and Principals with a passion for mathematical modelling throughout the year through the website and Facebook. In addition, we will produce a resource book for teachers to support their endeavours in mathematical modelling which will be ready for SIMC 2018. This book will be a collaborative effort of the SIMC schools.
- The theme for ISSF this year is “Exploring Science, Inspiring Minds”. Could you share with us who, or what has inspired you to explore and excel in Physics?
I always find Physics interesting as it has great relevance in real life in explaining everyday phenomena. I was greatly inspired by my first exposure to quantum physics when I was in secondary school as the concepts were so different from classical physics I knew before then. Needless to say, my favourite scientist was Einstein. I was very much intrigued by both his scientific discoveries and his thoughts on different issues in life.
- The ISSF brings together young scientific minds from all over the world. It also allows school leaders to network and collaborate in a bid to enhance science education. How do you think staff and students of NUS High School can play a role in contributing to this global, collaborative pursuit of Science?
NUS High has received many accolades on the quality of education it offers. There are several notable features of our curriculum and programmes for developing students holistically. We can play a role in sharing about what works for us and by contributing to the richness of experiences of the community of schools we can model quality education on the global stage. In addition, we can do our part by advocating, encouraging and coordinating such efforts.
- This is the first time you are chairing the principals’ meetings for the International Science Schools Network (ISSN). What is your hope and aspiration for ISSN?
ISSN is a collaborative and influential body comprising Principals with great passion for Mathematics, Science and Technology, and who are driven to promote the importance of quality education in their own countries and internationally. Hence, the ISSF programme encompasses deep student learning, experiences for educators to learn leading-edge pedagogies, and the sharing amongst Principals on their philosophies of education. I hope that ISSN will be a platform for meaningful collaborations amongst schools, determined to make a profound difference to the advancement of Mathematics and Science education around the world.
- To an extent, ISSF is a microcosm of a scientific conference, where scientists share research findings in a diverse cultural setting. What is your advice to the budding scientists among the ISSF participants?
My advice to our budding scientists amongst the ISSF participants is to remain curious about nature, people and your surroundings, and to continue to explore imaginative possibilities for learning and research. Making impactful breakthroughs in Mathematics and Science also often requires persistent collaborative effort of many. So, I hope that our participants will surround themselves with passionate people and be involved in various scientific communities to build on their collective wisdom.
- Do you have any words of advice to the participants of SIMC and ISSF?
To quote from one of my favourite scientists, Albert Einstein, “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” A great scientist is curious, humble, open-minded, self-determined, passionate, self-motivated and reflective. I would like to encourage all our SIMC and ISSF participants to develop a strong scientific mind and grow in strength of character as well as to enjoy learning and working with others. Indeed, I am much inspired by all of you and I wish you all the very best in your journey.