Harvard-successful Statement of Purpose (SOP)


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My Background:

I come from a family of teachers. My earliest memories include sitting at the dining table, helping my mum and grandmother place stickers on students work. Whilst I enjoyed being the official “sticker,” I remember thinking I never wanted to be a teacher because it seemed like hard work. The piles of marking were never ending and instead of being out in the sun, my mum and grandma were stuck at home on a Saturday afternoon. Years passed and I found myself serving as an English teacher for local schools at Treetop County in Chiang Mai. What started off as a 1-week volunteer stint with friends soon turned into a 4-month stay as I found myself growing to love the interaction with my students, not to mention the sense of accomplishment as I saw them grow in knowledge and confidence.

I wasn’t blind, however, to the large gaps in the system. Classes were overcrowded which made it difficult to attend to the needs of every student. This often resulted in some students disengaging from lessons and an overall lack of motivation for their studies. The problem mirrored in my own education experience and I often felt this situation could have been addressed if only they received more individualized attention, but I understood that teacher’s bandwidth was limited.  Clearly there was room for reforms in the education sector and I wanted to be an advocate for this change – hence I applied and was awarded an Overseas Merit Scholarship to pursue my degree. I returned home afterwards to serve in the Ministry of Education.

As I hit the ground running in school, I found that the traditional teaching method of lengthy teacher talk was highly inadequate. Students were clearly tuning out due to the lack of interaction which meant that concepts were not understood. This affected their critical thinking abilities. Curiosity and the desire to learn were clearly lacking in the classroom.

I began looking for alternative teaching methods and zeroed in on the use of technology in classroom education. The classroom environment was dynamic and interactive with the introduction of online learning tools, however this did not reflect in better performance scores during standardized tests. Consequently, I was told to revert to the traditional skill and drill test-prep academic processes. Additionally, I was reminded that the learning process remains inconsequential as along as results were achieved.

Two years into service, I found myself posted to the Education and Career Guidance (ECG) Branch of the Ministry of Education. My responsibilities had me frequently in conversation with the private sector and I was often subject to complaints that whilst graduates were book smart many were unable to seamlessly integrate into the office environment. In fact, a majority lacked the ability to meaningfully apply the digital and processing skills which are needed by today’s global economy. Sorely missing was also the attitude of tenacity, creativity and curiosity and the 21st century competencies such as critical and inventive thinking – crucial for survival in this volatile and complex world.

Career Objectives for Continued Education:

My adept knowledge of the Singaporean education system presents a backdrop to the formation of several theoretical concepts which I expect to consolidate with practicable and effective solutions during my study at Harvard, the bastion of truth. The fulcrums of my 8-year emergent career started at Bendeemer Secondary School, where I served as History & Social Studies teacher. In the course of this job, I grasped the students’ emotional, psychological and academic challenges and meritoriously combated the negative effects through several interactive sessions which include: an action research project with CPDD aimed at investigating, developing and enhancing a classroom friendly curriculum and pedagogy; and partnering with the Youth Executive Committee (YEC) for an inaugural interactive meeting with minister Yaccob Ibrahim, an occasion which incredibly honed the students’ skills in oratory, leadership and critical thinking, as well as events management.

Between 2012 to 2013, my job at the Student Development Curriculum Division broadened my perspective on education management and improved my dexterity. In 2014, I returned to Bendeemer secondary school, where I currently hold position as the Head of Department (Year Head). My analytical skills, demonstrated expertise and capacity to initiate, develop and oversee handle tasking blueprints have proved gratifying. Through co-operative brainstorming, the school effectively designed and implemented successful educational/behavioral interventions for referred students, among other achievements. I possess distinctive leadership abilities, dynamism and terrific drive for success. As a chairperson of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Committee, I supervised teachers’ professional use of ICT during classes, conducted benefiting training for tutors on computer literacy, and was part of the organizers for EDUTECH Asia 2016, an event which convened educators and technology influencers from over 50 countries.

Although I hold several awards of excellence which includes an education merit award from the Ministry of Education and an honors degree in Psychology from University of Melbourne, Australia, I believe that education is a continuous process, especially with the mountainous challenges posed by Singapore’s learning process which deserves alternative, workable and foolproof concepts.

Harvard’s program in education blends advances in social sciences, sciences, arts and humanities with steep expertise in educational policy, research and practice to train students for fruitful careers as researchers, academics, policy-makers, and leaders who will sway educational outcomes around the world. As I look forward to taking this mantle of revolutionizing the concepts and practice of educational methods in Singapore, I have unswerving faith that the program’s concentrations, curricular requirements and milestones are well-structured to achieve these four appealing objectives: to equip myself with domain knowledge in education; to broaden my knowledge in relevant disciplines; to pass through rigorous training in several research methods; and to gain a foundational standpoint to promote the development of new research and knowledge with a transformative impact on education.

Objective for Graduate Study:

In line with Harvard’s mission to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders of our society, I am inspired by the need for a broad understanding and appreciation of multidisciplinary disciplines in education such as Curriculum & Instruction, Learning & Teaching, Human Development & Psychology, Education Technology, Education Administration, Early Childhood/Secondary Education etc. As a teacher who yearns to make meaningful impacts in the lives of my students, I strive to improve my professional prestige with specialized knowledge and adapt to new developments in the high-demand field to become a curricular leader in my school.

This higher-level research program will not only guarantee my chance of exploring advanced topics in pedagogy but equip me with individual teacher training for schools, higher education and specialist roles. As an existing practitioner, the course will serve as a continuing professional development (CPD) for me.

Harvard’s widened scope of research and theoretical work will provide me with a solid academic foundation to liaise with Singaporean central authorities against bureaucratic red-tapism in education, especially at the ministry where policy-making processes are formulated to balance the socio-economic objectives of the nation with realistic procedures.

After completing this course, I hope to collaborate with school administrators in Singapore by first introducing previously unknown workable theories and what solutions they proffer if applied in the educational policies. With the knowledge at my disposal, I will steer them in confidence through a practical test-drive which I believe will impact positively on their traditionalistic approach towards innovation, ICT, teaching/learning methods, teachers’ freedom to create/apply teaching materials through online platforms, and a thorough appraisal of the overall policy objectives.

Why TIE at Harvard Graduate School of Education:

In addition, I anticipate a systematic study of education technology to exploit its effect on students’ motivation and, academic achievements, as well as pinpoint other contextual factors to be taken into consideration for enriched results. Under guidance from Harvard’s esteemed professors and exchange of ideas with students from multi-cultural backgrounds who are dedicated to improving lives and shaping the future through the transformative power of education, I look forward to enhancing my knowledge of new trends in the field.

David Thornburg said, “We are preparing children for their future, not our own past.” However, my ambition is to acquire a general theoretical background for understanding past and future field experiences and develop skills through proven high-level research methods for a value-added career. I am convinced that the master’s program will give me thorough education and excellent research experience which will definitely propel me to the elusive knowledge I seek. This is the only way I can repay the faith bequeathed by the Ministry of Education, Singapore, under whose support I have come this far since 2009.

I am fascinated by Harvard’s status as the acme of ivory towers; it is second in the U.K. for education and has an amazing total of 98% student satisfaction, according to the National Students Survey 2017. Moreover, a master’s degree from the prestigious institution provides ample job opportunities for self and career development through its extraordinary diversity and depth of faculty research which guarantee a wonderful student experience. Harvard’s size, global alumni network,  an unequaled course catalog and massive library collection makes it a great source of inspiration.