2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Lee Sing Kong is Honored at TC's Doctoral Ceremony

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Lee Sing Kong, Director of Singapore

Lee Sing Kong, Director of Singapore's National Institute of Education

At Teachers College’s Convocation for doctoral degree recipients yesterday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, TC Medal recipient Lee Sing Kong addressed the need to move education into the 21st century through the use of technology and a better understanding of how people learn. 

Lee, Director of Singapore’s National Institute of Education, has focused on creating a quality teaching workforce in Singapore that is highly skilled, well- respected and committed to self-improvement. He has strengthened the partnership between the NIE and Singapore's schools in order to engage senior teachers in mentoring students and to connect the theories imparted in teacher training to the realities of classroom practice.

Lee cited the recently established joint TC-NIE master’s degree program as an example of developing and sharing global best practices in education.

In her remarks, TC President Susan Fuhrman congratulated “the talented, energetic, and persevering men and women who have earned the right to be addressed as Doctor” and called the ceremonial hooding “a particularly powerful image of joining the full-fledged ranks of academia.”

Fuhrman also said she felt joy at seeing “the number of children in evidence here today, because by the time I earned my TC degree, I had one of my own. And that is so very much a part of the doctoral student’s life, particularly at TC, where children and families are both partners to and subjects for our work.”

Fuhrman paid tribute to two students receiving their doctoral degrees, Dave Wright and Na Li.

Wright “took the long road to receiving his Ph.D. in education policy from TC,” Fuhrman said. Wright worked in corporate, government, and public policy positions before coming to TC. His resume includes leading worldwide government and political affairs for a Fortune 20 company and holding senior staff positions at the White House and the U.S. House of Representatives.

At TC, Wright focused on solving what Fuhrman called “an electoral puzzle” – the causes of low voter turnout among 18-to 20-year-olds. His answer?  High schools are falling short in delivering civics curricula that are engaging and relevant to students. Wright also argues that the nation needs more aggressive citizenship training and voter registration on its high school and college campuses.

Fuhrman called Na Li, who received her doctoral degree in Cognitive Studies,  “a great example of how passion and persistence trump fear and lack of confidence every time.”

Growing up near Shanghai, China, Li felt she was a “slow” student who, lacking support from her teachers, was “developmentally not ready to learn” difficult concepts in math or the sciences.

But Li “faced her fears head-on,” Fuhrman said. “Not only did she become a passionate learner of science and math, she was determined to become an educator.”

At Teachers College, a place she calls her “dream come true,” Li enrolled in the Cognitive Studies in Education program, where Cleveland Dodge Professor of Telecommunications and Education John Black would help her to combine her interests in cognitive science, technology, and education.

For her dissertation leading to her doctorate in Cognitive Studies, Li designed a simulated computer environment to teach the idea of complex systems, such as the human digestive tract, to middle school students.  

Li plans to stay in the United States for another five years to do post-doctoral work and research. Eventually, she wants to return to China, where she plans to improve the prospects of children who struggle in school.

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