HCISD leaders explore new opportunities for innovation during educational tour to Singapore


Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District’s Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos and Board of Trustees member Dr. Nolan Perez recently had a chance to discover the inner workings of a world-class educational system over 9,000 miles away as part of an Educate Texas learning tour to Singapore on October 14-21.

Thirty-seven leaders, representing K-12, higher education, business and philanthropic communities, were chosen from across Texas to gain firsthand knowledge and experience into the design, structure, and resources that have led to the country’s progress into an educational powerhouse.

“The educational trip to Singapore was extremely informational and amazing,” said Dr. Cavazos. “Their educational system is very tightly aligned with industry demands. The system is so strategically designed as to ensure that students are not being trained for professions that are not needed by the industry. Over the last few years, Singapore has begun focusing more on educating the whole child. Authentic learning experiences, coupled with 21st-century learning skills, have become a priority.”

“I am very proud to have been a part of this enriching experience that offered an in-depth look at one of the most highly regarded educational systems in the world,” said Dr. Perez. “It’s remarkable to see how the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Manpower work closely to determine the course of action for the educational system in Singapore. I am excited to be able to apply that knowledge to drive the purposeful design of our educational pipelines here at HCISD.”

Representing the RGV were also Stella Garcia, provost of the Texas State Technical College, Harlingen Campus; Dr. Luzelma Canales, executive director, Rio Grande Valley Focus; and Patty McHatton, dean of the College of Education at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The goal of the weeklong excursion was for these Texans to examine and carry back the innovative best practices and ideas to continue to lead, develop and improve Texas’ public education system.

One topic of particular interest to Dr. Canales was how selective they are of those applying to the college of education and those chosen to lead their schools.

“In Singapore, they have 1,000 students apply to the college of education for 300 slots. They expect their best and brightest to become teachers,” she said. “There’s a lot that we can learn. Harlingen CISD, in particular, has done a lot of investing in rethinking the talent pipeline. Veronica Kortan and her department are very intentionally assessing the role of development as we onboard new teachers.”

The team’s agenda included meeting with Singapore’s Ministry of Education, which is responsible for the public and higher education systems, and the National Institute for Education, the nation’s teacher-preparation and professional-development organization. Thanks to generous funding provided by Charles Butt to cover the tour expenses, the group also conducted numerous site visits to schools, colleges, and programs across the country.

Within the next several months, Educate Texas will seek input from the learning-tour participants to compile a report with additional observations, highlights, and strategies to implement. This document will be shared with Texas educators, elected officials and members of the Legislature, business leaders and the philanthropic community.

“There were many lessons learned as well as some great opportunities to set strategic action plans in motion collectively with others who attended from the Valley,” said Dr. Cavazos. “I thank HCISD’s Board of Trustees for their collective support of my participation in this incredible experience.”

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