Teachers can look forward to more training, support and mentorship, under initiatives to help them deepen their skills and encourage them to keep learning.

"Just as we bring out the best in every child, our education system must also bring out the best in all our teachers," said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday as he focused on teachers at this year's annual workplan seminar.

Primary 1 and 2 teachers, for instance, can go for a three-month advanced diploma course that arms them with the skills to help children transition smoothly from pre-school to primary school.

Currently, 13 teachers, who have each taught for about 20 years on average, are enrolled in the National Institute of Education-run course that started last month. More are expected to enrol in the next few years.

Primary school teachers will also get more training so as to master and specialise in two subjects instead of juggling three like they do now.

"Specialisation, where appropriate, will enable our teachers to master content and pedagogical skills more deeply," said Mr Heng. "This, in turn, will enable them to help our students to build a deeper foundation," he told 1,700 school leaders at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre.

He also announced that educators who support students with learning needs can turn to a new advanced diploma course in special education for teachers and allied educators launched by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

More will be done to deepen mentoring for teachers, he said.

MOE will develop and appoint more role models for teachers. There are now 1,700 senior teachers, 100 lead teachers, 51 master teachers and five principal master teachers among the 33,000- strong teaching force here.

The ministry will also raise the highest career grade for those on the teaching track, one of three main career pathways for educators. The others are the senior specialist and the leadership tracks.

The apex grade for a principal master teacher will go from G to up to Superscale F, equivalent to that of a senior school principal.

To signal the importance it places on developing teachers, MOE announced the appointment of former NorthLight School principal Chua Yen Ching as the deputy director-general of education for professional development.

To help teachers as they go for professional development, MOE will look at ways to free up time for them to do so. It will look into simplifying some administrative processes and scaling up time- saving practices and innovations.

One of these is an e-system developed by Blangah Rise Primary, that allows pupils on its breakfast scheme to get their food simply by scanning a card against a reader installed at each canteen stall.

In a 90-minute speech punctuated with video clips showing the skilful and innovative work teachers do, Mr Heng called them "trailblazers" and said they were at the heart of MOE's efforts towards a "student-centric, values-driven education" - the focus of previous years' workplan seminars.

But Mr Heng also reminded teachers that the future of Singapore passes through their hands.

The message was not lost on Greenview Secondary teacher Muhammad Nazir Amir, 37, who teaches science by getting students to design toys. He said: "Students have so much potential in them and we as teachers have to unlock it."