Mr Bernard Chen (left) has passed on the chairmanship to Prof Tan Cheng Han (right).

After being at the helm of Catholic education for more than 10 years, Mr Bernard Chen is stepping down as chairman of the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS).

The former Minister of State for Defence chaired the Catholic Education Task Force subcommittee in 1996, then the more formalised Catholic Education Council which started in 1998. He was chairman of ACCS from 2004 till August this year.

His successor is Prof Tan Cheng Han, dean of the Law faculty, National University of Singapore.

“It’s time to hand over to a younger person and I think we have found a man with the passion and knowledge,” said Mr Chen. “Catholic Education is a ‘trinity’ – collaboration between the Church, schools and the parents. Under my watch we tried to reach out to the schools and churches.

“Some schools assume it is the sole responsibility of the Church for the child’s religious education and some churches assume it is the responsibility of the schools to do so. It is sometimes difficult to change mind sets,” he said. “It is critical to bring all partners together. Not quite enough was done in this area although we achieved a certain degree of success.”

Prominent Church people praised Mr Chen’s dedication.

“Mr Chen did all in his power to promote all that would strengthen the growth of a truly Catholic education,” said ACCS member Sr Maria Lau, who was with the Catholic Education Council.

“His deep faith and spirit of hope allowed him to transcend difficulties. His strong sense of purpose, perseverance and reliance on the guidance of God, gave him the courage to move forward, confident that the good work begun will continue to bear fruit.”

Archbishop Nicholas Chia said, “As a devout Catholic he has contributed much to the vision and mission of our Catholic education … We warmly welcome Prof Tan Cheng Han who has generously accepted to take the place of Mr Chen and we look forward to his contributions to ACCS.”

Prof Tan also noted that Mr Chen “has been a pillar” in ACCS and its predecessors. “An enormous amount has been achieved under his stewardship and he has left big shoes to fill,” he said.

By Don Gurugay