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Education in Singapore

November 27, 2011

I was chatting with my friend, a teacher from one of the education institute in Singapore, and we came on the topic of heavy workload that teachers have to endure in Singapore.

Education issues in Singapore
This was an interesting discussion, and my initial expectation would be stories regarding the academic workload (eg. marking scripts etc) being too much. However, the complaints are mainly about how to handle a class, and administrative matters that she needs to deal with.

Admin issues which I am referring to is mainly about side events that they have to organise (eg. in charge of Core- Curriculumn Activities (“CCA”), school carnivals etc)

However, based on my own discussion, not many teachers are complaining that pay was too low, but they usually complain about the workload.

This is in juxtapose against people who are working in the corporate world who are always complaining about the pay check in comparison to the work that they are performing.

Well, I believe that in order to be in the education business, the needs for the career is not just love for the money, but there is also another necessary attribute is to educate the next generation. Thus, I believe that all teachers who are interested in the education business for the right reasons, would have the passion for education.

However, based on the system in the Ministry of Education (“MOE”), I noted that due to the monetary benefits that they can obtain at an early stage of their career, youths that graduate as teachers may be teaching for wrong reason – purely money and a solid career.

I heard from my ex-primary school teacher that the new teachers keep taking medical leave during their stint at the workplace. She said that this was not the case for the old batches. The interesting part is that, based on her years of experience, she does not really see the love of education in the young teachers as seen in the older batch.

I believe, that due to the high pay that is being offered to the teachers at the moment, it is seen more of an avenue of earing money, then to really teach the students, thus I propose the following two solutions.

Overpaid and Overworked
At the moment, I believe the teachers are overpaid.. Yes, most teachers will be shocked by what i said, however wait.. I believe that they are overworked and overpaid.

What I mean is that teachers should be paid for only teaching and not doing other administrative staff like organising school carnivals etc.

If you remove all obligations like field trips, overseas trips, CCA teachers, you will realise that they are seriously overpaid.

Overpayment is an issue whereby due to the high entry income, this will help to attract people who are not interested in teaching but just interested in the money. Thus there is a need to reduce the number of teachers who are interested in this education business because of money.

The thing is, MOE could reduce the wages that is currently being paid to the teachers, and to compensate them, remove more of the administrative stuff that they have to do. Because of this, the teachers will be able to focus on their job which they are good are: to teach.

Teachers are not taught how to do planning for events, these are learnt when they are still studying, IF they are active in their own CCAs. However, admitting the students to the MOE – NTU education degree program, they were mostly tested in their academic results and not how they can organise succesful events.

Even in their course of their studies, they are mainly taught on how to teach the students, and how to create a good lesson plan etc..

Thus, with the reduction of the wages for the teachers, The excess wages could be used to set up a separate department like a student development unit staffed with professionals who knows how to organise events.

Although people may say that it is a radical idea, however I think it is not a radical idea. Firstly, student development centers can be seen in the polytechnic and the university. Why can’t they adopt the same idea in the primary, secondary and junior colleges.

With this student development office, first they can enlist the aid of people of are fluent in doing planning and organising events.

These professionals are enlisted based on these attributes, thus there is a higher chance that they are good at it. Being good at doing helps make them better mentor for the students who are taking a leadership position. As the students with leadership capabilities, the professionals will be inclined to give them some leeway in pursuing their interest. Thus students with leadership capabilities can help to lead other students to organise better events and this mentoring process can continue.

Handling of students

Although currently Singapore had abolished the usage of EM1, EM2 & EM3 – grading system, however, they are still using another different grading system – academically inclined etc… Thus, this is not a solution in it by just changing the terms used to describe the kids.

I noted that there are different types of kids around, those that get into bad companies, those that mature at a later stage of their life (thats me) and the academically inclined students from young.

I believe that there’s still a need to classify the students in different band range, and I am not in the position to discuss which is the best age for the students to be banded etc (as I am not a child specialist).

However, I think that although banding is required as different abilities students have to be grouped together to ensure that they are learning at their optimum speed, at the moment, the students are not developing at their full potential.

There is a need to look at the needs of the students:
1) Academically Inclined students
– They are smart and inquisitive, there is a thirst of knowledge, thus there is a need to ensure that the teacher is academically smart and in tune with all types of knowledge to answer their queries.

2) Average students
– They encompasses the bulk of the student population. As this group is too varied, the current teaching system is the best way to tackle their needs.

3) Not academically inclined students
– These students may not be academically inclined due to varying reasons. Reasons such as:
1. Inability to understand what the teacher is teacher
2. No interest in learning etc.

There are also three groups of teachers:
1) Academically smart teachers
– These teachers are academically in tuned to the requirements of the education system, and they are well equipped to deal with the academically smart students.

2) Average teachers
– They may not that great in their academic studies, however they also form the bulk of the teachers in Singapore, thus they are suited to deal with the average students.

3) Rapport teachers
– These teachers may not need to be academically smart, however there is a need for them to be able to develop a good rapport with the students. Noted that for those who are not academically inclined students, they are usually disenchanted with studying and not because they are stupid. Thus with these type of teachers, they are able to develop a rapport with the student thus providing a chance for the teacher to understand them, and provide solution / listening ear for them(google freedom writers for further discussion in relation to a real life example).

There will be people who will say, there are not so many teachers to go around. Yes, there are not many teachers of the first and third capabilities based on the current education system. However each teacher is to lead their whole class throughout the year, the teacher would be able to know the standard of the class, and know which are the weaker / stronger students thus able to give more emphasis (Netherlands education system states that all children are grouped by age in mixed ability classes, with one teacher for all subjects).

Grading system
There will be issues with the teachers as when they are delegated to the academically weak classes, they would not be happy due to human nature. However, I believe that the MOE should step in and tweak the grading system and promotion system for the teachers who are teaching the students who are not academically strong.

If the teachers for non-academically smart students are able to help the students to improve their grades by certain percentage, they will be deemed for a promotion. As asking for the students to get an A from an F is in impossible task, compared to A to A star. Thus, just for the grading of these teachers, the system of grading should be different, thus reducing the teachers reluctance to conduct classes for these group of students due to promotions issues.

Any other comments?

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