Singapore is revered internationally for its education system, particularly, its achievement in math, literacy and science. Educators from various countries visit Singapore to find out what they do to make their students high achievers.
No country can develop without a robust education system that shapes students to become successful individuals in society. Singapore didn’t just set up policies to guide the education sector, but it also continues to invest in professional development training for teachers.
Recruitment of top performers
Singapore’s Ministry of Education considers education as important as any other sector of the economy. So, during the recruitment process, the Ministry picks potential teachers from the top 30% of the graduating class. This is one of the differences between Singapore and many other countries.
Some countries look at the teaching profession as a fall back career if one doesn’t perform as well as expected. Singapore, on the other hand, has placed great value in teaching that students who graduate top of the class choose a career in education.
The fact that students want to go into education to train the next generation is not something that happened overnight. This follows deliberate policy decisions that were geared towards building a high-quality workforce for the education sector.
Central comprehensive centre
In a bid to ensure all teachers receive the same level of training, the Singapore government decided that all potential teachers, whether they are taking a diploma or degree course, should get their training at the National Institute of Education located at the Nanyang Technological University.
This Institute, in turn, associates with the various schools in the country. It keeps track of the teachers’ performance to help identify exceptional teachers, who are then asked to help train upcoming teachers for a few years. This encourages sustainability, rather than dependence on a few teachers, when there is more untapped talent out there.
Attractive pay structure
Poorly paid teachers are usually not motivated enough to produce great results. This is why Singapore occasionally reviews the starting salaries for beginner teachers. Besides ensuring the qualified teachers start at the right footing, this also encourages more students to choose a career in education.
Teachers also receive a pay rise as often as possible. However, since some professionals see their salary rise much faster than the teachers, Singapore has devised programs through which teachers can enrol for additional skills, which ultimately will help them rise to a better pay grade. These programmes include;
a) Professional Development
All educators in Singapore are entitled to at least 100 hours annual for the professional development of teachers. The teachers have the option of undertaking additional courses at the National Institute of Education to earn a higher degree.
Alternatively, the teachers can enrol in a school-based programme where school staff developers identify some of the challenges the teachers face and try to provide a solution. For example, suppose the students are not performing well in math, the developers can introduce alternative methods of teaching, such as brain-based teaching, to make it easier for teachers to share knowledge with the students.
The schools also receive government funding which caters for the teachers’ travel needs when they go to other countries to assess various aspects of the education systems, and policies they can adopt to make education more competitive and rewarding.
b) Career Development
Singapore does not take chances with talent development. It keeps a close eye on teachers and finds ways to enhance their talent, even after they have been teaching for years. For example, after three years of active teaching, teachers are assessed annually for easy identification when opportunities, such as those of master teachers, research specialists, and school leader arise.
Teachers who are identified for career advancement are then moved to teams in middle management in preparation for their new roles. These training opportunities prepare the teachers for leadership positions, such as those of the school principal and assistant principals.
Highly qualified teachers who are exemplary in their work see the fruits of the labour in successful students. This is the best measure of a teacher’s performance. Singapore discourages rigidity and instead encourages the teaches to focus on innovation. This allows teachers to have a mindset that if one teaching method does not work, it is okay to try another, and this has been beneficial to students.