Luring the 'best and brightest': Singapore has much to teach on education
Friday, 24 October 2014
Trainee teachers in Singapore are paid while they are studying, as few as 20 per cent of applicants get into the course and starting salaries are equal to an engineer or accountant, ensuring teaching is one of the most respected professions in the country, according to the head of Singapore's teacher training institute.
As the teacher oversupply worsens in Australia, the profession is thriving in Singapore, where no teachers are unemployed and the most popular subjects to teach are maths and science, Woon Chia Liu, dean of teacher education at Singapore's National Institute of Education, told a Sydney education conference.
Australian universities have been accused of using teaching degrees as cash cows, producing far too many graduates for the available teaching positions. In NSW, there are 44,000 graduates languishing on waiting lists, with 25,374 waiting for a full-time job at a primary school and 18,888 looking for work at a high school.
But, in Singapore, widely regarded as having one of the best education systems in the world because of its performance in internationally benchmarked tests of student achievement, the situation is very different and the country has reached its desired number of teachers.
Ms Liu said Singapore was now focused on moving from "quantity to quality".
"In Singapore, we trust teachers, we respect and value our teachers and we see them as nation builders," Ms Liu said.
"When things don't go well, instead of blaming or bashing teachers, we look at providing resources to support them, providing personal development to increase their capacity and on top of that, as a society, the government makes a very conscious decision that teaching should be a valuable profession."
A vocal critic of the oversupply of teachers is NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who has introduced tougher requirements for students wanting to study teaching at university. From this year, students will have to achieve band five in three Higher School Certificate subjects, including English.
In NSW last year, 6966 students graduated as new teachers but only 2200 permanent jobs were available in government schools.
Ms Liu said in Singapore teaching attracted the "best and the brightest" and people saw teaching as a calling.
"Our beginning teachers are paid the same as a beginning engineer or accountant, so we are able to attract passionate people and they don't lose pay," she said.
"It's not just a job, it's a calling, so once we get people in we give them the training they deserve and make sure it is a profession for them."
Ms Liu said Singapore had different "tracks", which ensured teachers could pursue their passion, whether it be in classroom or as a principal, without sacrificing pay.
"A key fundamental upheld in the Singapore system is that teachers are developed in their areas of strengths and are mentored in the process because not all teachers aspire to be school leaders or subject specialists," Ms Liu said.
"Good teachers who see their calling in the classroom must also be allowed to grow in their career and helped to fulfil their potential so that they feel valued and supported in their work. Without such a differentiation, outstanding teachers will all be expected to take on leadership roles in schools or the government.
"Some may be happy to do that but others may become disillusioned and leave the profession."
Copyright © 2014 Fairfax Media
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Source: Brisbane Times