By Associate Professor Low Ee Ling, Office of Teacher Education
It was a privilege for me to be part of the Singapore delegation led by Mr S. Iswaran, Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession held in New York from 16 to 17 March 2011. The Singapore team was asked to share specifically about our Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS) used for teacher annual appraisal, evaluation and performance coaching. This was showcased as a system that combines the best of both models of teacher appraisal, such as one that is used for accountability and that also outlines the main areas for teacher professional development.
Clearly, Singapore's top performance in internationally benchmarked tests such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and more recently, in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has garnered worldwide attention and Singapore can be proud of our achievements thus far. However, what is unique about our system is our desire to continually reflect upon and improve our current practice. Additionally, the fidelity in the implementation of policy system-wide was also lauded as a key strength of our education system. Also present were delegations from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the People's Republic of China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
As a Singaporean, perhaps my proudest moment was to witness Mr Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, offer this high accolade on our education system at the Summit's press conference: "Singapore has just done a tremendous job with everything they're doing on teacher induction, teacher development, good mentoring, good support and thinking through better evaluation systems. There are many, many things that we want to take away from our partners in Singapore and we just have the greatest of respect for their work." With this experience, I have gained a strong affirmation of what Singapore has been doing right and what we need to keep on doing to stay on top of the league.
The summit was organised by the US Department of Education together with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education International (EI) and US-based organisations—the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Asia Society, and the WNET, New York's public media network. The summit centred around four main themes: teacher recruitment and preparation, teacher development and support, teacher evaluation and compensation and teacher engagement in educational reform.