Ex-Teachers Headhunted ... for S$1,000 A Day

Ex-Teachers Headhunted ... for S$1,000 A Day

Monday, 06 February 2012

Media Type
TODAY online

SINGAPORE - For the past 18 months, former teachers have been headhunted for a S$1,000-a-day job - plus free air tickets and accommodation - which takes them to places such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Chile. Their job brief? To school overseas educators on Singapore's education system, including courses on professional development and the teaching of specific subjects such as mathematics.

Such is the premium for the education system here that private companies are also banking on the Singapore education brand to make a mark overseas.

With publishers selling textbooks based on the Singapore curriculum enjoying brisk business overseas, one of them - Marshall Cavendish - has spotted a business opportunity: In September 2010, it set up a professional development arm - the Marshall Cavendish Institute - to hire experienced former Singapore teachers to conduct courses for their counterparts in other countries.

But only a selected few are on the institute's books, its principal Yeap Ban Har, 44, told Today. Currently, the team comprises 20 adjunct lecturers including former teachers, a retired vice-principal and National Institute of Education (NIE) lecturers. The recruitment process is "by invitation rather than application", added Dr Yeap, who is a former maths and science teacher himself.

These adjunct lecturers are assigned to conduct courses both overseas and in Singapore. They are paid S$1,000 daily for projects that can last between a day and more than a week. The number of projects vary from month to month. Overseas projects so far this year included trips to the Philippines, the US, Chile, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

However, the job, while lucrative, might not be suitable for all former teachers. Apart from frequent travelling, Dr Yeap noted that it involves the teaching of adults, rather than children.

While the business has provided an interesting option for former teachers, Dr Yeap noted that it was unlikely that current teachers would be making a beeline to join his team - notwithstanding the fact that it headhunts potential recruits.

Dr Yeap said: "Teaching is very much a cultural activity and given that the teachers here are well-paid and they have a good working environment, I don't think that it will be case of them leaving their jobs to teach overseas."

While teachers Today spoke to welcomed the prospect of such lucrative overseas stints, some noted the ad hoc nature and the requisite level of experience as potential drawbacks.

NIE director Lee Sing Kong pointed out that the achievements of Singaporean students have been noticed internationally. "There must be something right in the way our teachers are prepared," said Professor Lee.

According to worldwide ranking systems such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Programme for International Student Assessment, Singapore has emerged within the top five countries.

Responding to Today's queries, a Ministry of Education spokesperson noted that the NIE - through its NIE International arm - has provided teacher training and school leaders' development courses to overseas educators.

The South-east Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) Regional Language Centre (RELC), which is based here, also conducts courses in the teaching of languages for overseas educators mainly from the region.

The spokesperson added that Singapore's universities, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education also provide "consultancy and transfer of technical knowledge to their overseas counterparts through their respective international arms".

The MOE shares its experience with counterparts from other countries through formal bilateral meetings or study visits made by overseas delegations to Singapore.

"Such information exchanges are mutually beneficial," the MOE spokesperson said. However, the ministry recognises that the "context in each country is different". Which is why it "does not actively help other countries to adapt our practices", the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson reiterated that Singapore is also seeking to continually improve its education system. "In a globalised and fast-changing world, we want our students to better develop critical and inventive thinking skills, information and communication skills, civic literacy, global awareness and cross-cultural skills," she said.

The spokesperson added: "While our education system has developed strengths in certain areas over time, the MOE constantly seeks to find ways to improve our education system. Even as other countries look to learn from the areas that we have done well in, we seek to learn from their experiences as well." 

Source: TODAY online, mediacorp