NIE looks to raise quality of teachers

NIE looks to raise quality of teachers

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Media Type
TODAY (Pages 1 & 2)

SINGAPORE — The National Institute of Education (NIE) is making preparations to support the evolving education system, including considering whether all trainee teachers should undergo a direct Master’s programme to further enhance the quality of teachers here.

Other possible areas that the NIE is looking at as part of its two-year internal review — which started about six months ago — are getting more trainee teachers to go on overseas internships to broaden their world view and to relook the duration and depth of the practicum component.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced several education policy changes, including doing away with aggregate scores for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), broadening Direct School Admissions categories and allowing Secondary 1 students in the Normal stream to take a subject at a higher level if they have done well in that subject in the PSLE.

In an interview with TODAY, NIE Director Lee Sing Kong said yesterday that the institute is reviewing how teachers are being trained. “We feel that an opportunity has come, with new demand in the new landscape and schools with multiple pathways for students to learn. How do we train teachers who will really be impactful teachers of the future? This is one aspect we are considering very hard,” he said.

Stressing that the review is at a preliminary stage, Professor Lee did not rule out the possibility of having a direct Master’s programme for trainees — similar to how all teachers in Finland and some parts of Australia graduate from training programmes with a Master’s degree. The NIE is looking at the “appropriateness of such a model within our context”, he said.

Educators whom TODAY spoke to have mixed views on the possibility of requiring teachers to undergo a direct master’s programme.

A primary school teacher, who declined to be named, noted that some may not want to go through a long preparation time to become a teacher, only to realise that they may not be suited for the profession later on.

He was also concerned that should future batches of teachers graduate with a master’s degree, this could lead to a situation where teachers without the qualification would be forced into a paper chase.

NorthLight School Principal Martin Tan obtained a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from the Teachers College Columbia University in the United States, after 12 years of teaching and school leadership experience. He noted that his teaching experience stood him in good stead during post-graduate studies.

Nevertheless, he said that by undergoing a direct master’s programme, trainee teachers would be better equipped for the classroom as they would be exposed to conducting pedagogical research.

The Ministry of Education has been promoting professional upgrading among teachers, providing scholarships for them to pursue higher qualifications.

Last year, one in 10 teachers — about 3,000 of the approximately 30,000 teachers here — held a postgraduate degree.

Prof Lee said that the NIE is also reviewing the duration and depth of the school attachment period for trainee teachers. Currently, it makes up about 30 per cent of the teacher training programme. It is also looking at improving the depth of experience by tapping school leaders and teacher mentors, he said.

To better prepare teachers for a globalised world, so that they “understand the international perspective” and have deeper engagement with students, Prof Lee said he hoped to increase the proportion of teacher trainees who participate in international teaching stints.

An NIE spokesperson said that currently, up to 10 per cent of each cohort will have the opportunity to go on five-week stints as teaching assistants in schools in the United States, Europe or Taiwan.

Prof Lee said he plans to extend the NIE’s network to include schools in New Zealand and Finland.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of Education Ho Peng wrote to educators in a memo yesterday.

She reiterated that the changes to the education system will “yield their desired impact only if they are implemented well”. Adding that the changes will take time, she said: “It is vital that we work through the details with all of you — schools, teachers, parents and students, before the changes are finalised.”


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Source: TODAY (Pages 1 & 2), mediacorp