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Ex-teacher: MOE should do a better job in designing its curriculum

Posted by temasektimes on July 3, 2012

I am an ex-teacher, not a HOD or any other appointments, just a normal teacher. I agree with the earlier post “Ex-MOE teacher recalls ‘dehumanizing’ experiences of trainee teachers” to a certain extent. Not that it is a “dehumanizing” experience, but I would rather rephrase it to more appropriate terms – rigorous and hectic. If there is a scale out of 10 to measure the rigour and hectic of my NIE training, I will give a 10.

From the moment the term starts, assignments come in like waves of tsunami. Deadlines are aplenty and all of them are pretty close to each other – it is quite common to have several assignments due within the same week. Furthermore, there is the teaching assistantship and teaching practicum at the end of the curriculum year, where I had to observe numerous lessons, write reflections, plan lessons, prepare resources and teach. Sleep is definitely a luxury and given that I am a non-graduate, the remuneration is definitely not a motivating factor.

Even though I had come through from all that, I am certainly of the opinion that NIE can do a better job at designing its curriculum. No doubt the rigour and hectic prepared me well for the same kind of working condition and pace in school, I question a lot of times on the quality of our teacher training and education. What is the point of rushing for deadlines when we should really be acquiring in depth knowledge of the subject we are going to teach?

That being said, I am also not suggesting that trainee teachers to be given luxurious amount of time to complete each assignment, at least it shouldn’t be 2 to 3 deadlines within the same week coupled with tests and presentations. If teachers are trained in such pressure-cooker style, instead of being taught to appreciate the subject and cultivate the love of learning it, it is of little surprise that they will in turn use the same method on the students. It creates a vicious cycle as these teachers move up the ladder, and there will always be a huge barrier for education to evolve to keep up with times.

As a non-graduate teacher, I will disagree with my 2 hands up if anyone were to tell me that teaching is a well-paying job. Maybe for the graduate teachers, but definitely not for me. I even had to take up tuition classes at self-help groups in order to have a little bit of luxury. Nevertheless, that didn’t hamper me to join teaching. I joined teaching in the first place as I wanted to change and make a difference in my subject – Physical Education. I even told my interviewers that if I am not given the subject, I would not sign the letter to enter NIE after my contract teaching stint.

True enough, I was given the subject and went to NIE. Ironically, at the end of the day, it wasn’t the stress nor the workload and definitely not the remuneration that made me leave teaching. It was the negativity, lack of support from school leaders, the reluctance to open up to new ideas, the stick-in-the-mud mentality, favouritism from school leaders and many more obstacles that doused the passion. As I witness more of my NIE cohort-mates leaving the service, I began to wonder how a group of young men and women who were once so passionate about teaching gradually lose that fire in them. Salary is definitely not the issue, as some of them were emplaced into the graduate scheme after obtaining a degree from part-time studies.

I had the experience of looking for a job after I left teaching and I can attest to how difficult it was. Barring education qualifications, very few employers see the relevance of the skills teachers possess. To many of them, all that teachers know are to teach and this is such a specialised skill that many employers don’t see the transferability and relevance of the other skills that teachers have. Most of them do not know teachers spent most of their time doing non-teaching tasks. And in these non-teaching tasks, other skills like events planning and co-ordination, project management, adult training, handling “customers”, relationship building, administration and many more are required.

There are valid points in the author’s post and in all of the comments, and I will just want to end by saying there are people who joined teaching for the wrong reasons, I have witnessed them before, and strangely these are not the ones who leave after their bond ends. However, there are also those who joined because they truly want to make a difference, and more often that not, these are the ones who can’t sustain. It is probable that, in my opinion, the more you want to make a difference, the more dejected you will feel because the system just doesn’t allow that. MOE’s vision is to “mould the future of our nation”. And a truly passionate teacher will never do that, because they believe that children should be nurtured to his/her fullest potential. Moulding will only shape a person to what he/she is not. Perhaps it is the passion-turned-dejection part that doused the fire in most teachers. To avoid losing more good teachers, I believe radical changes to the current system should be made.


*The above was first posted as a comment on The Temasek Times.


10 Responses to “Ex-teacher: MOE should do a better job in designing its curriculum”

  1. Jardel said

    Well teachers are drawing salary. If you think that by writing your comments online can help “change” that system, then you are so wrong. Good luck and welcome to the private sector where being “graduate” alone will not guarantee success in drawing a fat salary.

    • Ex-teacher said

      This comment isn’t meant to “change” the system. It is just a humble opinion from one who has been on both sides of the fence..and thanks for the good luck. I do agree that being a graduate does not mean a fat salary in the private sector.

      • Jardel said

        HI there, tbh, I think that teaching is not about passion, as far as our dear MOE is concerned nowadays. They are far more interested in making teaching as profitable as possible, meaning to say to get the FT over with their supposedly cleverer kids. And teachers are just simply robots trying to sell education to them and principals are just the worse of the lot. Drawing > 10K or more salary and using work time to fuck some 17 year old whore. You know what I mean.

        Even before that whole saga came about. I believe most Singaporeans had long given up on our education system. Well, “what do you think” will be the next question, and personally, all I can say is that with the current education system and it was still claim to be the best or one of it around the world, good luck to everyone that still has some sort of relationship with it.

    • Jardel your Glass of water is always half empty …

    • Hi Jardel,
      The main focus here is to talk about the teacher training. What Ex-Teacher was trying to say is that the quality of teacher training does not match with what is practised in the schooling system. We can be as passionate as we want be we too feel the strain coz of the differences. But you’re right to point the stuff in the first paragraph of your second reply. And your insights are generally right I think but we’re frustrated coz we’re not allow to grow as the educator we wish to be becoz of suppression and lack of support from the bigwigs.

  2. Wow … I like this post … Very refreshing … to compare to all the negative post of the previous article… I totally agree to “nurture” not mould… maybe those very negative post before we’re results of badly moulded products…

  3. Singapore Talent said

    Well written article!!!

  4. mrsflowers said

    “at least it shouldn’t be 2 to 3 deadlines within the same week coupled with tests and presentation”

    Isn’t this rather common? Not only for teachers but for students as well. We consistently have overlapping assignments all due within the same period of time, think 2 major tests + 4 presentations + 4 terribly lengthy reports all in 2 weeks, and all these just 2 weeks short of the final exams.

    It doesn’t have to be this way but that’s just how it is, isn’t it? Blame it on the poor planning of someone, but we just have to get used to it and suck it up.

  5. Well thoughtout and insightful post. There’s true teaching passion very much so in this ex-teacher even now ex-. MOE wld do well to be mindful of the points raised by him to review current teaching guidelines and curricula as appropriate.
    I salute the writer for his selfless concern for a profession that is close to his heart that he has nevertheless left.

  6. Stones said

    I disagree that the workload & assignments during the NIE training are too much to handle. While I was studying in NIE, there were countless of times where we had deadlines and submissions in the same week, sometimes even on the same date. However, I believe that this is very normal everywhere, and it is not that crazy. I honestly did enjoy those times. In my opinion, practicum itself was pretty relaxed too. Sure, there are lessons to be observed, lessons plans, activities, reflections, etc to do, but I could still sleep well and have a life outside. And no, I am not a graduate.

    The problem I have is not with NIE’s training, but teaching itself. What I can say is that, the pay is definitely not great, especially when we have a lot of extra work to do other than teaching in the classroom. Because of all the other things that are thrown in for teachers to do, it makes one jaded. Teaching is no longer what I thought it would be.

    Apart from the NIE training part, I agree with you on everything else. And I think, this is the reason why me, along with many others who I know of are prepared to leave this industry. Not because we have no passion, but because the way things work around here really makes us jaded.

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