Education in the News

September 13, 2012

Quality Educators the Key, Not Class Sizes (Bryna Sim, The Straits Times)

Education is about more than good grades. School is not just about homework and tests. And parents can play a bigger role in their child’s learning. These are some points made by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday as he set out his ministry’s priorities for the year ahead.

On Teachers

IT IS the quality of teachers that matters—not class sizes.

Quality educators were a key touchstone in the Education Ministry’s Work Plan Seminar yesterday. The quality of teachers needs to be continually raised, said the minister Heng Swee Keat.

Although the ministry has reached its 2015 target force of 33,000 teachers, a quarter are below 30 years old and have less than five years of experience. “Some of our new teachers are still finding their feet,” he said.

He urged experienced teachers to mentor the younger generation, and commended the Skilful Teaching, Enhanced Mentoring programme initiated last year by the Academy of Singapore Teachers.“This programme is doing well and we will scale this up,” Mr Heng said.

Ms Nur Asyikin Mohd Agos, 27, a teacher at Tanjong Katong Secondary School for two years, said of the programme: “I learnt teaching strategies and other useful topics in a structured way.”

On the subject of class sizes, Ms Asyikin said: “Class management is key, not class size. It’s pointless to have a small class size if the teacher cannot manage that.”

Mr Heng said class size was not a “silver bullet”, and added that Singapore’s overall pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) is not unfavourable.

It is just below 18 for primary schools and 15 for secondary schools; the average ratios among the countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are about 16 and 14 respectively, he said.

The minister added that schools should deploy teachers in areas of greatest need, rather than aim for an “across-the-board” reduction in class sizes.

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