Teachers — The Heart of Quality Education
At the Ministry of Education (MOE) Work Plan Seminar, Minister for Education Dr Ng Eng Hen signalled the importance of nurturing the communication and language skills of young Singaporeans, so that they will thrive in the globalised world. The Minister also announced measures to deepen the professionalism of the teaching service, so as to build a world-class education service.
Nurturing the Communication and Language Skills of Our Young
To prepare the young for the future, MOE aims to nurture each child into becoming a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor and a concerned citizen. It is therefore important that our students learn to communicate and express themselves well in English, the lingua franca of the world.
Since the English Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review in 2006, MOE has put in place several improvements at the primary, secondary and pre-university levels to enhance the way English Language (EL) is being taught, with a particular focus on developing students’ speaking and listening skills. For example, the STELLAR (STrategies for English Language Learning And Reading) programme has been implemented at Primary One across all primary schools this year, and will be phased in at all other levels by 2014. Through STELLAR, the use of show-and-tell, role play and dramatisation develop oracy skills among our young.
A new EL curriculum will be introduced in secondary schools from 2010, while a new ‘A’ level subject “English Language and Linguistics” was launched in six Junior Colleges/schools at the beginning of this year.
To build on the work already in progress and to further boost current efforts, MOE has set up an English Language Taskforce headed by Ms Ho Peng, MOE’s Director-General of Education, with Senior Minister of State Mr S Iswaran as advisor. The Taskforce is studying a number of new measures. One of the recommendations is to set up an English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS) to help build deeper capabilities in EL proficiency training for teachers. Details will be provided when the study is completed.
At the same time, our young should learn to use their mother tongue languages (MTLs) in their daily lives, and develop a foundation that enables them to continue using their MTLs beyond school.
In response to the rising trend of English-speaking homes, MOE undertook the Chinese Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review in 2004, and similar reviews for the Malay and Tamil Languages in 2005. The main goals of the reviews were to customise the teaching of MTL for learners with different learning needs, and enthuse our students in using their mother tongue. The changes arising from the review thus focus on differentiated instruction, greater emphasis on oral skills and reading, as well as greater use of info-communications technologies.
The recommendations of the reviews are progressively implemented across schools, with the first batch of students sitting for the revised Primary School Leaving Examination format next year. The new secondary curriculum will be rolled out in 2011.
The differentiated approach has also resulted in more linguistically able students offering MTLs at a higher level while those who are less linguistically inclined have the option of offering MTL ‘B’.
The Singapore Centre for Chinese Language was set up earlier this year, to develop a niche in in-service CL teacher training and serve as a test-bed for innovative teaching methods. The Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre continues to serve as a national Tamil Language Resource Centre for teachers and students. Senior Parliamentary Secretary Mr Masagos Zulkifli will lead a review to decide if there is a need for a similar centre for the Malay language.
MOE is committed to sustained efforts at helping our young acquire strong communication skills, in English and their mother tongue languages. Such skills will help them seize and create new opportunities.
Growing a World Class Education Service
To sustain a high-performing education system, Singapore’s educators will take on an active role in shaping the development of their profession. MOE is committed to supporting the teaching profession in developing a new Teacher Development Centre as a focal point for teacher professional development. MOE will also strengthen the career development opportunities for educators who wish to deepen their expertise in teaching.
A. Nurturing a Teacher-Driven Culture of Professional Excellence
(i) Supporting the Development of Schools as Professional Learning Communities
MOE will strengthen the network of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where teachers come together regularly to share and learn from one another. Such continuous professional dialogue and feedback are critical to driving enhancement and innovation in the classroom. PLCs will provide teachers the platform for continuous dialogue to lead and drive improvements, hone their own classroom practice and maintain their professional currency. Over time, these communities could extend across schools, to the cluster level and eventually to the national level.
Fifty-one schools are currently piloting the concept of PLCs. MOE will support the development of PLCs in more schools. Over the next few years, we envision all schools to have the capacity to establish themselves as vibrant PLCs.
(ii) Establishing a Teacher Development Centre
MOE will also support the establishment of a Teacher Development Centre (TDC) as a focal set-up for teachers to gather and work collectively towards a higher level of professional competence. For teachers, and run by teachers, the TDC will build their instructional capacity, draw out pedagogical leadership from the fraternity, as well as advance continuous learning and improvement. It will serve as a source of expertise for the PLCs, and be a key enabler in achieving the Vision for the Teaching Service — Singapore Teachers: Lead. Care. Inspire1. By championing professional values and the core of practice underpinning the teaching profession, the TDC can also help to build a deep sense of pride, identity, ownership and collaborative professionalism among teachers.
MOE’s Director-General of Education, Ms Ho Peng, will lead a team of educators to engage the teaching fraternity on proposals for the implementation of the TDC. In the coming months, the team will consult with teachers to explore how best the TDC can be organised to meet its aspirational goals. In particular, the consultation aims to draw out the teachers’ views on how the TDC can support the continued growth of the teaching fraternity as a community of professionals.
B. Strengthening the Teaching Track
Today, Education Officers have a choice of three career tracks — Leadership, Senior Specialist and Teaching. MOE will further enhance career opportunities for teachers on the Teaching Track with a new apex appointment for Principal Master Teacher, the creation of a new Lead Teacher position, and appointment of more Senior Teacher positions. This will help to groom a core group of experts that will further develop the pedagogical capability of the teaching force.
(i) New Apex Appointment — Principal Master Teacher
Master Teachers, as leading practitioners on the Teaching Track, are role model teachers who mentor other teachers to achieve professional excellence. As “teachers of teachers”, Master Teachers play a valuable role in curricular innovation, championing their subject discipline and driving new pedagogies to uplift teaching practices in schools.
In recognition of their role, MOE will raise the apex of the Teaching Track from the current Master Teacher Level 2 to a new Superscale-grade Principal Master Teacher appointment. As the chief pedagogical experts for their subjects at the national level, Principal Master Teachers will lead the fraternity to drive teaching excellence across the education system.
Master Teachers Level 1 will also take on greater responsibilities as pedagogical leaders and their job level will be raised to the equivalent of a Vice-Principal. While primarily attached to MOE Headquarters, Principal Master Teachers and Master Teachers will teach master-classes in schools, lead the professional development of their colleagues, drive curricular innovation in schools, and engage in pedagogical research and innovation.
(ii) New Lead Teacher Appointment
At the school level, MOE will introduce a new Lead Teacher position to champion a culture of teaching excellence and collaborative professionalism. Steeped in subject knowledge and pedagogical skills, the Lead Teacher will lead Senior Teachers and partner school leaders to build professional capacity within the school in the areas of subject content, pedagogy and assessment. Lead Teachers will also play a key role in developing their schools into vibrant Professional Learning Communities, and grow the teaching profession by sharing their subject expertise with other teachers within the cluster.
(iii) More Senior Teachers
MOE will also facilitate more excellent teachers with strengths in mentoring to become Senior Teachers. They will act as role models to raise the professional capability of their colleagues in schools. Outstanding Senior Teachers can look forward to becoming Lead Teachers and Master Teachers.
(iv) Professional Development for Pedagogical Leaders
MOE will provide more opportunities for Education Officers on the Teaching Track to develop and share their pedagogical expertise. These developmental opportunities include a new milestone programme for Master Teachers, as well as opportunities for Master Teachers to be attached to MOE professional divisions and the National Institute of Education (NIE) to enable them to contribute their expertise across the education system.
MOE will also provide more opportunities for Senior Teachers, Lead Teachers and Master Teachers to pursue postgraduate training in pedagogical areas and to participate in a range of overseas attachment programmes that would enable them to exchange international best practices in pedagogy and educational research.
A quality teaching force with a strong expertise in curriculum and pedagogy and a culture of continual professional development are key to preparing students with the knowledge, skills and attributes required for the 21st century workforce. MOE will continue in its efforts to build a quality teaching force and grow a world-class education service for our students.