Singapore’s Teaching Force is Passionate and Highly-Skilled: OECD TALIS 2018 Study

Published Date: 19 June 2019 12:00 AM

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1. Singapore’s teachers are passionate, highly-skilled, and hold positive beliefs about equity and diversity, according to findings from the first volume of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018.

2. The findings also show that our teachers are lifelong learners who are constantly honing their skills and enhancing their teaching practices and pedagogies. This ensures that they are well-equipped to guide and prepare our students for the future. OECD has singled out Singapore as a country where “continuous professional development is ingrained in a school’s shared vision of professional learning”.

3. Reflecting on the TALIS 2018 findings, Director-General of Education, Ministry of Education (MOE) Mr Wong Siew Hoong said, “Teachers are instrumental in moulding the future of our nation. We are heartened that our teachers are passionate about developing students to their fullest potential. Being lifelong learners ourselves is what will put teachers in the best position to help our students become future-ready – and more importantly, want to keep learning throughout life too. The survey findings have also provided us with valuable insights into areas that we can work on, as we continue to support teachers in the important work that we do.”

Background of TALIS 2018 Study

4. Co-ordinated by the OECD, TALIS provides internationally comparable information to help countries review their policies for developing a high-quality teaching profession. TALIS 2018 is the third cycle of the study since its inception in 2008. A total of 48 education systems worldwide participated in TALIS 2018.

5. Singapore participated in TALIS 2013 and TALIS 2018. A total of about 3300 teachers and their principals from all 157 public secondary schools and 12 randomly selected private schools1 in Singapore participated in the online survey. The sample is representative of the lower secondary teacher population in Singapore.

Key Findings

Singapore has a young, passionate, and highly-skilled teaching force. Teaching is the first career choice for many educators who desire to positively influence young people.

6. TALIS 2018 findings show that our teaching force is relatively young with an average age of 38, as compared to the OECD average of 44. For 7 in 10 Singapore teachers, teaching was their first career choice. Teachers also joined the profession mainly for altruistic reasons; more than 9 in 10 joined the teaching service to “influence the development of children and young people” and contribute to society.

Singapore teachers and principals are actively involved and well-supported in their professional growth through induction and mentoring programmes, as well as continuous professional development.

7. In terms of initial teacher training and preparation, Singapore has a significantly higher proportion of teachers who have been trained in content, pedagogy and classroom practice (Singapore: 89%, OECD average: 79%) before becoming full-fledged teachers. This gives them a head start in their teaching career.

8. For any knowledge-based profession, induction and mentoring are crucial at the start of one’s professional journey. Singapore teachers are well-supported in this regard. While only about half of the principals across OECD countries reported that formal induction is available for new teachers in their school, this is an almost universal provision in Singapore. Singapore is also identified as one of the few education systems where more than half of the teachers (54%) with five years of experience or less, have an assigned mentor (OECD average: 22%).

9. Singapore teachers also continue to sharpen their skills as practitioners throughout their careers. Participation in continuous professional development (PD), after their initial training, is very high in Singapore, with nearly all teachers participating in at least one PD activity in a year – thus illustrating a culture of lifelong learning. More importantly, 9 in 10 Singapore teachers said that their PD has direct relevance and a positive impact on their teaching practices.

10. The strength of Singapore’s PD is evidenced by the range and nature of PD activities that teachers participate in. Singapore teachers have one of the highest participation rates in peer learning and professional networking which promote co-construction of knowledge, pedagogical innovation, and collegiality.

11. These findings reflect our teachers’ shared commitment to pursuing professional excellence, and also affirm our belief that PD is most effective when teachers take collective ownership of their professional learning. The Singapore Teaching Practice, introduced in 2017, makes explicit the teaching practices and the principles underlying these practices which are shared by our teaching fraternity. This is complemented by policies and programmes in MOE and schools that support the professional learning of our teachers.

12. However, teachers and principals had also identified “teaching students with special needs” as a key area of need for further professional development. This reflects the desire of our teachers to equip themselves with the necessary skills and competencies to better cater to the increasingly diverse learning needs of students, as our schools become more inclusive. Currently, all our schools have a core group of teachers equipped with the skills to teach students with mild Special Educational Needs (SEN), along with other trained professionals and programmes beyond the classroom, to support students with SEN.

Our teachers reported working longer hours than their peers in other OECD countries, but the situation has improved since 2013.

13. Singapore teachers reported working longer hours (46 hours per week) than their peers in other OECD countries (OECD average: 39 hours per week). However, the situation has improved since 2013, with a two-hour reduction in reported working hours in 2018.

Singapore teachers have increasingly been using practices that encourage deeper learning by our students and will continue to strengthen these practices.

14. Our teachers consistently apply practices aimed at helping students understand their lessons. They also apply good classroom management practices to create a conducive learning environment. More than half of our teachers give tasks that require students to think critically. In addition, compared to five years ago, more Singapore teachers use practices that encourage students to apply knowledge to solve problems collaboratively or to work on a project over a longer period. MOE will continue to help teachers strengthen these practices.

15. More teachers are confident in using a variety of assessment strategies during the learning process to check students’ understanding of the concepts and topics taught (2018: 76%, 2013: 72%). These findings reflect the outcomes of MOE’s ongoing efforts to build teachers’ confidence in using formative assessment to enhance learning.

Singapore teachers hold positive beliefs about equity and diversity, and are well-equipped to teach in multicultural settings.

16. Almost all Singapore principals also reported that most of their teachers hold positive beliefs about equity and diversity. This suggests that our teachers firmly believe in the value and importance of ensuring that students from different racial groups and socio-economic backgrounds are able to build strong bonds, forged through shared experiences of learning and growing together in their formative schooling years.

  1. TALIS requires a national coverage of lower secondary teachers from both public schools and private schools, including those teaching in international schools, religious schools, and foreign system schools.
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