Monday, April 08, 2013

The teaching environment in Singapore

Teaching is a good job. I like teaching and have spent the past six years as an adjunct professor. This is not a relief teaching job. I teach one full course. The full time professor usually takes two or three courses. 

I know that teaching has its challenges, whether it is at primary, secondary or tertiary levels. There is a need to manage the expectations of the school, the parents and the teachers. The teacher has to prepare the lesson, present it in a lively manner, mark the student's work and handle admin and extra-curricular activities.

The problem is the heavy work load and "meeting expectations". This is where the teacher can play a part in helping to set the expectations.

Teachers find the appraisal system to be another source of stress. Most of them want to be at the top of the appraisal, and work hard to be at the top. Many get disappointed when they do not achieve the goal, especially if the appraisal system is "not transparent".

I have a different attitude towards the appraisal system. I know that many people have to be average, in order for some to be outstanding. We can do our best to be outstanding, but do not need to over-do it and engaged in politics and other negative behavior. We only need to do our best.

The appraisal of my teaching is average in most terms. I accept this appraisal, although I wished that it was better. I try to change the teaching method and see if I can get a better score the next time round.

I hope that these few points will help our highly stressed teachers to look at the current teaching environment in a different angle, and make teaching to be more enjoyable for them.

Someone said, "We cannot change the environment, but we can change our attitude towards it".


veronika said...

The learners are the most important party in a teacher/student/participant relationship.

The learning is the objective.
Did the learners acquire new knowledge?
Did the learners ask questions to demonstrate deeper analysis?
Are learners able to apply their new knowledge?
How was the learning measured?

These are the parameters to measure the effectiveness of training/learning.

To measure a trainer/lecturer's performance is not how much laughter is generated or "likes"

Unfortunately institutions create KPI unrelated to learning. They create KPI to measure profits, loss and savings, sick leave.

Many managers must be sent to learn how and what KPI to create and cross referenced to various benchmarks. The standards now is appalling.

Sutharsan John Isles said...

My personal opinion, as it applies to me, I would say the appraisal is not the most important thing to a teacher who cherishes the profession of teaching and its result on the students - the betterment of character, gaining of new knowledge and discovery of ideas/talents.

However, some middle managers have made it a point to use appraisal as a tool for preservation of power for the self, rather than view it as a tool for empowering the subjects they are in charge of.

I am not suggesting that a good appraisal is not important. But I will state categorically that it is the system of grading that is appalling. If the appraisal is to be accurate, it should be criterion-referenced and not norm-referenced. But to impose the handing out of a percentage of mandatory D grades within an organisation allows for the abuse, in that, if everyone were doing very well by the criteria set out, the way to differentiate a D grader from among them may be to rely on personal biases. It is in this arena which the crafty take their politicking game. Where one had concentrated effort on boot-licking and another on getting the job done well for the benefit of the students, the former is glorified and the latter is told that s/he had pretty much been absent from the picture "as far as they know it". To cement this assertion, some way of discrediting the teacher is sought. The focus on the negatives (which everyone would have had) of those chosen few drives bitterness into their hearts and thus the dissatisfaction with the job and the organisation set in.

In such cases, it is not difficult to understand why over the long term the good teachers leave and the self-centred, self-preserving wolves of the profession stay on.

Again, I am not suggesting that all that have stayed on are wolves. A clever few have learnt to play the game by documenting pretty much everything they do, so that when called upon they can present these for sustaining themselves.

Abel Tan said...

Hi Kin Lian,

I would like to ask why, despite our Singapore Education Budget growing by about 40% from 2008-2013 (from 8.0 to 11.3 billion), we as students have not seen a corrosponding 40% increase in the quality of teaching?

Is it true that MOE is getting more inefficient?

The Singapore government likes to tout that Privatisation is superior to nationalisation, because it encourages incentive to improve. Our transport, health ,utilities and produce needs are meet by privatised companies, but ironically, our education system is nationalised.
Wont it be better to get a GLC to run the education system, and get competition like NHG vs SIngHealth to incentivise improvement?
Of course, when companies are privatised, profits are incurred. However, we can get our parents to collectively invest in these GLCs so that whatever profits the companies make are redistributed back as dividends.

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