By Leow Si Wan
SHE started her career as a science and English language teacher at Queenstown Secondary School in the early 1970s.
After almost 40 years in education, Madam Aw Wai Lin, 60, has become the first teacher here to be promoted to the pinnacle grade - Superscale H - of the teaching track.
Addressing more than 300 Ministry of Education (MOE) officers at Suntec City yesterday during the first of six promotion ceremonies, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said of Madam Aw's promotion: 'We want to recognise this as a signal that...if you find an area which you are strong in, build on it, MOE will create space for you to grow professionally in that area.'
In all, 6,513 MOE staff - including teachers, principals, allied educators and executive and administrative personnel - will be promoted this year.
Madam Aw, currently a principal master teacher - one of four teachers to hold the highest position on the teaching track, equivalent to a school principal in terms of salary and standing - now works closely with other teachers to help them improve.
When asked about the significance of being the first on her track to enter Superscale H, she said: 'It is a delight. I have chosen to stay on the teaching track because I enjoy classroom teaching and believe that a teacher can play a role in developing other teachers.'
Knowing they can progress to a superscale grade, added Madam Aw, 'encourages teachers to remain on the teaching track'.
At the MOE workplan seminar last year, Dr Ng announced the creation of two new positions - principal master teacher and lead teacher - to give teachers who want to remain in the classroom more room to move up the professional ladder.
The lead teacher sits between senior teachers - usually those with at least five years of teaching experience - and master teachers, who work at school cluster levels to steer teaching methods.
At the event, Dr Ng announced that the pioneer batch of 31 lead teachers was appointed this month.
He also said the number of allied educators - school counsellors, special-needs officers and others who give teachers a hand in counselling and helping weaker students - recruited has tripled from 383 in January last year to more than 1,400 in December.
Reiterating the importance of soft skills in 21st century classrooms, Dr Ng said MOE will continue to build 'new engines to drive professional excellence', but urged educators to 'take ownership and drive the programmes'.
He said: 'If we all pour in our energies in the next decade to help these programmes succeed, we can have a great education system.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.