Singapore teachers urged to vie for $1.3m 'Nobel Prize'

Singapore teachers urged to vie for $1.3m 'Nobel Prize'

Dubai-based education charity Varkey Foundation has urged Singapore teachers to apply for its Global Teacher Prize, which could win them US$1 million (S$1.34 million).

Seen as the "Nobel Prize for teachers", the award was started last year to recognise exceptional teachers who go the extra mile for their students and contribute to the profession as a whole.

The foundation told The Straits Times that only five teachers from Singapore applied last year for the prize, a low figure compared with applications from other countries. There were 20 from Malaysia and 174 from the United States, for instance.

"As a result, despite having a reputation as one of the most successful countries in the world for education, Singapore had no teachers in the final 50 shortlisted candidates," said a spokesman for the foundation.

Nominations opened last Friday.

Mr Sunny Varkey, the education entrepreneur behind the prize, said there were more than 5,000 nominations for the award last year.

He added: "However, we want to see many more exceptional teachers from every corner of the planet apply this year, especially from Singapore. The more teachers that apply, the greater the celebration for this most noble of professions."

The winner last year was Ms Nancie Atwell from Maine in the US. She was recognised for her work in teaching reading and writing.

The public can nominate a teacher, or teachers can apply by filling an application form at

The prize is open to those who teach children in compulsory schooling, or are between five and 18 years old.

Part-time teachers and those who teach online courses are also eligible.

Fifty applicants will be shortlisted and the number reduced to a final 10, with their names announced next February.

The winner will be chosen by the Global Teacher Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals including Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and Ms Wendy Kopp, chief executive officer of Teach For All, a global network of education social enterprises.

The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation's efforts to improve the status of teachers. In November 2013, it published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.

The index found significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide.

The survey also found that in many countries, a third to a half of parents would "probably" or "definitely not" encourage their children to enter the teaching profession.

In the case of Singapore, although teachers were generally well respected, 20 per cent of the respondents said they would not encourage their children to take up teaching as a profession.

Singapore has its own President's Award for Teachers, where the public nominate outstanding teachers. A total of 66 teachers have received the award since its introduction in 1998.

This article was first published on June 1, 2015.
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