Don't gloss over problem areas

While the response in Singapore to a global survey on the learning environment and working conditions of teachers has been positive, the shortcomings have been glossed over ("Singapore teachers among the most hard-working: Study"; last Thursday).

Problem areas include the disproportionately long working hours, relative inexperience of young teachers and high student-to-teacher ratio. It would appear that the Ministry of Education (MOE) needs to engage educators in conversation more regularly.

Some findings of the Teaching and Learning International Survey were not flattering.

For instance, only 36 per cent of principals here collaborate frequently with their counterparts in other schools, compared with the global average of 62 per cent.

Also, a teacher and a principal here typically work in a class and a school with 36 and 1,251 students respectively, compared with the global figures of 24 and 546 students.

In the light of these findings, the focus on long working hours seems misplaced (" '48 hours? It's more than that' "; last Friday).

Having fewer students in a classroom means the teacher can spend more lesson time on actual teaching and learning, and less on maintaining order.

Is the student-to-teacher ratio a concern, and is it consistent across secondary schools? Besides allied educators, will there be more assistance within the classroom?

Each primary and secondary school may have 14 more teachers on average than it did in 2004, but is there room for improvement? Unless the MOE takes a deeper look at the shortcomings, and gathers and acts upon feedback from its troops on the ground, the problems will persist.

Kwan Jin Yao

This article was first published on July 03, 2014.
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