Growing pool of PE, art and music teachers

Physical education (PE) is much more than just helping students keep fit, as it embodies good values and important life skills such as hard work, perseverance, integrity and teamwork, said a teacher.

PE teacher Joel Prathiev Vinson was drawing on his experience during his schooling years to speak of the subject's importance.

Now, the First Toa Payoh Primary School teacher, who has been in the profession for over six years, hopes to use his PE lessons to inculcate good values in the next generation.

The 31-year-old, who also teaches foundation mathematics, said: "I believe the outcome of education is not about grades, but the process each student goes through that guides him to make the right decisions as he grows up."

Mr Joel, who is also the head of department for discipline, is among a growing pool of PE, art and music teachers.

The number of such teachers has jumped by nearly 20 per cent in the past five years, as Singapore's education system moves towards becoming more holistic.

There are some 3,700 trained PE, art and music teachers now, up from about 3,100 teachers in 2012.

And the recruitment of such teachers is ongoing, said the Education Ministry, even as the overall teaching force remains stable.

The ministry has been steadily growing the pool of teachers "who have the personal qualities, aptitude and passion for teaching these subjects".

"Our PE, art and music curriculum plays a critical role in the holistic development of our students, as they cultivate the physical and aesthetics aspects of our students," a ministry spokesman said.

PE, art and music teachers make up more than a tenth of the current teaching force.

Overall, the teaching force has stabilised at more than 33,000 trained education officers since 2013, said the ministry.

An eight-year recruitment drive since 2004 has helped it build up the teaching force significantly.

Now, the ministry has switched gears and is focusing on replacing teachers who have called it quits and recruiting teachers in specific subject areas, such as art and music.

Observers and experienced educators said that the hiring of more PE, art and music teachers is encouraging, as it reflects the overhaul of an education system which has had a strong focus on marks instead of a child's holistic development.

National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said it will also go towards helping to nurture students' talents and interests in non-academic pursuits.

"It will provide students with a more balanced and all-rounded educational experience," he noted.

"It also demonstrates the Gov- ernment's commitment to shifting away from a system which narrowly emphasises academic achievement to one which recognises and nurtures non-academic talent."

Mr Ng Eng Kee, 52, the head of department for aesthetics at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary), said: "To maximise the potential of each of our students, the move towards a holistic education is inevitable. To be successful, students need to have skills and knowledge in both academic and non-academic areas."

Ms Tan Shin Shin, the subject head for art at Tampines Secondary School, said: "Being a teacher is also about spending time to find out more about my students and helping them grow."

The 37-year-old, who has 11 years of teaching experience, added: "A more holistic education will make students more future-ready, and enable them to express themselves and think out of the box."

This article was first published on Mar 20, 2017.
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