Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Changing Face of Professional Development in Singapore

Among the 30 000 teachers in over 300 schools, 75% of Singapore teachers have a first degree and 10% have graduate degree(Ng 2009). Half the teachers in primary schools have a first degree. Essentially all secondary teachers are university graduates. In a few years, MOE will only recruit only university graduates or students who qualify for degree programmes into the teaching force. Eventually, there will be only university graduates teaching in Singapore schools.

Singapore mathematics teachers are found to have good content and pedagogical content knowledge when they leave the NIE (see TEDS-M) - together with Taiwanese teacher, they are on top of the table among the 16 countries in the study.

Workshop-style inservice has become the norm. Most inservice courses offered at NIE are workshop style courses.

There are various possibilities under the umbrella of Teachers Network TN, Professional Development Leave PDL and Teacher Work Attachment TWA. For example, a HoD spent her PDL with me to develop hands-on learning activities for lower primary students. She researched the literature, pilot tested the activities in several school. Other teachers shadowed me as part of TWA. In fact, four teachers went to Cambodia in December 2009 to try their hands in teacher training as part of their TWA. More teachers will do this in June 2010. But these involve a small number of already motivated teachers. How about the average teacher in the system? They also, especially, need professional development.

Research has indicated the limitations of workshop-style professional development. The demand on teachers are higher. With the recommendations of PERI, tecahers are expected to engage students better. The curriculum and national examination (PSLE)also expects teachers to help average students become good in problem solving. Teachers have been doing well - typically 40% to 45% of a cohort are capable of solving challenging mathematics problems. But the demands for teacher to help more students acquire the ability to handle complexities is becoming more urgent.

The setting up of the PLC is in the right direction. About 50 schools pilotted PLC in 2009. More are on board this year. By 2012 all schools will have formal PLCs.

PLCs allows teacher to engage in a wider range of professional development including those which are authentic and on site such as lesson study. I think this is in the right direction to help teacher acquire the necessary knowledge to deal with the complexities of teaching and the demands of the system to prepare students well for the global technological economy.

Many schools are making good start in forming and kick-starting PLCs. Many teachers are enthusiatic as the learn to do lesson study and as the actually carry out lesson study.

Later this year, TN will morph into TDC which will coordinate all PLC activities. And I am excited about thinking of a 'curriculum' for inservice teachers.

This is probably our best bet in making an average teacher an expert one.

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