Shackles of the Singapore education system: A Response

MOE clarified its stance on private tuition in September 2012 upon the admission of a few mainstream school teachers that they have in fact encouraged weaker students to seek external help, to which Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar also produced his set of responses on his Blog. What really caught my eye was a lengthy comment placed on Mr Kumar's piece. It goes:

"Generally the better teachers are assigned to the better classes as it is believed that these teachers are able to 'push' the students further to achieve more As and A*s. I actually thought that the more advanced teachers would be assigned to the weaker classes as you need a lot more skill to motivate and help them (I teach both an advanced and a weak class so I know the difference). Not quite the case.

This is then reflected in the school's PSLE pass and distinction percentages. All this is then reflected in the school leaders' performance reviews.

As well as the number and types of enrichment programmes conducted.

As well as the number of awards won in inter-school/national/international competitions.

As well as the number of programmes/initiatives which have contributed to the school zone/cluster.

As well as the number of programmes/initiatives enacted within the school itself.

As well as the number of school level awards for achieving certain standards in the arts, national education, technology integration in class learning etc.

As well as the number of CIP hours for both students AND staff.

As well as the extent of parent-school collaboration and public performances done in partnership with external organizations.

How can we not have tuition?

Incidentally, if you want real, genuine feedback from the men and women who are on the ground and in the classrooms every single day you might want to guarantee that no 'bad' feedback that we give will blow back on us. If we get marked down on our performance review we lose both our performance bonus and our salary increment for the next year. That's roughly a $6000 loss of potential income (including CPF) if you're a brand new graduate teacher, more if you're an experienced one. Very painful.

There are 33,000 teachers. Ask us. We know what's going on. There are things you can't fit on a spreadsheet.

While I'm at it I might as well mention that if it were up to me I'd get rid of the performance review entirely. We're not bankers trying to squeeze out extra profits and outperform our rivals. We're trying to help children. Pitting us against each other (if not our colleagues within the school then our colleagues in the OTHER schools) in a madcap dash for KPIs and stats does nothing for the kids. We end up only helping them as a means to an end when they should be the end itself. With regards to money, just give us a standard increment that halves the performance bonus and the increment a teacher would have received if he/she was just above expectations (a 'C' grade for those familiar with the system). True, I'd earn less but I'd get to really teach without having to bother with 10,001 non-teaching things for the sake of my performance review.

I didn't sign up to implement MOE's systems. I signed up to teach. There is a difference."

I believe many out there will be very grateful to this anonymous soul for speaking up, whoever you may be.


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