Local school teacher and mother: Singapore's education system is a failure

By Anonymous Teacher And Mother Of Two

Being a school teacher, I can tell you our education system is a failure.

Most of the school teachers are bogged down with too many students and too much non-teaching workload. When I was a trainee teacher years ago, this problem was already surfaced. MOE and NIE's response was that if we only want to teach then we should resign and go be private tutors. Teachers are expected to do a lot more than just teach knowledge and basic moral values.

If our schools are only thought to be focusing on teaching academics, then our schools are already failures. As parents, how many of your kids, especially in secondary school and junior college, flunked half their subjects in their recent midyear exams? Are you aware that over half the students failed at least one subject such as English, Humanities or Maths? It is probably a lot worse for those in the Normal Academic and Normal Technical Stream? Those of you with children in secondary schools and junior colleges can attest to this.

School teachers are all too busy with their admin work and CCAs or handling disciplinary issues from students with bad attitude. School leaders solution is to quietly nudge parents to find private tuition. Newspapers strategically interview students who are good and can cope on their own, ignoring the vast majority of students who either get tuition or are doing so badly that they need tuition.

My husband and I work long hours in different schools, but the rotten culture in both schools are the same. School leaders focus more on non-teaching aspects to drive their own promotions and performance bonus, while those who can teach well and want to focus on teaching well continue to be penalised and placed at the bottom of the ranking.

Our younger son is of average ability in secondary three. He failed Additional Math in his midyear exams. So did his elder brother. It turned out that 3/4 of their cohort failed it too at the midyear exam. We also are teachers. We don't want to blame their teachers because we know how busy we all are. We are stretched in all directions, and teaching well is not a key priority for career success even though touted so. We sent our son for tuition, and we are shocked to find that many students from the top independent schools and band-one schools also need tuition for their Math. I talked to some of them and their parents at the tuition class. They said that if they didn't have tuition, they probably would have failed or done a lot worse for their midyear exams.

That seems to be the state of our education system. Even as an exam-crazy system, our system is not able to function well on its own without parents pumping in external money in the form of tuition. Even groups like Mendaki and Sinda also offer free tuition to the students under their care. Why would they do so, if the education system was sufficient enough?

All we ask is that MOE leave us alone from their nonsense. We are not interested in promotion or wanting to go up the corporate ladder. Not everyone is that crazy about the promotion like some of my HODs and school leaders. We just ask to be left in peace, so that we can do focus on doing our job well in imparting knowledge and basic moral values. While MOE wants to boast to the world how good our system is, our own students don't trust it enough to rely on it alone. They need tuition not for the extra edge, but just to pass their exams and get a decent result.

Given that so many of our students have failed their midyear exams or in need of tuition, we are no longer even getting their basics right. You really have no idea of what is happening in the school. Every time some big shot comes to our school, we put on an act and ask scripted questions. We even spent hours to prepare students how to give model answers to the external evaluators who come to audit our school practices over a year ago.

Our school system is just a jack-of-all-trades, master of nothing. We do everything, and we are bad at it. We are only good at acting. Right now, many schools are still not able to complete the exam syllabus for the secondary and JC students. Schools are calling back students during the March and June holidays to complete the syllabus. My husband and I go back to school often during the June holidays for extra lessons to help a lot of the weaker students or to continue the syllabus. We had to get a tutor to help our elder son complete the exam syllabus for his Physics, Chemistry and Additional Math during the June holidays, even before the school calls back the students for a crash course to cover the last few chapters. This is happening for the schools my husband and I teach in, and for the school our older son is studying in, which are all different schools. So, it turns out that even in basic time-table planning and curriculum planning, MOE doesn't have a good idea of how much time students need to complete syllabus, and students need to either get their own tutor, or hope they can follow the speed of the June holiday crash courses to complete the syllabus.

Can we allocate resources to get our basics right, instead of spending on projects to impress our superiors and the public for whatever personal career agenda that we want to push?

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


A good school is one that our kids can fit in and enjoy going to everyday.

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