FAQ: About NIE Training And Beyond (Part 2)

Note: The following set of advice was meticulously consolidated through personal consultations and extensive research over the world wide web. While Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts attempts to put forth the most accurate information, it shall not be held responsible for any unintended misrepresentations. You may also wish to check out other relevant entries in our "Teaching At MOE" section.

(i) Could you please elaborate on the specialist track? How does this compare to the leadership track?

The specialist track basically refers to a career pathway designated for officers who have chosen to remain in MOE HQ for the long haul. Note that specialist roles largely address the corporate aspects of things and are thus highly report driven. You will find yourself writing a whole lot of papers, performing various in-depth studies and reviews, all these together with making presentations to policy makers/decision makers. Transitioning to this state of affairs is almost irreversibly permanent-you are essentially abandoning the leadership/teaching tracks and jumping ship. This typically begins with securing a HQ posting as an officer (usually a SEO1 - SH/LH - level role), subsequently indicating an interest to stay on, and then clearing interviews etc. to be appointed as a specialist.

For specialists, the 'level' is dictated by levels. Level 1 is capped at SEO2, Level 2 is capped at SEO3, Level 3 onward would qualify for superscale ranks. Realistically, most specialists peak at Level 2. Traditionally, Level 3 and 4 specialists are project directors, sort of equivalent to deputy directors / VPs, perhaps even higher. Progression/promotion on the specialist track is usually slower than on the leadership track. You can expect to stay at SEO1 as a level 1 specialist for a good many years. Hopping on the specialist track straightaway limits your prospects and flexibility severely. Unless you are consistently performing among the top 5% or are backed by an influential mentor, you will most likely end up just trudging along with almost no prospects for promotion. The subject matter dealt with at some point can be niche and narrow in scope, as such the work involved can be both tedious and draining, i.e. you need to have genuine passion to complete these tasks, and not just simply treat them as general teaching endeavors where you can still get by one day at a time with practiced monotony.

So choose wisely, because unless you are fairly certain you are keen in exploring long term alternatives beyond the usual teaching/leadership roles in schools, attempting the specialist track might not be an optimal move.

(ii) In truth, do teaching scholars enjoy better job prospects than normal teacher applicants? It's been circulated widely that scholars will be accorded greater opportunities to facilitate their career progression, if that is really the case, why are some scholars leaving MOE altogether when their scholarship bonds end?

Bear in mind there are different tiers of scholarships - PSC (Teaching), Education Merit Service (EMS), Teaching Scholarship (Overseas and Local) and lastly Teaching Award. For PSC and EMS scholars, their career paths are centrally planned. So after teaching 2 years in a school, they will be posted to HQ. Their progression is naturally faster because they are groomed to become future school Principals.

For the remaining scholars, their career paths are not meticulously planned. As such it really depends on the school Principal's inclination to delegate significant responsibilities. Actual case(s) in point: a few local scholars who attained Distinctions in their Practicum (and also received awards while studying in NIE) were assigned more prominent tasks when they began teaching in schools. In fact one has since been elevated to Subject Head within a short span of 3 years. These folks were most fortunate because they encountered a Principal who was willing to groom them. The same however cannot be said as far as most local scholars and awardees are concerned, because unless they perform spectacularly and consequently get noticed favorably by the higher-ups, they will more than likely remain in the pretty average zone for a very long while.

(iii) Are students' academic results factored into consideration as far as progressing up the career ladder (e.g. performance grade/bonus, rate of promotion etc) is concerned?

Generally you are not held entirely accountable for how well your students perform, at least not any more than the school Principal who is ultimately in charge of all the teachers (note that high-value-added schools are identified by means of the “Performance Indicators for School Management”-PRISM assessment method). Think for a moment: say you are assigned to an extremely underachieving class, wouldn't you agree it would probably take a miracle just to get everyone to pass their examinations? Conversely, if you are tasked to take charge of a batch of academically inclined kids, it would most likely turn out to be a far breezier affair. Regardless, rewards or not, a genuine educator will still strive his/her hardest to add value to the present scheme of things.