Teachers are at the heart of a world-class education system: Lessons from Singapore
A clear set of desired student outcomes, supported by a robust curriculum and rigorous assessment, is the bedrock of a good education system.
But the heart and soul of a great education system are its teachers.
Teachers bring the knowledge in textbooks to life through their engaging lessons. They care for and encourage every child. Teachers inspire students to overcome challenges in order to achieve their full potential.
Much research goes into analysing the key features of successful education systems around the world. Consistently, it is found that an important factor lies in the calibre of teachers.
For most countries that have topped the charts in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Study, such as Singapore and Finland, teaching is an attractive and respected profession with good career progression and leadership opportunities.
Teachers in Singapore are selected from the top 30 per cent of each group to ensure they have a strong academic foundation and content mastery of the subjects they are teaching.
As well as pre-service training, teachers engage in continual professional development to hone their pedagogical skills and to reinforce the shared ethos of the teaching profession.
Another success factor in Singapore’s education system is forward planning. To ensure that each generation of students is adequately prepared for the future, schools in Singapore have evolved through several phases – from a survival-driven industrialisation phase in the 1960s to the current values-driven and student-centric one.
Yet, with each transition, some timeless wisdom holds true – a competent and committed teaching fraternity is able to adapt nimbly and lead students on the right path. More than intellectual knowledge, this requires teachers with a strong sense of duty and purpose.
The late first prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew said it in 1966 in an address to school principals: “No teacher can really perform his duty unless he feels he is doing something worthwhile.
“Every teacher in the classroom must feel for and with his [pupils]. Unless he does that, the teacher cannot give the pupil something.”
This belief that teachers play a pivotal role in the success of schools guides the recruitment, appraisal and training of academic staff at Singapore Cambodia International Academy (SCIA). The school’s vision is to “inspire leaders for the global age”.
To nurture leaders, teachers must themselves be role models of leadership, and SCIA actively seeks out teachers who care deeply about the holistic development of every child.
Beyond grades, teachers must champion the character development of their students, inculcating the right values and a passion to serve.