Wake up call for MOE and Teachers

I was commenting on Mr Brown's post on Facebook and decided to make it a blog post because too many things to say! This post showed up on my feed and the troll inside me decides to share my thoughts or more so to vent the frustration my ex-teacher husband faced before he left the service.


Good teachers do not mean no need for tuition.

The average class size in a Primary school in Singapore ranges between 30-40 students to one teacher and it is very difficult for that one teacher (or even if there's a teacher-aide) to make a real impact to all the kids in class. For classes with good or smart kids, most do alright in school and is able to follow the crazy packed curriculum MOE and the school planned out. Some good students still need tuition to reinforce their learning, because there is just not enough one-to-one attention in school to help those who need that extra push to do well.

But the weaker kids that need a lot of coaching and guiding get lost in this crazy curriculum chase. Not all teachers are suitable to take up a challenging and weaker class. This class of 30-something kids need a lot of help and often before they can fully understand the topic, some of the teachers move on without helping the kids learn because must-cover-all-the-syllabus-before-exam!

Then there's the book and file checking by the Head of Departments (usually conducted twice a year) to "check" that the teacher is doing their job and covering what is necessary to be done in class. Sadly this is also factored into the assessing and ranking of the teachers for their yearly performance and promotion. How can one assess the ability and quality of teacher with what his/her class of 30-something can or cannot complete?

Because teachers get MARKED for not delivering what is necessary during these books and file checking, what do they do? They rush through syllabus and do worksheets and activities for the seek of submitting all that is necessary to the HOD to avoid being marked. When the class falls back in time, instead of going through the mistakes in details and helping the kids understand, the teacher simply provided the correct answer and get the students to record the answers in the blank. WHAT? Where is the learning?? The weaker kids fail to do well in exam because there's no teacher to provide them with the model answer.

My husband was tasked to teach the weaker class in his ex-school because of his experience and he is happy to do so. He loves teaching and working with the weaker students because he can relate to them well since he was once a very weak student in school too.

With 6 years teaching in a none mainstream school where teachers focus only on the students, academy, and their well-being, freed from admin work, freed from unnecessary interschool competition, doing things to bring-glory-to-the-school and the what not, my husband knows what will work and how things can be done better to help these weaker students in his P5 class in the mainstream school. So he carried out lessons in slower pace, moving at the pace of his class ensuring his students know what they are learning before proceeding on to other topics. Doing worksheets that will help build up the students' fundamental and not loading too much just for the sake of completing everything he was told. He really just wanted the kids to understand and learn. In the end, the files he submitted for checking where a third/ half of what the other classes did. He got questioned. Rooting to his core and believe, he kept silent and continue to do what was necessary and focused on the well-being of his class.

He got ranked a 'D' for raising his class exam results. While the rest who spoon-fed kids with answers get better ranked. For the record, during his previous 6 years of teaching in the other school, he was among the better ranked and recognised teacher.

Tired from what he saw happening in the school, and seeing how the management in his last school choose to ignore his suggestions and feedback, he left. Marking the end of his 15 years of teaching journey in school.

Now a home-tutor earning only a fraction of what he used to but happier cos he gets to focus on helping his kids improve and learn. His pool of students now is makeup of his ex-P5 students taking PSLE this year, and some who stay around us. Often his students will complain feedback how so-and-so teacher isn't teaching and just giving answers, or so-and-so teacher just ask them to do their work while he sits and do his in class....

The level of stress, long-hours of work, unrealistic objectives, the lack of support from the management in school, and many other factors led to good teachers leaving the service. They are not tired of teaching. They are tired of teaching in a mainstream school. I'm waiting and watching to see how the recent change in PSLE is going to affect this - in a good way or it'll only be worst?

Seeing how teachers are struggling, school management not being supportive, the kind of "teaching" happening in his ex-school and how uncertain the future of our education is going to be, I'm worried. Well at least I know one thing for sure - which school NOT to register my eldest girl for next year during the Primary 1 registration.