Singapore has given priority to building a quality teaching force that is well-trained and supported, dynamic in its practice, and committed to the profession. This is based on the findings from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Prior to sending teachers to the classrooms, Singapore provides them teacher education and training. Subsequently, throughout their career, teachers are well-supported in professional development, so that they continue upgrading their skills and deepening their competencies as teachers.
We also have a relatively younger teaching force due to the significant increase in the number of teachers in recent years. The younger teachers complement the depth and expertise of more experienced teachers who continue to be valued, and who provide professional support and mentoring for the Beginning Teachers.
Principals and teachers attest to a strong collaborative school culture characterised by mutual support. Teachers also reported a firm belief that the teaching profession is valued in the Singapore society, that they were satisfied with their job, and would still choose to be a teacher if they were to decide again.
Reflecting on the TALIS findings, Ms Ho Peng, Director-General of Education said, “A key factor for the success of our education system is the quality of our teachers. This has been painstakingly built up since the early 2000s. Teachers are key to the delivery of quality learning experiences for all our students. Ensuring that our teachers are competent and professional is critical, to bring out the best in every student and prepare him or her to meet future challenges. We have put in place strong professional development support so that our teachers can hone their craft and upgrade their teaching skills throughout their career as educators. I am proud to see the strong professionalism of our teachers and the strong culture of mentorship in our schools. Our teachers also take ownership of their professional growth and actively participate in professional development, with the strong support of our school leaders. We will continue to look for ways to support our teaching force to enable them to do their best for our students.”
TALIS 2013 findings show that Singapore has one of the highest proportions of teachers who have been trained in actual classroom practices before becoming full-fledged teachers (98%, compared to TALIS average of 89%). Our teachers get a good head start in their teaching career through pre-service teacher education. The National Institute of Education equips our teachers with knowledge of the learning process and a repertoire of pedagogical skills and classroom moves to help students learn. The proportion of teachers who have received systematic training in content and pedagogy for the subjects that they are deployed to teach are also well above the averages across participating education systems in TALIS. This investment in the initial preparation of our teachers gives our teachers a strong foundation for their first years as Beginning Teachers.
Singapore provides substantial opportunities for teachers to grow professionally throughout their career. Induction and mentoring programmes support Beginning Teachers in transiting from pre-service training to their full responsibilities as teachers in our schools. Formal induction programmes are available to virtually all new teachers to schools, compared to the TALIS average of 44%. These include the Beginning Teachers’ Orientation Programme and the school-based Structured Mentoring Programme 1. Besides customised professional learning opportunities offered beyond their schools, Beginning Teachers also learn various practical skills through the mentoring process by experienced teachers within their schools. This ensures that the quality of teaching and learning for all our students is maintained.
As our teachers grow in their profession, they continue to learn to keep abreast of new and effective ways of teaching, learning and assessment. Almost all Singapore teachers take part in professional development activities (98%). This participation rate is the highest among all TALIS countries (TALIS average is 88%). MOE provides significant support for the professional development of our teachers. Nine in 10 have benefited from these professional development activities at no personal expense, compared to two-thirds in other countries.
The variety of professional development activities that our teachers participate in include: education courses and workshops, peer observations, education conferences and professional learning networks. Most of our teachers collaborate in professional learning teams (94%, compared to TALIS average of 84%). 80% of our teachers have sat in classrooms to observe how their colleagues teach and provide feedback (TALIS average is 55%). A high proportion of principals and teachers also attest to a collaborative school culture that is characterised by mutual support and collaborative learning. Nearly half of our teachers also participate in some form of educational inquiry and research in a topic of their own interest, well above the TALIS average of about a third. This is a healthy reflection of our teachers’ ownership of their learning and the depth of teacher leadership.
Singapore has put in place deliberate and sustained teacher recruitment efforts since the early 2000s to rejuvenate and expand our teaching force. This has resulted in a well-trained and highly professional teaching force made up of both young and experienced teachers, collaboratively learning from one another and building on one another’s strengths. This is one strong enabling factor that has helped our students enjoy a high quality of teaching and learning in our schools.
The average age of Singapore teachers is 36, compared to 43 across TALIS participating countries. Our young teachers inject diverse perspectives and renewed energy into the teaching force. They contribute to innovative ways to engage students in the learning of 21st century competencies and in harnessing the potential of new technologies for teaching and learning. Supporting our young teachers is essential to helping them succeed: our young teachers acquire the necessary skills and knowledge early in their career from well-structured pre-service, induction and mentoring programmes, and are systematically matched to experienced teachers who guide them in the art of teaching and building rapport with their students.
There is a strong mentorship culture in Singapore schools. Among TALIS countries, Singapore has the highest proportion of teachers serving as mentors (39%, compared to TALIS average of 14%). Our experienced teachers serve as role models and mentors and play a critical role in deepening less experienced teachers’ understanding of the ethos of the teaching profession and the importance of nurturing the whole child.
Most Singapore teachers believe that the teaching profession is respected and valued in the Singapore society (68%, compared to TALIS average of 31%). Our teachers are satisfied with their job (88%, comparable to TALIS average of 91%), and most of our teachers would still choose to be a teacher if they were to decide again (82%, compared to TALIS average of 78%). The number of hours that Singapore teachers spend on a variety of work-related tasks is comparable with the TALIS average. Over the years, MOE has also taken steps to ease their administrative duties and support them in various functions so that they can focus more on teaching and learning. We will continue to monitor the workload of our teachers and support them to have a fulfilling job and a rewarding career.
TALIS is an international study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which aims to provide internationally comparable information to help countries review policies for developing a high-quality teaching profession. The perception study targeted teachers teaching lower secondary levels and their principals.
TALIS 2013 is the second cycle of the study after its inception in 2008. This is the first time Singapore is participating in the study. A total of 3,109 teachers and their principals from 159 secondary schools in Singapore were randomly selected to participate in the survey. The sample is representative of the lower secondary teacher population in Singapore. A total of 34 education systems participated in TALIS 2013.
Figure 1: Proportion of teachers who have completed a teacher education programme and proportion of teachers who have received formal education or training in content, pedagogy and classroom practice for the subject(s) they teach