“It takes more skill to help a student from a dysfunctional family graduate, than to get an elite student from a successful family to score an A” (Best Teachers For The Weak, Miss Tang Li).
The letter, “Best Teachers For The Weak” (January 28, 2011) by Miss Tang Li, highlights the important fact that educators are the heartbeat of any education system; hence, their quality and training are naturally of utmost importance. How a school performs – determined largely by the students’ academic and co-curricular results – is largely dependent on the standards of the teachers. Unfortunately, Miss Tang Li’s suggestion that Singapore’s brightest academic staff should spend their formative years in worst-performing schools will not be constructive, and might even backfire. The answer lies in strengthening the education – and training – of our educators.
It is a grave mistake to assert that it is in any way easier to engage students in top-performing schools in various teaching-learning processes. Primarily because of their intelligence and quick receptivity to knowledge or information, educators there must be cognisant of sensitivities in moral education, intellectual development, as well as non-academic activities. Along the same tangent, educating students from less prominent neighbourhood institutions – or individuals who are less academically-inclined – might not be as challenging or difficult if the appropriate methodologies or pedagogies are adopted. Teaching is not a zero-sum game: to match-make students, teachers and schools based on results would mean equating student performance to academic results per se.
Good all-round educators must be trained and prepped holistically; such that they would have the ability to shape their teaching strategies, and ultimately decide individually which academic setting they would best function in.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Institute of Education (NIE) must recognise that potential educators require two things: wholesome preparatory training and diverse fundamental teaching experiences. These complementary factors cannot be compromised. In terms of training programmes, to-be educators must be exposed to a plethora of learning styles, so that they comprehend how different students receive or process information under varying circumstances. To garner more dissimilar on-the-ground teaching experiences, trainee teachers should be attached to more schools of different backgrounds, and given the liberty to move around and understand the aforementioned differences. Such holistic exposures are necessary if we are to lift our education system to greater heights.
Finally, one oft-overlooked aspect is the fact that a handful of students – within a considerable class setting – might need closer or more dedicated guidance, especially in the students’ formative education years. An educator’s ability in these assorted scenarios – particularly if a child’s sub-par performance is compounded by family problems – should be strengthened, and see himself more as a educator, not merely teacher extraordinaire.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.