What does it mean to be a great teacher – and how to teachers learn to be great?  True to form, Singapore addresses this complex issue with a well-defined system, according to Ee-Ling Low of Singapore’s National Institute of Education (NIE).  Low spoke on February 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as part of the Houston A+ Challenge Speaker Series on Public Education.

Detailed, top-down planning and tightly coordinated, highly effective implementation are hallmarks of the Singapore education system, which has leapt to the top of international rankings over the past two decades.  In addition to years of rigorous training at NIE, the country’s teachers complete 100 hours of professional development per year, which can take the form of online modules, university classes, workshops, mentorships, networking activities, research projects, and more.

Singapore’s Teacher Growth Model:  The Five Faces of Singapore’s Strongest Teachers

The Ethical Educator:  Singapore’s teachers maintain a laser focus on students’ learning and holistic development.  Participation in professional learning communities supports this growth area, as do professional development opportunities that inspire and re-engage teachers.

The Competent Professional:  teachers’ competence in both pedagogy and subject areas is critical to their performance.  Opportunities to grow in competence include courses in core content areas and teaching strategies as well as opportunities that stimulate intellectual engagement – or “keep the knife sharp” – such as research projects.

The Collaborative Learner: Singapore seeks to develop in its teachers a mindset of constant learning, growth and skill development amid trusted and respected peers.  Networking groups for teachers and role-alike school leaders support this goal.

The Transformational Leader: No matter the educators’ experience or position, leadership skills make up one-third of the school system’s annual high-stakes professional evaluation.  Throughout their careers, educators are expected to advance along one of three leadership tracks: teaching, school administration, or content or technique specialties.

The Community Builder:  Singapore develops teachers’ capacity to build community through training in diversity, family engagement, peer collaboration, and more, because a strong community environment is critical for both students’ and teachers’ growth.  Singapore considers nation-building –developing the productive capacity of its citizens as well as their shared values and sense of national identity – to be a critical function of its school system.


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