In the 80s of Singapore when I first stepped into school, teachers are basically friendly but can be stern at times. Those were the days when parents urged their kids to behave well in school, and they somehow gave support to the school in the methods used to educate the kids. When there was still fantasy about rulers being kept by the sides of the teachers like swordsmen, most students did show respect due to fear. In my opinion, that was one reason why students were better behaved in the past. Even then, it was in fact quite rare for teachers to execute physical punishment. The elderly told me the situation was much better than during their school days.
- the Past, Present and Future
Singapore education shows a drastic change twenty years later and I am not sure if it is for the better or worse. Students are somehow no longer wary of doing wrong things in front of the teachers. It is more than the improvement on milk powder that has developed youngsters’ brain better; in my opinion, the over-protectiveness of the parents has placed too much gut into their children. Parents in this competitive society tend to raise only one child due to the cost of living and thus they dote too much on their single child and they are unwilling to see their precious child being punished physically.
Students in these days are more quick-witted but rebellious. They tend to challenge their teachers a lot because they know well that their teachers do not dare to “touch” them. Many students are not afraid that their teachers would feedback to their parents. On the other hand, the school teachers are in fear of complaints, which will cast a bad record to wipe off the performance bonus and stall their promotion. There are cases of parents writing emails directly to MOE to complain about school teachers.
Academic results are too important in the eyes of parents that they have started to neglect the true meaning of education. What they expect are good results to get into better schools so that their child can get a good job with high salary in future. They are willing to pay extra fees for home tuition and piano lessons. What about morale education?
In the past, there were contracts for teachers that could secure their livelihoods even after retirement and that was why teaching was one of the most ideal jobs in the civil service field; pension and medical benefits gave them all they deserved. In these days when policy is already changed, it is no longer a “golden rice bowl” though the profession does reward them with a decent salary. Workload, however, has increased over the years like in the corporate world and all teachers are demanded to be more productive. Given the heavy workload and stress on the results of students, do the teachers still have the time to go extra miles to help each student in character-building?
In near future, education in Singapore will become an even greater challenge for all teachers and home tutors. Students are generally exposed to more things at a younger age and their attitudes differ when they have more knowledge – they become more confident and expect more.
Education is a sacred mission and we have to salute to all the school teachers and home tutors for taking up the tough job.
Singapore Education - the Past, Present and Future by Skai Chan,
Ex-lecturer, Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West, Singapore.
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