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Focus on training teachers to teach well

Clearly, in “MOE reviewing policy allowing teachers to give private tuition” (Oct 5), the Ministry of Education has its heart in the right place.

Clearly, in “MOE reviewing policy allowing teachers to give private tuition” (Oct 5), the Ministry of Education has its heart in the right place.

But it must focus on the core issue of why the tuition industry is thriving despite the globally recognised quality of our education system.

The supply does not create the demand; rather, the demand for quality education creates a supply of tutors to satiate that desire. Hence, the issue is more complex than whether teachers should be allowed to give tuition.

It involves two fundamental questions: Is the system preparing all its teachers to teach well, and, does the reality at each school support the daily execution of good teaching?

Here, I am referring to a teacher’s ability to deliver lessons effectively. This requires a good understanding of learning objectives, educational psychology, content knowledge, educational pedagogy as well as classroom and time management.

While everyone is responsible for his own professional growth, the MOE and schools must acknowledge that leadership is a game changer in training teachers who can teach well.

The MOE, the National Institute of Education (NIE) and schools have good policies for implementing development programmes.

These efforts are sometimes stymied, however, by leaders of schools and subject departments who have everyone’s interests at heart, but are so caught up in maintaining their authority that they forget the core objective of ensuring that teachers can teach well.

At the NIE, there are occurrences where teacher training is misaligned with real-world needs.

For example, many in my cohort were trained to teach English Language and Literature at the secondary-school level. But some of us were thrust into junior colleges with minimal training. We were then expected to teach the General Paper, English Literature and Project Work almost from the get-go.

Changing the above-mentioned mindsets and realigning training with teachers’ needs will require intervention at many levels, a la Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares.

This is a television show in which he provides suggestions to modify the behaviour of owners, chefs and even servers, so core problems of the business can be addressed and the bottom line improved.

His ideas work because he provides insight in a muddled situation, like the Chinese proverb which says that one who is personally involved cannot see as clearly as one who is not.

The MOE, the NIE and schools should review the coaching and guidance given to teachers; and employ educational consultants (“Gordon Ramsays”) to provide organisational clarity to school and subject-department leaders.

While this may not halt the tuition demand, it would address the issue of developing teachers to teach well.

Ultimately, this would help resolve the “classroom nightmares” that lead families to look to tutors as a necessary vehicle for academic results.

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