Apart from visiting, I’ve also read A LOT of articles about Singapore’s education system online, so that you don’t have to. And what concerns me is that some of the messages that consistently come across in these articles are misleading, especially in their inferences about what should therefore be done in England (or the US). So before I explain how the Singaporeans are so successful in their recruitment and training in my next few blogs, I will explain away some persistent myths.
Teaching in Singapore is more attractive than it is in the UK because it has a higher status.
While a lack of respect from students may well put off potential teachers in England, it is not the same thing as professional status. If anything, I’d say the public perception that student respect for teachers isn’t great in England (whatever the reality) only adds to the respect for the profession, as it is seen as a challenging job. So if it isn’t teacher status that’s attracting eight applicants for every place, what is? There are things we can learn from Singapore, and I’ll lay these out in my next blog. But first, I need to clear something else up...
Singapore selects its teachers from the top third of every cohort
(so we should raise entry qualifications in England)
In England, 30.3% of 18 year olds entered university in 2013. This has been rising over the past few years, and in 2004 the rate was less than 25%. And as teaching is a graduate profession in England, this means that we select our teachers from the top third of the high school graduating class too (assuming that those who go to uni are the top academic achievers in their year, give or take a few). In fact, not only do we match Singapore in selecting from the top third, but we have higher academic credentials required to be a teacher.
My point here is not that the English admissions system is better than Singapore’s; far from it. My point is that in learning from Singapore, we are too often looking at the wrong things. It isn’t teacher status that makes them more successful than us, or the fact that they select from the top third of each cohort. It is other levers they use that make teaching attractive, and I will discuss these in my next blog.