Ex-MOE teacher: Schools focus on seeking glory than teaching

Singapore’s education system is a joke. It only looks good on paper. Many of us who are or were in the system know better than those international panelists.

When I was still a teacher, I was often too busy with my CCA, swimming, to effectively help my academically weaker students. Even if I wanted to, I was really too busy with all my non-teaching duties.

As a former CCA teacher, I would have 8 hours of free time to coach students in swimming, to give them pep talk and motivate them for competition. But when it came to helping my weaker students pass their exams, I didn’t even have more than 1 hour free each week. Anything more than that 1 hour, the time would be given most grudgingly, that it took me away from my other official duties.

So, an academically weak swimmer would be given 8 hours a week, sometimes a lot more time closer to competitions, to train to help the school win glory. But if the same swimmer needed help with his Chemistry or Additional Math, the school has little time to help him. He has to ‘manage’ his time better and solve his own problem.

Many students today need tuition because the subjects are poorly taught in school. The teacher has too many non-teaching duties. Class sizes are too big, and often in neighourhood schools, teachers have to waste time on classroom management issues.

School priorities are also wrong. Schools often force students to spend 6 hours a week on CCA, often double that time closer to sports competition and concert. On the other hand, schools spend far less time helping academically weaker students, and often take the easy way out by pressuring the student to drop the subject instead.

I now tutor students in Math and English, many of whom are academically weak. I usually need no more than 1 hour to get students to understand core concepts in key exam chapters. What amazes me every time is that if their own school teacher had been willing to sit down 1 hour with that same student, that student wouldn’t be needing tuition. But I understand the teacher’s difficulties because I was once in such a position. But I always make it clear to the students; they are seeking tuition because the subject is poorly taught in school.

Some of my friends are worried for me that I keep telling people schools are teaching badly. They fear that the schools will get the message and buck up, and tutors will lose their jobs. But I tell my friends I am not worried. The schools will continue to teach students poorly because their priority now is no longer on good quality teaching. School leaders and teachers have too much vested interests to steer the education system back to good teaching. I have seen it in the 4 different schools I taught at when I was still with MOE, and judging from my tuition students, nothing much has changed.

Schools have plenty of time for training and rehearsals to win competitions, but have little time to spare to coach weak students to ensure they don’t drop the subject.


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