Parents welcome move to better reward non-graduate teachers

SINGAPORE — While a university degree adds value to the quality of teaching, some parents believe that a teacher’s performance in class is equally important.

As such, those interviewed by TODAY welcomed the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) announcement on Monday that outstanding and experienced non-graduate teachers will be given greater recognition by putting them on the graduate pay scale.

Mr Kelvin Kao, whose eldest child will enter primary school next year, said that while a tertiary education is a good starting point, teachers should still be assessed on their performance. Mr Kao, who works in a social media agency, said he has come across university lecturers with doctorates from very good universities, but who could not communicate well with their students.

For the 33-year-old, a teacher’s “level of personal concern” for his students and his ability to impart knowledge and life lessons to them is more important than his university degree.

Graduate teachers today comprise about 70 per cent of primary school teachers and 95 per cent of secondary school teachers, said a ministry spokesperson. This is up from 69 and 92 per cent, respectively, in 2008. The rest have good diploma and A-Level qualifications.

In 2008, then Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said the ministry would aim to recruit only teachers with a university degree for primary schools by 2015, as it wants teachers to also have a stronger mastery of content and pedagogy, on top of the aptitude for teaching and a heart for nurturing young people.

In response to TODAY’s queries on whether it will continue with the approach, the MOE said on Monday that it selects teachers taking into consideration their personal qualities, experience and content knowledge required to deliver the curriculum. “We will continue to hire graduates and non-graduates who best meet the learning needs of our students.”

Mr D Pannerselvam, who has a son in secondary school, has no preference for graduate or non-graduate teachers, noting that all of them will be trained by the National Institute of Education.

“I have been trained by non-graduate teachers and turned out to be a graduate,” the 50-year-old said.

However, Ms Madeline Ang, who has two children in primary school, feels that it is better to have graduates teaching in secondary schools as the syllabus is tougher.

Two principals TODAY spoke with said university degrees bring value to the quality of teaching.

Raffles Girls’ School principal Poh Mun See said a degree is one way for teachers to master the content they teach and, together with good teaching skills, enhances teaching.

Mastery of content can help teachers to provide more in-depth and enriching lessons for students, added Mr Richard Lim, principal of Si Ling Primary School.

However, they said non-graduates have a place in the teaching workforce and are given opportunities to upgrade themselves.

Mrs Poh said the earlier MOE move to have an all-graduate recruitment does not contradict the new MOE plan to give greater recognition to non-graduate teachers.

She added that non-graduate teachers are given support and encouragement to upgrade themselves with certifications and degrees.

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