DISAGREEMENTS OVER CURRICULUM & DIRECTION AMONG REASONS FOR SOTA STAFF TURNOVER

Within the last 3 months alone, 3 teachers from the School of the Arts (SOTA) have or are in the process of leaving. 2 were senior literature teachers, while one biology teacher will leave by the end of next month.

Their departure comes just 3 months before the International Baccalaureate exams. Students from the school are unsurprisingly worried about the impact that constant teacher turnovers will have on their studies.

Staff departures also disrupt coursework for students in the school. These projects make up 30 to 50% of their overall grades.

“The change from one teacher to another has been very abrupt,” said the SOTA student in the final year.

The increased scrutiny of staff departures at SOTA comes after year 6 student Calleen Koh sat down in front of the school staffroom and wrote down the names of teachers who left the school in paper airplanes, leaving them stuck into cracks between the concrete outside the office. The school removed the planes, explaining that the art was done without any explanation and went against guidelines.

SOTA has confirmed that 10 teachers or 6% of its teaching staff left the school in the first two terms of this year. It said that it would fill up the vacancies by the end of the next month before the next term begins.

According to principal Lim Geok Cheng, who reportedly congratulated Calleen on her thought provoking work in a speech to the school, students perceive that teachers are leaving the school en masse because many choose to do it at the same time at popular windows of time, such as after receiving their performance bonus or during the June holidays.

Teachers who interviewed cited other reasons, such as the decision to focus on attracting more academically bright students instead of those with a gift for the arts. Another teacher who left said she wanted to pursue another job, but added that disagreements with heads of department over creating an “open-minded and critical climate” were part of the reason for her departure.

She cited the struggle for literature teachers to implement an exam piece which included an account by someone who went through the 1980s AIDS crisis in the United States, which encountered “very unnecessary resistance” before being approved anyway.

Another current teacher blamed superiors in the school for micro-managing.

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