On to the main question for this post: Why should you consider a teaching career in Singapore?
#1. For the students who will make a difference in your life because you have made a difference in theirs.
As cliche as it may sound, most of us who join the teaching profession do so in the first place because we want to make a difference in the lives of our charges. For those (albeit few, at times) students whom you have impacted deeply and postively, some in turn make a big impact on you as well. I'm not simply referring to Teachers' Day cards, or gifts from students ranging from red pens to stuffed toys to (inedible) baked goods (though these do give us a warm fuzzy feeling especially when we least expect them) - I'm referring to the overwhelming sense of pride when you witness your student receiving an award from the President / Education Minister, the tears of joy as you read the words from your graduating class/previously failing student, as well as the laughter as you watch your students perform goofily on stage.
Being a teacher is a life-changing experience. No simple description can fully articulate the emotions of a teacher when you know you have made a genuine difference to a young person's life. If you are a caring educator, your students (or future students) are the only reason you need to motivate you to pursue a teaching career and to persevere year after year.
A large majority of teachers in Singapore hold the PGDE or equivalent, as MOE requires its full-time teaching staff to be trained. The PGDE course conducted by NIE is benchmarked with international teaching standards, so it is generally recognized by most educational institutions across the globe as a valid teaching diploma. Using Australia as an example, I had no problems at all getting my teaching skills recognized by Australia's assessing authority, AITSL. Personally, I also know of Singaporean teachers who landed teaching jobs in the US, UK and New Zealand.
#3. Job Stability
Jobs in the Civil Service are colloquially described as 铁饭碗 "iron-rice-bowl" for a good reason - they are very stable. Given that education is an industry that is will continue to thrive and teachers will always be in general demand regardless of the economy, teachers should generally have little or no fear of being fired or retrenched.
#5. Professional Development Opportunities
Generally, the Ministry of Education is interested in developing teachers professionally. In fact, each teacher is encouraged to attend 100 hours of training every year. To facilitate this, the Ministry provides free teaching resources, a teachers' library, an individual learning development fund (known as LDS) as well as a large variety of courses for teachers to attend for free / a nominal fee.
#6. CONNECT Plan
This is basically a loyalty payout plan that encourages teachers to remain in service. The Ministry deposits a fixed quantum (around S$6.3k) every year into every Education Officer's connect plan account, and the officer is allowed to withdraw a fixed lump sum from their connect plan after a pre-determined period of time. Details can be found here. This sum of money granted is on top of other annual bonuses and the long service awards. This plan serves as a loyalty bonus and was probably introduced to replace the pension scheme offered to teachers in the 1980s.
I have listed some other common reasons below (based on my interactions with educators for the past 4 years). The reasons below are not as 'universal' as those listed above though - so take them with a pinch of salt, as some may not apply to you.
#7. Leave during School Holidays (?)
Mention this as a possible 'benefit' to a teaching career and immediately you will face much skepticism from existing teachers. Objectively, your 'entitled' duration of leave during school holidays depends largely on your school's holiday policy which can vary across different schools, as well as your holiday duties. Generally, schools do try to provide a 'protected' period of at least 1-2 weeks during the June Holidays and 2-3 weeks during the Nov/Dec period for teachers to go overseas for personal holidays.
|School Holidays = Long break for Teachers? That's a myth.|
If you are considering a teaching career in Singapore, do speak with existing teachers to find out what a realistic holiday schedule is like and how much 'holiday' you can expect. The assumption that the general public have of teachers having a long break during school holidays is largely a myth, since holidays typically coincide with additional 'supplementary' lessons, additional CCA training, school camps and student overseas trips.
#8. Overseas Opportunities and Work Attachment Platforms (?)
Unknown to many current teachers, MOE also provides Work Attachment opportunities for teachers to broaden and enrich their learning. This can include attachment to other schools, private organisations as well as institutions of higher learning.
With the increased awareness that learning should take place outside the classroom in the past decade, more schools are also organising educational school trips overseas, and these typically require teacher chaperones/facilitators. In my 4 odd years in service, I have travelled for work-related purposes to Malaysia (Malacca), Thailand (Bangkok), Indonesia (Bali) and the UK.
|I spent 2 weeks in the UK with my students in 2011... will never forget that wonderful experience.|
I will acknowledge, however, that such opportunities are not unique to the teaching service nor to the civil service. Furthermore, depending on the resources available in the various schools, not all teachers will be granted the opportunity for work attachment or to go overseas.
#9. Becoming a Jack-of-all-trades (?)
Typically, when someone is hired for a salaried job, the employer is obliged to provide a list of duties to the worker as part of the contract. This list is known as the JD (Job Description) and it details the scope of work for the individual employee.
Teachers in Singapore, however, are not provided with a JD when we sign our contract. There is an implicit understanding that the role of an educator is so complex, it cannot be confined to a simple list. On top of delivering the curriculum, teachers also play the following roles (varies for different individuals of course):
- Coach/Trainer or equivalent
- General Administrator aka Form teacher
- Event Organizer / Camp Commandant
- Logistics Officer
- First Aider
- Mentor/ big brother/big sister/friend / 'cher'
- Volunteer for school events
- Public Speaker
- Disciplinarian (from reprimanding students for long fingernails to handling truancy)
- Janitorial Supervisor (for classroom cleanliness)
- and many more besides.. you get the picture
|Used to have students who called me 'Ms Octopus'. Wonder why.|
Current teachers, what do you think? Feel free to share. And for those who feel I am too one-sided in my post, please be reminded that this is only the first part of a 2-part series. Stay tuned!