Dwindling number of non-grad teachers signal need for diversity

At first glance, the dwindling number of non-graduate educators and principals could be attributed to the higher number of graduates in Singapore (Only four current school principals are non-grads; Feb 9).

But the numbers also reflect the persistent focus on paper qualifications, especially as a signalling mechanism. This is despite the Ministry of Education (MOE) having abolished the differences in the remuneration structure for graduates and non-graduates in 2015.

They alsosignal the need for diversity, not just in the types of qualifications but also in the specialisations and even professional backgrounds of the teachers.

The benefits of diversity go beyond the circumvention of group-think.

Insofar as the education system is intended to prepare students for life and the workforce, educators and principals from a wider range of backgrounds will offer students more perspectives of what their future trajectories could be.

We must bear in mind, too, the narrative of the new Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system coming into effect in 2021 - with the objectives of reducing the level of competition as well as enhancing the academic and co-curricular programmes in secondary schools - and the even broader narrative of the SkillsFuture movement, with its emphasis on better classroom-to-workplace transition, skills-building, and lifelong learning.

In this vein, the question is not just about the proportion of non-graduates or whether that proportion should be increased.

It is also about the general distribution of teachers and the extent to which they can advise students with increasingly diverse aspirations on an increasingly diverse future. Relevant to this would be things like teachers' scholastic courses or vocational areas of study, pursuits in the community, and even prior work experience.

A school or teaching workforce which is comprised of individuals from similar backgrounds - in terms of scholarship profiles, pathways through universities, and social circles, in particular - should be of much greater concern to the MOE.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Dwindling number of non-grad teachers signal need for diversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe