Learn from schools that do well in teacher retention

We have an education system that gives our children the foundation to be successful in life. However, continued success requires teachers who love what they do and are great at doing it.

The fact that many of our younger teachers resign means that the future pool of experienced teachers is getting smaller ("Slightly higher resignation rate among teachers in first 5 years"; Tuesday).

I have some suggestions to address this.

First, there should be greater collaboration between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and principals.

The ministry's role is to develop policies to create the right conditions for teacher retention, such as offering teachers competitive remuneration and career and professional opportunities, and eliminating non-value-added work.

However, the implementation of these policies rests with school principals, and it is challenging.

Regular dialogues between the MOE and principals are important so that both parties have a common goal.

The agenda should not be just on what the school did or did not do, but also what the MOE can do to help principals be successful, and vice versa.

Second, the practices of schools which do well in teacher retention and performance should be shared.

If the MOE can understand what the best schools are doing, how they are doing it and the impact it has on teacher retention, engagement and performance, then it can help other schools learn from them.

Third, teachers can share their experience and passion with other teachers, especially younger ones.

Research on retention shows that knowing someone cares for you as a person has immense retention value.

Hence, teachers who are helping their colleagues grow and flourish should be recognised. This may inspire others to do the same.

However, at the end of the day, not all teachers will be good at their job or find the profession rewarding or fulfilling. For these, leaving the profession is not necessarily a bad outcome for them or their students.

David Wee Hock Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Learn from schools that do well in teacher retention'. Print Edition | Subscribe