TO FURTHER develop her capacity as an educator, Ms Lafrieda Nasir, 40, pursued the Master of Arts in Humanities Education (MAHE) offered by the National Institute of Education (NIE).
Ms Lafrieda, who has been teaching since 1999, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the National University of Singapore, where she majored in English language and geography with an education focus.
A former senior teacher (humanities) at St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School, she left the school in December 2013 to study the MAHE course on a full-time basis.
The MAHE programme is designed to empower history, geography and social studies teachers who may need to respond with cross-disciplinary perspectives.
It helps them develop critical understanding of the subjects with a strong grounding in the guiding philosophies, as well as how these can be applied to studying modern-day social issues.
The courses offered were related to Ms Lafrieda’s field of teaching, particularly social studies.
She says: “Sometimes, what we do as a teacher happens instinctively and I needed to understand better why I do what I do in class — whether there are theories to back it up and so on.
“I also wanted to explore the reasons and rationale behind citizenship education or social studies.
“I wanted to ensure what I do is meaningful, and that I am clear about the goals of teaching social studies to my students. I also believed this would spur me on further in my career.”
The MAHE programme is also open to candidates who are generally interested in humanities education.
Having lost touch with academic research and writing for some years, Ms Lafrieda opted for the coursework track. She completed two core courses and eight elective courses.
Candidates can choose electives from any of three strands — Geography and Geography Education, History and History Education, and Social Studies Education.
They also have the option to take courses that are more general or interdisciplinary in nature, such as Multicultural Studies and Contemporary Singapore.
Ms Lafrieda says that Economics in Social Studies — which shed light on the economics principles explaining certain government decisions — was especially relevant for her.
She was particularly enlightened by academic journals that explained the efficacy of the methods she employed in class.
“The courses had a direct relevance and impact on my professional practice. I could tap my experience as a classroom teacher in my assignments and classroom discussions,” she says.
Although juggling assignments and meeting deadlines were challenging, she was glad she had coursemates whom she worked closely with and could turn to any time.
During her course, Ms Lafrieda was offered a part-time teaching position at NIE, which she accepted.
After graduation, she enjoyed this stint so much that she accepted another offer to join NIE full-time as a seconded staff.
The transition was almost seamless.
She says: “The NIE faculty members have always treated the postgraduate students as their fellow colleagues. There were always opportunities for exchange of ideas and interaction throughout the programme.”
Ms Lafrieda is currently the coordinator for the Social Studies Secondary Group.
Along with two colleagues, she teaches the Postgraduate Diploma in Education modules for social studies (secondary level).
She also teaches two other Bachelor of Arts modules, both on teaching social studies to secondary school students.
In addition, she helps to coordinate practicum in her academic group and conducts in-service courses for teachers.
The MAHE has equipped her to source her own reading to plan and develop new courses for NIE, she says.
She is currently developing a new course on discussion-based pedagogy in the classrooms.