Teacher shortlisted for $1.4m prize, but says 'no'

Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir, who won the President's Award for Teachers last year, says he is not taking part in the competition for personal reasons. He is seen here in the school's laboratory with laboratory support officer Nor Aini Abdullah and some of
Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir, who won the President's Award for Teachers last year, says he is not taking part in the competition for personal reasons. He is seen here in the school's laboratory with laboratory support officer Nor Aini Abdullah and some of his students.ST FILE PHOTO

Greenview Sec science teacher among 50 finalists picked from 148 countries

Greenview Secondary School teacher Muhammad Nazir Amir, who teaches science by getting his students to design toys , was yesterday morning named one of the 50 finalists shortlisted for a US$1 million (S$1.4 million) teaching prize by a Dubai-based education charity.

But in a surprise turn of events, Dr Nazir, 38, who won the President's Award for Teachers last year, said he was not proceeding with the competition.

"I am very happy and honoured to be in the top 50 but am not proceeding further due to personal reasons," he told The Straits Times.

The Varkey Foundation, which gives out the prize dubbed the "Nobel Prize for teachers", said that the 50 finalists were arrived at after whittling down 8,000 nominations from 148 countries.

The number of shortlisted applicants will be further reduced from 50 to 10, and their names will be announced in February next year.

The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai in March.

The yearly prize was launched last year to recognise exceptional teachers who go the extra mile for their students and contribute to the profession as a whole.

In a press statement yesterday, the Varkey Foundation said: "By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people's lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world."

It said that Dr Nazir, who has a PhD in science and design and technology education from the National Institute of Education, developed the RAP (relevant, appealing and personal) teaching approach for Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to better engage with students, particularly those who are less academically inclined.

His lessons include getting students to build toys using scientific principles for storytelling.

This approach has contributed to a high level of passes among his students.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who supports the prize, said: "Teachers are entrusted with nurturing the potential of the young and helping them blossom as productive and responsible members of society."

This year, Ms Nancie Atwell from Maine in the United States won the prize. She was recognised for her work in teaching children to read and write.

She planned to donate all the money to the Centre for Teaching and Learning, a non-profit demonstration school that she founded in 1990.

The winners will receive their US$1 million prize money over 10 years, and will be asked to serve as global ambassadors for the Varkey Foundation, attending events and speaking about their work.

But they will also be required to remain working as classroom teachers for at least five years as a condition of winning the award.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Teacher shortlisted for $1.4m prize, but says 'no''. Print Edition | Subscribe