Trainee teachers to get more hands-on practice

NIE to extend course for degree holders from 12 to 16 months, in efforts to raise standards

To help teachers better respond to the changing needs of education, the National Institute of Education (NIE) will extend its one-year training programme for degree holders to 16 months.

The additional four months for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education will be used to provide more hands-on practice in the classroom and extra courses.

Trainees are now sent to the classroom for 10 weeks towards the end of the programme. Under the change, the extra four-week practice stint will be introduced earlier in the course.

During this stint, the trainees, called pre-service teachers, will return to NIE one day a week, and take part in discussions to help them better understand their role as teachers and strengthen their application of theory to practice.

There will be greater coverage of educational psychology and how to teach specific subjects. NIE will also introduce new courses on the role of the form tutor and on how to better engage parents.

BETTER ALL-ROUND DEVELOPMENT

With more time, pre-service teachers are also able to engage in more collaborative activities, develop stronger collegial bonds and build peer learning communities for longer-term professional growth.

PROFESSOR TAN OON SENG, director of NIE, on the extended programme

Another new course, Singapore Kaleidoscope, will help trainees gain a rich, multi-faceted perspective on Singapore.

The batch that starts its training in December next year will be the first to go through the new programme.

Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng, who announced the change yesterday after visiting NIE, said Singapore's teaching force is of high quality, and that he was "deeply impressed by their commitment, dedication and heart for their kids".

But "given the complexities of the world ahead and future challenges", the teacher training programme needs to be deepened and expanded, he said.

The new programme will give teachers-to-be a better introduction to the profession, broaden their scope of learning and enable them to contextualise what they learn in the classroom, he said.

The greater coverage of educational psychology and teaching methods will also enable teachers to customise their lessons to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Director-general of Education Wong Siew Hoong said the extended programme is aligned with the aim of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and NIE to develop teachers who are not only grounded in their professional skills, but are also reflective and capable of inquiring into their own practice.

"All these will uplift the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms, strengthen our work with our students and help our students develop competencies needed for the future," he said.

Professor Tan Oon Seng, director of NIE, noted that there is a need to prepare teachers for a more complex world.

He added: "The additional investment allows for better consolidation of professional learning and thinking as well as opportunities for deeper immersion into practice. With more time, pre-service teachers are also able to engage in more collaborative activities, develop stronger collegial bonds and build peer learning communities for longer-term professional growth."

Mr Bernard Lim, 26, a former financial consultant who is training at NIE to become a mathematics teacher, said the current 10-week practicum is too short. As it comes at the end of the course, trainees cannot really take the problems they face back to their professors.

So the extra four-week practice in the classroom earlier in the course would be useful, he said.

The Straits Times recently reported that MOE had scaled back on recruitment of teachers after exceeding its target of 33,000 teachers.

This year, it is likely to recruit only 900 teachers, down from the 1,300 hired last year, and fewer than a third of the 3,000 enlisted at the peak of its hiring drive in 2009.

MOE said it had expanded the teaching force significantly, and its focus now is on replacing teachers who have left the service, and recruiting more teachers in specific subject areas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Trainee teachers to get more hands-on practice'. Print Edition | Subscribe