What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question often asked of young children.
But Ms Nursidah Malik would pose this same question when she interviewed youth with intellectual disabilities. The then part-time research assistant was conducting a study on youth with intellectual disabilities and the challenges they faced when they joined the workforce. She was also studying part-time for her Master of Education in Special Education programme.
Ms Nursidah found her studies helpful in her research work, giving her an insight to how to craft her questions so that they could be understood by the interviewees. The research methodologies and terminologies she learnt in her programme also helped ease her interaction with researchers when she had to present at a conference in Melbourne.
Thirst for challenge
Ms Nursidah enrolled in the programme offered by National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2013. This was a decision she made after teaching children with special needs for seven years and she wanted to pursue new challenges in the field. She already had a Diploma in Special Education from NIE.
Most of the local universities do not offer Master’s programmes in special education. This gives NIE, the only teacher education institute in Singapore and which is also part of NTU, an edge over other universities as its programmes include courses related to special education.
Ms Nursidah chose to do a dissertation instead of the coursework-only option despite it being a longer and more tedious route. The dissertation option requires candidates to conduct a research study, analyse the data and write a 15,000-word thesis – adding between six and 12 months to the completion time.
But Ms Nursidah also faced personal challenges during her dissertation journey. Her mother was diagnosed with end-stage cancer and Ms Nursidah became the main caregiver.
She pressed on and completed dissertation. Ms Nursidah attributes her success to her supervisor, Dr Ailsa Goh, who patiently guided her throughout the process.
While pursuing her Master’s degree, Ms Nursidah took up an art education elective course from another Master’s programme under NIE. It widened her horizons and gave her the opportunity to learn from educational professionals outside of special education.
Ms Nursidah hopes to use her enhanced research skills to execute a study on the effectiveness of current programmes and practices in schools for students with special needs. She sees a gap in research in Singapore’s special education sector, and would like to increase her contribution to a school level instead of small groups of four to eight students in a year.
To potential candidates of NIE’s Master of Education programme, Ms Nursidah advises: “Be open to new opportunities. If you have the chance to do a dissertation, go for it! It is a much tougher learning journey but with an open mind and determination, you will learn so much more from the programme.”
NIE’s higher degree programmes and courses are open not only to teachers, but also to others as long as they meet the prerequisites – a good bachelor’s degree from a recognised university, at least a year of relevant working experience in education, and additional entry requirements depending on the programmes.
For those who prefer standalone courses, NIE offers Modular Graduate Courses; some of which are funded by SkillsFuture Singapore. Each course is worth four academic units, and are stackable towards a Master's programme, subject to conditions.