Schools to have more career guidance counsellors, welfare officers for students: Lawrence Wong

The increase in counsellors and welfare officers will be implemented in phases. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) will be ramping up career guidance available to students to help them better handle the fast-changing education and job landscape.

This comes amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to greater uncertainties in terms of career prospects and job opportunities, especially for fresh graduates.

The junior colleges will each have one education and career guidance counsellor, while every two secondary schools will have one. This is up from a ratio of one counsellor to four schools currently, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday (Sept 3).

He was speaking in a video addressed to educators in commemoration of Teachers' Day, which falls on Friday (Sept 4), to thank them for exceptional work in an extraordinary year.

The number of student welfare officers in schools will also be doubled to better support vulnerable students.

Such officers support teachers and work closely with other school staff and community partners to strengthen the safety net as well as address barriers to school attendance and learning for these at-risk students.

The increase in counsellors and welfare officers will be implemented in phases, starting January next year (2021).

Staff in both of these roles fall under the umbrella of allied educators.

To provide the different groups of allied educators with more opportunities for progression, MOE said it will also increase the number of middle- and senior-level positions. This is also to nurture various domain expertise and strengthen professional leadership.

Separately, over the next few years, there will also be "a significant number" of master teachers who will be posted to schools, the ministry announced.

Master teachers spend their time on policy and coordination work at the national level and are currently primarily based in MOE's headquarters, though they also spend time on school attachments to ensure that they keep up with class practices and other developments on the ground. They "foster a teacher-led culture of professional excellence in our teaching fraternity", said the MOE.

Mr Wong added: "(Master teachers) play a critical role in sharing effective teaching practices in the classroom, prototyping new teaching methodologies and supporting policy and programmatic work related to teaching and learning at the national-level."

He noted that Covid-19 has evinced the importance of being able to adapt and innovate pedagogical practices.

"Over the next few years, we will grow the number of master teachers, with the goal of eventually posting more than a hundred of them to schools to teach classes on a sustained basis," said Mr Wong.

They will spend most of their time on teaching in the classrooms, co-planning and co-teaching lessons with fellow teachers, and leading professional development committees within the school and also at cluster and zonal levels.

Mr Wong said the initiative to have school-based master teachers is "a significant move, signalling our commitment to strengthen the teaching track, and our continued investments to create a quality teaching workforce as the backbone of our education system".

Some of these teachers will be posted from January next year, and the numbers will be ramped up over time.

Mr Wong also noted that with the implementation of blended learning - a mix of classroom and digital learning - and the National Digital Literacy Programme, schools' information and communications technology (ICT) capabilities will need strengthening.

Such capabilities will be recognised as a core part of schools' administrative team, and MOE will enhance career development opportunities for ICT admin staff, with opportunities for some to contribute at the cluster level, Mr Wong said.

The ministry will also increase the ICT partner-to-school ratio and provide a team to support the roll-out of the personal learning devices for students,which will start for secondary school students next year.

Said Mr Wong: "Our schools today are multi-faceted communities because that is what it takes to nurture our students holistically.

"It takes people with different skills - teachers, allied educators, education and career guidance counsellors - all working together towards a common goal."

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