School selection - Teacher development

Lynne Tan, an ex-secondary school teacher, contributed this series to provide parents another perspective to selecting a school for their child. She is currently working as a consultant in one of Singapore’s leading character development consultancy firms.

THE VALUE of a good teacher? Several attributes come to mind: inspiring, patient, capable, knowledgeable, compassionate, firm, funny, adventurous… okay, the last two are my personal additions.

But admit it…we do want also a sunny and outgoing personality that could help to develop a child’s sense of humour and adventure! Thus when we select a school for our child, the “intellectual” and “emotional” health of the teachers are prime considerations. As the key asset of a school, teachers exert a critical direct influence on pupil intellectual and emotional growth and development. A school without quality teachers and which is constantly battling with high turnover will affect the consistency of performance of our child. Like any other organisation, the tenure of service of the staff members is dependent on factors such as leadership strength, welfare and growth prospects.

Teacher mix

The ratio of relief and contract teachers to the full-time team will give you an idea of the strength of the teaching pool. Benchmark this against Ministry guidelines and if it is relatively high, beware. However, do note that it is common for schools to have a pool of relief and contract teachers. Your concern should therefore be directed at the processes involved to equip these part-timers with relevant skills, and their length of stay with the school.

Staff welfare

Most teachers who leave the teaching community often cite the heavy administrative, planning and running of programmes outside of their core teaching responsibility as key reasons for their departure. A school with good teaching practice will not overwhelm the teachers with distractions outside of their core duties. External service providers will be engaged instead, leaving the teachers to concentrate on enhancing pupil learning. Find out about the types and number of non-curriculum based programmes the school organises each year and level of participation by the teaching staff.

People development

While teachers would possess the fundamental skills acquired through mandatory training at the National Institute of Education (NIE), they need to continually improve themselves to enhance their teaching skills. To do this, the principal must be a strong advocate for people development and be consistent in the adoption of quality training programmes for his teachers. A poor people developer is likely to have minimal attention and concern for his teachers and consequently this would be a key factor for a high turnover among the teaching staff relative to other schools. This will undoubtedly impact the children’s progress in school.

School selection - Grades
School selection - Culture
School selection - Principal's management style