I recently wrote a post about why I am leaving the teaching profession, and one of the reasons I cited was that I did not feel that the structure currently in place valued older, more experienced teachers. This may be one of the reasons why the profession is being drained of experience, and we now have the least experienced teaching workforce in Europe.
Revisiting Cleverlands, by Lucy Crehan, I was interested to read about the Singaporean approach. Singapore is one of the educational ‘superpowers’ visited and researched by Lucy Crehan in order to find lessons which the UK government could learn in order to improve the educational outcomes of students in this country. At the moment the efforts being made are very top-down, putting more and more downward pressure on teachers and thence to students, in the expectation that this will effect improvements. I think most people, looking at the epidemic of mental health problems among adults and children in schools and the teacher retention and recruitment shortages, would conclude that that approach isn’t really working. Unfortunately the government hasn’t yet reached that conclusion, but I assume that despite the oft trotted out line about how “more money than ever before” is being spent on education, perhaps there is some head-scratching going on behind closed doors about what needs to change.
Well, here’s an idea. While I wouldn’t be in favour of a slavish copy of the Singaporean system, I find their approach to career development in schools a highly intelligent and intuitive one.
Unlike in the UK and many other countries, the Singaporean system does NOT confer on a newly qualified teacher and the teacher with 20 years classroom experience the same status of Qualified Teacher, a status which stays with you for your whole career.
Teachers have a one year induction period just as they do here, during which they are mentored and coached and evaluated to ensure that they are up to scratch, they are considered a Qualified Teacher. But they have not yet gained the expertise, experience or skills to rise higher in education, whether through the teaching track, the leadership track or the specialist track. A teacher may aspire, by the end of their career, to become a Principal Master Teacher, a chief specialist, or to work through the leadership levels to become the Director General of Education of the country. Different skills, different paths.