Author: Shanti Clements
A great teacher can change everything.
Yes, it’s true. And we were the lucky Teaching Fellows (recipients of the 2017 Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards) who were transformed by our experience of the Singapore education system. We came back inspired, motivated and far more empowered as educators and school leaders to embed the change we truly want to see in our schools.
Where to begin?
We began our journey at the coalface visiting two schools, Ngee Ann Secondary School and Nan Chiau Primary School. Both have been recognised as innovative ‘future focused’ schools by the Singaporean Ministry of Education. How wonderful it was to see an education system that had the vision and financial resources to support schools with 21st century wireless infrastructure, flexible learning environments and digital technologies to truly engage students and teachers in quality educational delivery.
But it wasn’t just the innovative approach of the Singaporean government that enthralled us. It was seeing the 52-year journey of a small country that had been left broken by the war years pick itself up and transform its culture and education system into a globally-recognised high-performing nation.
In addition, the holistic integration of Singapore’s academic and wellbeing programs in a system-wide curriculum model for students is extraordinary. The clarity of communication around school strategic planning and cultural values for learning and wellbeing was evident at a local and system level. It is a values-based model that also aligns with their teacher performance development processes. Their Teacher Growth Model (pictured), for example, exemplifies the Singaporean government’s transformative and values-based vision for its teaching profession.
Along our journey, we met with the Academy of Singapore Principals, Academy of Singapore Teachers and leaders from the National Institute of Education. Sharing stories and experiences helped us form a bond that unites teachers from all cultures and nations – how we can engage students, teachers, parents and our community as we strive to lead, create and embed quality educational delivery in our schools.
What was clear from both our Singaporean and Australian experiences is that education cannot be siloed. School transformation efforts or innovation projects are fuelled by leadership vision, culture and a cohesive organisational strategy. When these are combined effectively, we see the wonderful by-products of improved academic performance, enhanced student wellbeing, increased student and parent engagement.
One of the standout visits on our study tour was seeing the GEMS World Academy School. It took the innovative pedagogical approach of the Singaporean government’s strategy further by promoting a global values-based curriculum and enhanced 21st century learning environment. The school was specifically designed to be a showcase for future-focused learning and used a more ‘student-centred’ approach to student-led curriculum. It was exciting to see a school so well resourced and set-up to empower students as lifelong learners.
As a result of our Singapore Study Tour, the Teaching Fellows have returned with a stronger commitment to drive innovation and collective efficacy across our national educational landscape and we have an exciting range of projects that we are committed to delivering.
It was also a great experience and privilege to get to know an amazing group of educational leaders who are all equally committed to raising the quality of education in Australia.
Shanti Clements is the Principal of Beauty Point Public School, Sydney
Applications for the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards open on September 4. To apply or nominate a great teacher or principal, visit teachingawards.com.au.