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If students? performance were a direct indication of teaching excellence, then Singapore?s science educators would have made themselves proud many times over. Over the past decade, Singapore?s students have consistently done well in regional and international science and mathematics competitions and surveys. This includes achieving top ranks in the widely recognized Third International Mathematics and Science Study, an international project comparing curricula and achievement in 50 countries taken in 1995 and again in 1999.

Singapore's high achievement in science and math education is not, however, a credit to the nation's postdoctoral scientists. These school children are taught, not by science professors or postdoctoral scientists, but by specially trained and dedicated educators who may not even be university graduates. There's very little overlap in Singapore between science education and science research.

According to government statistics, in 2001 there were 23,371 schoolteachers in Singapore, of which only 13,317, or 57%, hold tertiary qualifications. However, most full-time teachers have gone through specific training in teaching. The National Institute of Education (NIE), a specialty institute of the Nanyang Technological University, is solely responsible for the training of teachers in Singapore. NIE conducts several pre-service teacher-training programmes at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Trainee teachers are recruited early, sometimes immediately upon successful completion of their GCE "A" level education.

"A" level certificate and polytechnic diploma holders may compete for a place in either the 2-year Diploma in Education or the 4-year Bachelor of Science (Education) course at NIE. Unlike other undergraduate programmes, these primarily train students to teach. The courses--designed both for academic education and professional training--take students through a blend of academic and pedagogical modules, as well as a substantial practicum experience to prepare them to take on the role of primary or secondary school teacher. Here, students learn subject matter alongside key instructional processes and teaching strategies. Direct contact with schools through a series of practice teaching sessions ensures that trainees ultimately move into their full-time teaching role in a professional manner and with ease.

For those who already hold a tertiary qualification in other disciplines, it is not too late to make a transition into science education. Graduates from diverse disciplines may take fast-track entry into the teaching profession through NIE?s Postgraduate Diploma in Education programme. This programme is designed specifically to allow university graduates from a wide range of disciplines to move into a teaching career. The yearlong programme aims at transforming these graduates--most of whom already have a strong foundation in the subjects of their specialization--into effective educators in primary or secondary schools. The intensive learning and practice process enables a fast and smooth induction of these graduates into the teaching profession.

A variety of subject options are open to graduates from various disciplines (see table). For instance, those with a background in material sciences may opt to teach physics, chemistry, or science while those from the biological sciences may opt to teach biology, chemistry, and physics. Computing science graduates may opt to teach mathematics or even physics if they have taken the subject previously at the undergraduate level. Trainees may opt to teach two or three primary or secondary school subjects, plus an additional subject, depending on the specialization.

Trainee teachers in the bachelor's degree and postgraduate diploma programmes are registered as students of the Nanyang Technological University, but unlike other university programmes, these students are fully remunerated for the duration of their courses. For example, a candidate with the GCE "A" level certificate gets a starting pay of SG$1,431.84 per month, while a graduate with a second upper class honour's degree gets SG$2,674.18 per month. For Singaporean males who have completed the compulsory national service, pay commences at SG$1,586.45 and SG$3,027.56 per month, for the same categories, respectively. The deal is good, but there is a catch--a 3-year teaching bond to serve in whichever schools you are deployed to!

1

No

Degree Majors

Teaching Subjects Options

Biological Science

Biotechnology

Food Science & Technology

Biomedical Science

 

Biology

Chemistry

Science

2

Chemistry

Chemistry

Science

 

3

Physics

Physics

Science

 

4

Mathematical Science

Mathematics

 

5

Economics

Economics

 

6

Computing Sciences

Computer Programming & Applications

Mathematics

 

7

Materials Science

Physics

Chemistry

Science

 

8

Pharmacy

Chemistry

Biology

 

9

Engineering & Technology

Mathematics

Physics

Design & Technology

 

 

Source of Information: Ministry of Education, Singapore.

Attractive pay and stable job prospects may be incentive enough for many to pursue a career in teaching. However, there are always better reasons. As life sciences become the fourth pillar of the nation?s economy, and with the pace of development in this sector accelerating rapidly, science education is taking on an increasingly greater role in preparing students for many of tomorrow's challenges. Teaching science to the children of today may be one of the keys to shaping the nation?s future. There may be no better time than now to move into a career in science education. It is certainly not as daunting as you might imagine. If you have the academic prerequisites, all it takes to get in there is your determination and a passion for teaching. So, if you have what it takes, why not just go for it?