Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Teachers to be consulted on new code of conduct

Sandra Davie
The Straits Times
Sat Jan 5 2013

SINGAPORE - It is important to maintain the trust that parents have in educators, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, noting that over the next few weeks, school heads will be consulting teachers on the new code of conduct drawn up by the ministry.

His comments last Wednesday came after several cases of teacher misconduct made the news last year, including a 32-year-old female teacher who was jailed for having sex with a 15-year-old male student in her school.

In the most recent case, former River Valley High School principal Steven Koh is being probed by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

The issue is believed to centre on travel agencies set up in schools under his watch.

Mr Heng said that despite the scandals, many parents remain confident of educators and added that the teaching profession will "emerge out of this stronger".

He said much thought had gone into drawing up the code and ministry officials have done extensive consultation for over a year and also looked at codes used in other countries.

"So I think it is a good set of documents which will serve as a baseline document that would guide our educators," he noted.

The new Code of Professional Conduct for Educators incorporates two documents currently used by teachers - the Civil Service Instruction Manuals and the Ministry of Education internal conduct guidelines.

It will also focus on the teaching ethos, which is a set of professional beliefs, practices and conduct.

Areas covered in the new code will include maintaining professional educator-student relationships and the dos and don'ts on social websites.

There are about 33,000 teachers in schools.

Clearer conduct guidelines for teachers

Stacey Chia | The Straits Times | Sat Jan 12 2013

SINGAPORE - A new code of conduct for teachers will spell out more clearly guidelines on dealing with students and take in possibly tricky scenarios that developments like social media pose.

The code is expected to be released by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, schools have been briefing teachers on it, through sessions where scenarios and their solutions are discussed.

The Straits Times understands teachers will be reminded that inappropriate relationships with students are not allowed.

Some teachers said they were told that getting involved with students is prohibited - even if they are no longer teaching at the same school.

Under the new guidelines, teachers are also likely to be advised against adding students as Facebook friends.

Instead, they may be encouraged to set up a separate group page to interact with students.

The move follows calls for stricter guidelines in the wake of a string of scandals involving teachers, including that of a female teacher who had sex with a teenage boy from her school.

The Ministry of Education first announced in November last year that it had completed work on a Code of Professional Conduct for Educators to help teachers uphold high standards amid an environment that is becoming "increasingly complex".

Ahead of its official roll-out, some schools have conducted briefings for teachers in the past week.

Others are expected to do so soon.

The new code incorporates two documents currently used by teachers - the Civil Service Instruction Manuals and the Ministry of Education internal conduct guidelines.

But it is likely to include more advice on what teachers should do in tricky situations. For instance, teachers may be told that tattoos, while not forbidden, should be concealed at all times in school.

Teachers said the discussion went beyond just notifying them of the guidelines.

They were also asked for their views and responses to situations which may be less clear-cut, via case studies raised by principals for discussion.

Said one secondary school principal: "For instance, teachers know they should not be in any inappropriate relationship with students, and it is stated in current guidelines, but some things are not as clear-cut."

The principal cited a scenario which describes a teacher who forms a close but professional relationship with a student. The teacher then leaves for another school, and the relationship continues and becomes romantic.

"Teachers will be asked to discuss if this is appropriate, but the bottom line is no. By discussing, you cover all bases which may not be able to be spelt out in a document," he said.

Another scenario discussed was on befriending students on social media. "In the primary schools it is clear-cut, pupils are not supposed to be on social media websites, since they are not of age. But in the secondary school, it can be a useful teaching tool," said the principal.

Another principal said that by getting teachers to think about the various facets of an issue, "there is meaning to the guidelines" when they see the code.

A primary school teacher said the discussion serves as a good reminder because teachers may not be always conscious about their actions. Asked if he felt that the guidelines were too restrictive, he said: "When we signed up to be teachers, we knew that more is expected of us as we are supposed to be role models."

But a secondary school teacher felt that the briefings were "unnecessary and childish". "We should be able to judge a situation for ourselves, are these things that need to be spelt out?"

Operations manager Rex See, who has two children in Primary6 and Secondary 3, said he is glad more is being done to address the issue of personal conduct among teachers.

Said Mr See, 47: "Children pick up everything from their parents and teachers, so it is important that they are also good role models."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kudos for A-listers but in low-key mode

By Stacey Chia and Sandra Davie

The Straits Times
Sunday, Jan 13, 2013

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) last Thursday kept to its new approach of not singling out the nation's top scorers when the O-level results were announced.

But that did not stop some schools from revealing their A-listers - albeit in a more low-key manner.

At Nan Hua High School, Jaryl Boey, who scored nine A1s, was singled out when the results were announced.

But the school took pains to highlight the 16-year-old's co-curricular record, leadership potential and community work.

Xinmin Secondary flashed slides complete with the names, results and photos of two top students - Serena Mok Jia Xin and Chinese national Zhang Heng Chao - who scored nine A1s.

The principal also invited 38 other students with six or more distinctions up on stage.

Some schools took a more subtle approach.

CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, which produced two of the nation's three top scorers last year, did not announce the results of its top students this year.

But it was not hard guessing who aced the exams.

Lee Kai Yi and Malaysian Liew Jia Hui - both scored nine A1s - went on stage to receive academic achievement awards given to students with the best O-level results.

MOE had announced that it will no longer name the top scorers of national examinations here, starting with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in November last year.

The move was intended to balance out the "over-emphasis on academic results".

It led to an information blackout when the PSLE results were announced.

In line with its new approach, its press release last Thursday on the O-level results stated only the overall performance of the cohort.

MOE said of the class of 2012, 81.3 per cent scored at least five passes - close to the 81.9 per cent seen in 2011.

A total of 37,259 students sat the O levels last year

Previously, the ministry, in its release, would name nearly a dozen top students. It would also list schools that had at least one student scoring seven A1s or more.

Principals who named the top scorers defended their move, saying that most of them are all-rounders and are good role models for the younger ones.

Said Xinmin Secondary principal Ong Hong Peng: "This helps us to recognise the efforts of the students and to motivate students of the current graduating levels."

Still, a few other schools visited by The Straits Times toed the ministry's line all the way.

At Crescent Girls' School, principal Tan Chen Kee revealed only the names of 38 students who scored seven or more A1s and the Edusave Character Award recipients.

She said: "I did not want all the attention to go to the top scorer - we should celebrate the achievements of the whole cohort."

However, parent Felicia Tan, 40, felt schools could be less uptight about naming the O-level top scorers.

Said the accountant, who has a daughter in Secondary 3 at Crescent Girls': "Maybe for the PSLE, it is understandable as the students are much younger. But why with the older students at O levels and A levels?"

Schools refrain from naming top O-Level scorers

Today On-line
by Ng Jing Yng

SINGAPORE - In line with the Ministry of Education's (MOE) call to provide students with a well rounded education, schools yesterday struck a balance between lauding their top O-Level scorers and highlighting those who exhibited strong character traits.

Across schools which TODAY visited, school principals took pains to share heartwarming stories of students who beat the odds and avoided singling out top pupils.

At Saint Joseph's Institution, for example, Principal Koh Thiam Seng praised 85 boys who scored at least six A1s, instead of naming his school's top pupil.

Chung Cheng High School (Main) highlighted students from every class and lauded three pupils who were leaders in both their CCAs and academics.

Principal Pang Choon How said: "By celebrating as a cohort, I hope this will inspire students that results are not everything and an education is also meant (to) help students learn more about themselves."

Likewise at CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls' School, Principal Tan Wai Lan made it a point to commend three classes which had improved the most from their preliminary examination results.

The GCE O-Levels is the second national examination after the MOE announced that it would no longer name top scorers publicly. The first to follow the move was the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which saw parents questioning if it was fair to the top scorers.

In a media release yesterday, the MOE steered clear of naming top pupils by race and schools which produced the perfect six-pointer students.

The ministry only shared that 81.3 per cent of 37,267 candidates who sat for last year's GCE O-Levels scored five or more passes, while 95.5 per cent of candidates scored three or more passes. Close to 100 per cent (99.8) had passed at least one O-Level subject.

The impact of omitting names of top O-Level scorers seemed to be less apparent as compared to the PSLE. Discussion on Internet forums centred on personal results, rather than schools' performances. Parents interviewed were divided on the decision not to name the top student.

"By naming the top scorers, it will not only motivate other students, but also credit those who have worked hard for these achievements," said parent Yinly Ng.

Another parent, Mr Victor Lee, felt that not naming top scorers reduces stress among students.

"After all, grades do not matter as much as character," he added.

With additional reporting from Louisa Tang, Desiree Tay and Heng Wei Xiang

2012 'O' Levels...


Thursday, Jan 10, 2013

SINGAPORE - The Education Ministry released the GCE O level results on Thursday to a total of 37,267 students. 99.8 per cent had passed at least one O-level subject, and 81.3 per cent scored five or more passes.
This is similar to the previous O level results where 81.9 per cent scored four or more passes, 95.3 per cent had at least three O-level passes and 99.9 per cent passed at least one O-level subject.

Private school candidates who sat for last year's GCE O levels fared better than the previous batch of O-level students.

Out of 3,113 private candidates, 2,803 students, or 90 per cent, were awarded certificates today, compared to last year's 89.5 per cent.

90.5 per cent of Sec 4 Normal Academic students who sat for one or more subjects have obtained at least one pass.

These students, who had earlier accepted conditional offers in the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP) or Direct-Entry-Scheme into Polytechnic Programme (DPP) at ITE in December 2012. will have their conditional offers automatically confirmed if they meet the eligibility criteria.

In order not to place too much emphasis on academic results, the Ministry did not name top scorers for the O-levels in a similar way to not naming PSLE and N-level top scorers.