Singapore Expats

Teaching in private vs government schools

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Teaching in private vs government schools

Post by mummachick » Fri, 18 Jan 2008 9:19 am

I am currently looking for a job as a secondary history teacher and was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the pros and cons of teaching in the international vs government schools?

I am quite interested in working a government school as I assume that it would give me the most exposure to a different educational environment rather than the same system in a different country.

I am assuming that the salary is pretty similar and considering that I don't have any school-aged kids, the bonus of reduced fees is not something I need to consider yet.

Any experiences out there?

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Post by sundaymorningstaple » Fri, 18 Jan 2008 10:01 am

Hopefully, k1w1 will log in and see this thread. I believe she has taught in both.

If you do a search forum search (upper left side of page under profile & game links) using "teacher" and her nick "k1w1" and have a read of some of her posts.


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Post by k1w1 » Sat, 19 Jan 2008 9:14 am


I guess it depends on what kind of experience you are after... I wasn't directly employed by the MOE in Singapore, but was required to work in local schools and with local teachers a bit. The kids I taught (who I mostly saw in a tuition centre) were all local, and I was using the MOE syllabus/assessment criteria. Weird, and a long story... I know quite a few people who were directly employed by the MOE though, so I know what pay and conditions are like through them. I now work at an International School. OK, my opinion:

The local school system is excellent at getting kids to remember a lot of information. The general knowledge of these kids is phenomonal. They are generally very motivated, have huge expectations of themselves and their teachers, and want to do very well. Parents will also expect the world of these kids, and the teachers. It is not unusual for kids to sit three hour examinations at primary school age, and this is the only real way that are assessments are done. Hence, most of the school system is geared towards taking exams. To be fair, the MOE knows that this is not the best way to teach or learn, and things are changing there. Attitudes will take a lot longer however.

As a teacher in a local school, benefits are not amazing (but they are more than what your local colleagues are getting, and this is often a bone of contention). Salaries are pretty basic, but you are eligible for civil servants bonuses which can be pretty generous (I think this was 4 months salary last year - I could be wrong, but it is often around this much), but this isn't guaranteed. The hours you are expected to work are huge, and the number of students in each class/cohort means that you will work like a dog to mark, grade and get everything done - remember that this needs to be 'to the letter'. If you plan on leaving Singapore during your school holidays, it in not unusual to have to apply for permission from your principal. Lots of schools will have compulsory meetings or training days during breaks, so you're not able to do anything with the time anyway. There are good benefits in other ways though, like additional training opportunities and further education. Whether this would be open to a foreigner or not, I don't know...

International schools have higher salaries, better benefits and many use the IB programme. They tend to have a huge mixture of nationalities. Sadly, none of these are Singaporean - local kids are not usually eligible to study in International Schools. This means the kids are all expats, and they do tend to live in a bit of a bubble within Singapore. This is one of the main reasons I was hesitant about moving into an international school. I still feel a bit sad about my kids becoming less involved in local life... Anyway, that's a thread for another day...

The expectations on kids and teachers are totally different. Academic scores are valued, but so is independent thought. Students are expected to use the Harvard referencing system in their work from the age of grade 2. The system is very demanding, and the kids and teachers work really hard. However, the majority of students and teachers really enjoy what they do and what they learn. It just feels really positive, and because there are such a huge range of cultures, the kids (and teachers!) are exposed to such a huge range of ideas and ways of doing things. Story: my homeroom class has 22 kids and approx 15 nationalities. Asking my class what they ate for breakfast or what they're doing over the holidays generates the most amazing conversations!

Anyway, I could ramble on about this all day. If you have any more questions, let me know. I might not know the answer, but could probably find out. Good luck.

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