Sunday, February 14, 2010

Implementing Singapore Math & PD

Can you tell me more about the professional development programm for teachers?

This is an exciting year as far as PD is concerned. You may read about lesson study in Singapore at I will also write more on this in a separate entry on a later date.

Suffice to say Ministry of Education in Singapore place a lot of emphasis on professional development. There is a position (called staff developer) in schools where the person (head of department level) is in-charge of professional development of his / her colleagues. This person is one of the head teachers.

What are the things that we must me aware about when we're implementing the program at our schools?

Three things you may want to take note of:

It is best to start from the lower grades. Unless the students have a strong foundation, they may not cope well with the textbooks (which includes challenging problems) if they start in, say, grade five. The teachers also have an easier time adapting to the pedagogy.

Support from the principal and school leaders is very important.

Professional development of teachers must be considered.

Differentiation in Singapore Classrooms

A friend in another country who requested some information about what happens in Singapore schools. He wanted to know more about the differentiation process. How does this take place in the classrooms? He said that he read that there are lesson after schools for children who have extra needs.

Differentiation is a continuing issue in schools here. chools are always striving to best do this. No wonder there have been quite a few request to conduct in-house training on differentiated instruction.

I think there must be variations on how this is done. But as a system, there are at least two things that happens in every school. One, Learning Support Porgramme (LSM) is a differentiated instruction for primary one and two students who are not entirely ready for the regular instruction. In many schools, these pupils are pulled out from their regular classes and work with a teacher who works with fewer children (not more than 10). The regular class size is 30. The content is the same as the regular programme. However, pupils get more attention because of small class size and the teachers are in a better position to diagnose and remediate. They may also use slightly different pedagogy to enage these pupils - more concrete activities, perhaps.

Another is the Foundation Maths Programme at Primary 5 and Primary 6. This is content differentiation. The students review work from the first four years in an age appropriate way even as they learn a bit of new materials. This is to ensure that the students are ready to join one of the course of study in grade seven (secondary school). They use a different textbook and they are usually in one class. In some schools with very few students in the Foundation Maths programme, they will be pulled out to do maths with another teacher during the mathematics periods.

It is alos not uncommon for teachers to conducrt remedial lessons after 1 p.m. Most of our schools end formal curriculum around 1 p.m. The afternoon is reserved for other non-academic activities, field trips as well as remedial and enrichment lessons.

Singapore Math Training

I get a lot of questions about the possibility of getting training in Singapore Math. The answer depends on what you are interested to do and which country you are in.

If you are interested in graduate studies, NIE offers masters degree in many specialization, including mathematics education, primary education and secondary education (there are many other fields of specialization). We have foreign stduents who complete the course full-time in a year although a year and a half is not so tight. NIE has both coursework as well as coursework plus thesis option.

If you are interested in Ph.D., you need to be here in the initial part to complete your coursework and to work out your research problem with your supervisor. You may do the research here or in your home country. You will be expected to be back here in Singapore towards the end of the candidature and for your oral examination before the degree is conferred. If you are interested please email me I can link you up with potential supervisors.

If you are more interested in getting training for classroom teaching rather than graduate degrees these are some options.

Join NIE's post graduate diploma in education (PGDE Primary) where you get pre-service training in two or three subject areas including mathematics teaching. It is one year. If you are not interested in the diploma and just want to focus on mathematics then I think there is an arrangement for you to do this as a non-graduating student.

Join NIE's inservice course. There is a range of subjects available throughout the year. From lesson study to problem solving to action research. A 12-hour course runs over 4 weeks. (once a week).

In some countries, there are institutes already in place. In the US, there is a summer institute every year. Go to for details.

Some school districts run theirs. I have been to Scarsdale School District twice to teach a course in their own teacher institute. I believe in the last course there were teachers not from the school district who joined the course.

In places like the Philippines, Indonesia and Chile, the book distributors have been organising training seminars at least once a year.

If you are thinking of running such institutes in your country, I can put you in charge with the book publisher to explore this possibility.