Saturday, November 9, 2013

Question about Student Support and Teacher Education

Thanks for your presentation at the Blake School on Monday afternoon.  I was attending with a team of math intervention teachers from our school district in Edina, MN, and we have some questions about differentiation.

1. In Singapore, how do schools provide support for students that are not keeping up with the rest of the class?
2. How do schools support students that are consistently one or two grade levels ahead of their classmates?

Additionally, do most of Singapore’s teachers matriculate from the same university? If so, do you think that is a benefit to math education or a detriment?

I’m looking forward to seeing you again this afternoon in Wayzata!

BanHar responds ...

All Singapore teachers complete their pre-service education from the same university (National Institute of Education NIE). Plus, it ensures consistency but we need to make sure this place provide the best teacher education money can buy. On the down side, the institution faces no competition and unless it has the discipline to improve and innovate despite the lack of competition, it can be the start of a decline. I hope our NIE is of the former. (I used to teach there.)

1. In Grade 1, students who are not on grade level competency receives support in mathematics and English Language - it is a pullout (we call it learning support program in mathematics or LSM). At all other levels, they receive extra support during class (in more difficult cases, there is a learning support teacher in class but that is not the norm). Usually, the teacher will have to take care of these students when the others are doing independent work. In many cases, we will meet with them after school for an hour or so once a week for remedial work. Having said all that, the use of concrete materials is to help every learner, including the struggling ones, learn well.

So we have in-class as well as pullout / separate remedial classes. In some cases we have a learning support teacher ( we call them allied educators, they are not trained teachers but undergo a training program for the job).

2. We provide these students with more challenging problems i.e. the enrichment approach. We do not accelerate them. However, these challenge is also made available to all other students. At upper levels (grades five on wards but sometimes as early as grade three, we track these students i.e. they are put into a separate class and the teachers do more challenging stuff with them, again not accelerating but provide more challenging tasks). For the most advanced they join the so-called gifted education program (GEP) from grade four onwards, where they are challenged with all kinds of things include research and project. From grade seven there are schools that they can go to to enhance their ability / interest e.g. schools of science and mathematics etc. 

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