Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Post Interview: School in Singapore

You might remember that I'm participating in the 2013 Blogathon (a post a day in June). There are certain "theme" days and today's suggested theme is a Guest Post Swap with another blogger who is doing the blogathon. In my case, I found Dominique Goh, who lives in Singapore and is a primary school teacher, to be my guest poster. (I am her guest poster as well!) Dominique blogs at I decided to do a short Question and Answer interview with Dominique, and here it is. 

1. You teach primary school in Singapore. What grades/ages does that cover? How large are your class sizes? Do you have one group of students and teach all subjects to them, or do you teach a particular subject and students rotate? Does school go year-round?

I cover from grade 1-6 (or as they call it here Primary 1 to 6), the kids are from 7 -12 years old. At present the classes are 30 per class for the lower levels however from  Primary 3 onwards there is streaming and the top end classes may pack up to 40 students in the class with varying number of students in the other classes. We teach by subjects and the students are the ones that rotate and go from class to class. I teach English, Maths,Science and Music. It depends on which subject combination is given to you at the start of the year as in certain years I did have physical education and art classes to teach also. 

School goes all year round with breaks as follows: 1 week in March, 4 weeks in June, 1 week in September and 6 weeks in Nov/Dec. The start of the school year is in January and it ends in November.

2. I think the main languages in Singapore are Chinese, English, and Malay. At what age to children start learning languages in Singapore--how many languages, how often--are they expected to reach fluency in their non-native languages? (Anything interesting about language learning would be great!)

Most kids start to learn language from birth. They are expected to learn a minimum of two languages as it is compulsory here. English and your mother tongue. For us as we are Chinese we learn both English and Mandarin at school.  Both are treated as 1st languages here and for my own family we introduce the kids to more then a few languages from birth as we use English, Mandarin and Cantonese at home.
My aim is to raise a multilingual toddler/kid so I have been introducing them to other languages like Japanese and Korean. I intend to introduce them to French when they are older and they too get to hear and learn basic Malay as many elders around us speak Malay.  
I believe that it is important to have the kids introduce to the different languages as early as possible as they will be the least resistant to learning something new. Exposure is the key to getting them interested in languages.

3. Singapore is a small, urban island. Do children in Singapore access nature/natural environments? If so, how? Are they taught environmental education? 

Yes we live on an island but there are many pockets of greenery around as the place has been landscaped by the urban architects... there are many parks and even nature/jungle areas still around on the island.  In fact in the area where I am living in there is a bike trail that cuts throughs a greenery corridor and even to the wetland areas.  The school schedules trips to various parks or even the offshore islands around Singapore to see the different  plants/animals in their natural habitat.  We do have a great focus on being environmentally friendly with Earth Day celebration in school. 

4. I think the educational system in Singapore is pretty different from the U.S., and more centralized. How do people become teachers? What kind of training do they get? Compared to other jobs, are teachers paid fairly well, medium, or poorly? Is it a well-respected job? 

To be an educator in Singapore you first have to apply for the job with the Ministry of Education. Upon passing the selection test you have to undertake a Post Grad Diploma in Education from National Institute of Education before you are qualified to teach. Upon passing out you are bonded for 3 years and posted to a school to teach. Teachers are paid fairly well however unless you assume higher leadership positions it would be hard for your pay to be equal to those in the corporate sector. It is not as well-respected as before due to the degrading of society and its moral values however it is a relatively safe occupation as in guns and other weapons etc. are not allowed for civilians on this island and so there is no chance of massive shoot outs/killings in school. 
Hope that I have answered your questions.

Here is my bio.
Dominique Goh, Singaporean elementary school teacher, professional blogger and mom of three. Catch her on her blog as she shares about her experiences with her kids, education, cooking and baking. The photos are by Dominique Goh.

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