Singapore — Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim knows how difficult a schoolteacher’s job can be, as his first job after graduation was as a substitute teacher in a primary school.
“Managing a large class takes time and energy, which can be better devoted toward actually focusing on teaching,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday (March 16) after calling for smaller class sizes in Parliament.
In a recent speech during the Ministry of Education Committee of Supply debate, he proposed that Singapore consider smaller class sizes in certain subjects, especially mathematics and languages.
He elaborated on this in an article he wrote in Zaobao. He gave an English version of the article in his Facebook post.
He stated that the average class size in Singapore is 33 students, with some pushing 40. In comparison, the average class size in industrialised economies is 20, and in other East Asian countries 25.
While Singapore’s education system is placed amongst the top in the world, the MP felt that this was more attributed to supplementary education rather than formal education.
In 2018 alone, the market for private tuition amounted to $1.4 billion. Households spend around $112 every month on supplementary education expenses, more than what they spend on clothing and air travel, and about a quarter of what they spend on housing, Prof Lim noted.
“Singaporean families feel compelled to send their children for tuition, not because they are searching for the extra edge, but just so that they do not fall behind,” he wrote.
“Think about it: if it was only because of our kiasu attitude, why do we not see widespread tuition in subjects like geography, history, and literature? After all, these subjects count toward the student’s final grade as well,’ he argued.
“In a recent letter to Zaobao, Lim Boon Keng suggests that I downplay the contributions of our teachers, by suggesting that tuition explains our educational outcomes. In his response in Parliament, Education Minister Lawrence Wong actually made a similar claim,” he noted in his Facebook post.
“I want our high-quality teachers to enjoy an even better classroom environment, so that they are able to maximize their impact on their students,” he wrote. “By reducing our class sizes, I believe that our teachers will better achieve their full teaching potential, and help nurture the minds of tomorrow.”
Many teachers have also spoken to him about this issue, and said they could deliver better higher-quality education if the class sizes were reduced. He suggested conducting a national survey to ask the teachers themselves about what they prefer.
Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG
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