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Why Singaporean education works and Australia's doesn't

By Chris Golis - posted Monday, 19 March 2012


It was 1995. The Australian International School in Singapore had been operating for just under two years. It was coming to the end of the final term and the Board of Directors was having its last meeting of the year. The Board was comprised of four Singaporeans and four Australians reflecting the 50/50 split of the Singaporean and Australian investors. The Head of the school was an ex officio member.

The school had rapidly grown over the past two years and to the relief of the board and investors looked like breaking even in the New Year with the promise of substantially increased enrolments. The meeting's mood of self-congratulatory benevolence was suddenly disturbed as the Singaporeans began to ask some interesting questions about teacher performance.

When the Australian International School in Singapore was originally established, the teachers were recruited on three-year contracts. One of the key strategic moves made by the School when it started was to become part of the NSW Education system. Inspectors for the NSW Department of Education would come and carry out quality checks and teachers if they were already part of the NSW system did not lose seniority.

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The questioning started innocently enough.

"The teachers are all on three year contracts aren't they?"

"Yes."

"So next year will be the final year for a number of them won't it?"

"Yes."

"Well which ones are you going to replace and how do you know you have made the right decision?"

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Stunned silence.

"Surely you are not going to tell be that every teacher we have recruited is perfect, no manager is that good."

Again stunned silence.

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About the Author

Chris Golis is Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence. He is an author, professional speaker and workshop leader. His site is www.thehummhandbook.com.

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