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Dear Straits Times, Give Singapore’s Educators A Break

Yesterday, The Sunday Times ran a special report (below) on teacher-student relationships titled “Balancing Act”, coupled with the tagline that “with younger teachers, more mature students and the extensive use of social media, educators today tread a fine line between being friendly and going overboard”. Unsurprisingly, the report was probably penned by the writers in response to assorted recent cases – for instance, the secondary school teacher who had sexual intercourse with a female student – of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers.

Hasty Generalisations

However, I felt that the report was poorly written on a few counts.

– It unnecessarily exaggerated the extent of the “problem” of teacher-student relationships, and used weak, anecdotal evidence to explain positions. Besides the isolated incidents, there is no concrete data to prove that the trend of teacher-student relationships is either increasingly detrimental, or on the rise.

– The writers also drew on baffling data to make assertions, or substantiate their propositions: for instance, the writers first stated that were more and more new teachers – targeted at 33,000 by 2015 – before penning that “such numbers now do mean that it is difficult to spot and monitor likely black sheep among them”. It is a fallacious justification, with the insinuation that the addition of newer teachers to the profession would be inevitably negative.

– There was a strong tendency to portray social media and corresponding networking sites as the “big evils”; furthermore, it was implied that younger teachers were more vulnerable to a plethora of misdeeds because of their connectedness to the platforms.

That generalised perspective might be misguided: on the contrary, younger users could be more adept with the channels’ intricacies, and be more judicious or prudent with their online exchanges. It is too convenient to assume that “the younger teachers tend to bring with them a different set of rules, many having been educated by teachers who were more relaxed”, and make a hasty, unfair presumption.

A secondary school teacher: "a number of these teachers grew up disrespecting their very own teachers … it is no wonder that their moral standards are a bit wayward”.

– What annoyed me the most was a comment made by a secondary school teacher that “a number of these teachers grew up disrespecting their very own teachers … it is no wonder that their moral standards are a bit wayward”. Based on this myopic, biased opinion, the writers of the report promptly drew the general inference that “having grown up under a more relaxed system, it is difficult for such younger teachers to enforce rigid rules”. Really, is that fair?

– Beyond teacher recruitment, the Mrs. Chong advertisement by the Ministry of Education (MOE) was also paying subtle homage to educators who have spent considerable time and effort to help struggling students. Raising the notion of possible confusion, and the suggestion that there be other inappropriate interpretations are ludicrous views in my opinion; sadly, the writers are missing the point.

Trusting Our Teachers

Give our educators a break; yes, even though there have been unfortunate transgressions, the employment of precautionary reminders and guidelines would be more than sufficient to remind teachers to be more cautious. There is no need to anxiously sound alarm bells, or to establish strict rules for schools to adhere to.

Give our teachers the trust and faith that they need, because they have the intelligence and professionalism to conduct themselves in the most appropriate manner; Madam Koh, the principal of Yishun Junior College, puts it most eloquently and logically: “If teachers conduct themselves well, it does not matter how many ways students can have to contact them”.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


5 thoughts on “Dear Straits Times, Give Singapore’s Educators A Break

  1. It’s funny, the older generation. They usually have a lot to say about how undisciplined the younger generation are. But they never had to pay crazy money for their houses or their cars, never had to worry about an uncertain job market. You stick them in front of a computer and they turn into helpless mental wrecks. You talk to them about politics and can listen to them babble for hours without anything insightful or meaningful being said. Their blind adherence to authority has basically landed Singapore in the morass it is in today.

    I find them very hard to understand.

    Posted by octopi | February 7, 2012, 5:07 pm
    • I don’t think it’s fair to generalise the “older generalisation”, and tag them with labels. There are certainly black sheep in the teaching profession (going back to the topic at-hand), but the numbers appear to be really insignificant. My contention is that The Straits Times has raised alarm bells unnecessarily, without substantiating their contentions with proper perspectives or data.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | February 8, 2012, 10:10 am


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