Rethinking Human Capital in Education: Singapore As A Model for Teacher Development

Susan Sclafani
Education and Society Program, The Aspen Institute
2008

Arising from a multi-year effort by the Aspen Institute to examine the development of human capital in education, this paper offers an in-depth analysis of Singapore's teacher preparation and development system. It uses both the findings of a multi-country Aspen study and the firsthand knowledge of its author, former ED superstar Susan Sclafani, to lay out the ways in which that small Asian land could serve as an example for the U.S. system, despite the vast differences between the two countries. Above all, notes Sclafani, the Singapore system is coherent, manifested literally in its centralized teaching preparation school, the National Institute of Education (NIE), and figuratively in the careful evaluation and choice of specific strategies that make up the nation's education policy. The NIE's rigor and selectivity translate into respect for the teaching profession. Sclafani argues that Teach For America may have captured the same caché that attracts Singapore's top students to NIE; that there are 25,000 eager, smart, and well-educated America college students vying annually for coveted TFA slots, she says, signals kindred readiness and willingness. But being accepted into NIE is just the beginning. During the teacher candidate's practicum ("student teaching" in the U.S.) and the first few years of full time teaching, a Singapore teacher is meticulously evaluated and deeply supported in myriad ways. These are just a few of the strategies that Singapore employs to maintain its top-tier education system and the U.S. would be wise at least to consider. You can read Sclafani's full report here.

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