If we examine the roles of parent in advanced countries around the world, we will find that parents play a big role in the learning ecosystem. The Parent Teacher Programme (PTM) in USA for example has regular meetings with parents. It is a space where parents look forward to joining.  How can Singapore revamp the PTM and how can parents play a bigger role in schools?


Need basis to want basis

In the USA, the National Parent Teacher association comprises about 325,000 parents. In Singapore most parents usually only see the teachers on a need-to basis: when a child gets in trouble.

MOE should engage the parents more, like in the US. Let parents be better informed with first-hand information by talking to the teachers. The child is progressing, but how exactly? In what areas? In what other areas are there room for improvement?  It’s best to meet face to face and meet regularly.

PTAs should also have more feedback from parents on what their child is like at home. If a child’s bad behaviour or results stems from family problems, maybe the teacher can help resolve it to a certain extent.

Field trips

MOE can allow and encourage parents to come along with the students when there are school excursions and field trips. This way parents can get to know their child’s teachers more and can also be with their child in the learning journey. Parents will also know who their children’s close friends are and this is a good start in building trust and friendship with their children.

In a nutshell, schools should be more inclusive of parents in planning the student’s development; parents and teachers should have more meaningful interaction.





Teachers cannot see themselves as someone whose job is to solely teach. A teacher has to be a role model to their students and this goes beyond just teaching from a textbook.



Needlessly to say, teachers firstly need to have the relevant expertise to teach children. Teachers must be up-to-date with changes in the curriculum from MOE and their primary job is the ensure that knowledge is dispensed to and absorbed by students. There is no one way to teach; teachers must understand that every child learns differently or at a different pace of learning. Teachers must be equipped with the relevant skills and expertise to cater to different learning abilities and learning styles of the students.


Creating study-friendly spaces

Teachers also play an important role in the classroom aura. Students are affected by a teacher’s mood. If the teacher prepares a warm, happy environment, students are more likely to be happy. If students sense the teacher is angry, impatient and disinterested, they may react negatively. Learning will be impaired. The classroom dynamics is primarily a reflection of the teacher’s demeanour, actions and the mood he sets.


Role Modelling

Teachers typically do not think of themselves as role models. But they are. Students spend a great deal of time with their teacher. Students look up to them. This can be a positive or negative impact depending on the teacher.



Mentoring is the way a teacher encourages students to strive to be the best that they can be. It is coming alongside a student who needs help or attention. This also includes encouraging students to enjoy learning. Part of mentoring consists of listening to students. By taking time to listen to what students say, teachers impart to students a sense of belonging in the classroom. This helps build their confidence and helps them want to be successful.


Signs of Trouble

Another role played by teachers is a protector role. Teachers are taught to look for signs of trouble in the students. When the students’ behaviours change or physical signs of abuse are noticed, teachers are required to look into the problem. Or in severe cases, report it. Teachers must follow faculty procedures when it comes to following up on all signs of trouble.




It is common knowledge that Singapore government schools comprise a healthy balance of different races. This is a good strategy in integrating different ethnicities from young, which fosters social cohesion and racial harmony. However, there should also be a good mixture of students from different socio-economic backgrounds.


Say no to elitism

In 2013 Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke at his alma mater and stressed the need to guard against elitism as it is something that can divide Singapore. Mr Goh said top schools must play a key role in ensuring that their students do not develop an elitist mindset and a sense of entitlement. Mr Goh said back then his school was a melting pot of various socio-economic students of different races. He said his generation’s experience was that of an open meritocracy that meant “equity and upward social mobility for most people.”

Mr Goh Chok Tong also said, “When society’s brightest and most able think that they made good because they are inherently superior and entitled to their success; when they do not credit their good fortune also to birth and circumstance; when economic inequality gives rise to social immobility and a growing social distance between the winners of meritocracy and the masses; and when the winners seek to cement their membership of a social class that is distinct from, exclusive, and not representative of Singapore society — that is elitism.”


A healthy classroom

What defines a good classroom? A healthy classroom is one with students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Socio-economic profiling of students will ensure that there are various students of different income families in the classroom. This mixture of students will allow them to understand each other more and when the kids make friends from young they will have a better understanding of the man on the street in Singapore. After all, not every family has two maids who do everything for the kids.


Develop empathy

As majority of students are admitted into primary schools based on proximities to their homes, some primary schools such a Nanyang Primary, Raffles Girls Primary and Henry Park primary will have a significant number of students coming from wealthy families living in the Holland/Bukit Timah area where these schools are located. Such integration will develop their empathy for others. It says to our kids: Regardless of family backgrounds and social status, everyone is equal, everyone has equal opportunities in school.



Rightly or wrongly, for pragmatic reasons, Singapore has an obsession with academic grades. With national exams at primary 6 and even an examination testing if a child is ‘gifted’ or not at primary three, it is clear that grades have high weightage in Singapore. However, we should first teach the right values to our children before pushing them to get good grades.


The importance of being earnest

Good grades don’t define us. Good character and values do. Getting good grades may show that one is hardworking and maybe book smart, but it is faceless and doesn’t really reflect who that person is.

More often, when a child gets good grades all the time they may fall into the elitist trap and adopt a dismissive attitude (sometimes unconsciously) towards their classmates who may be more hardworking than them but don’t match up in tests or exams.


The wrong side of competitive

Mr Kelvin Yong, a student shares his views after a recent end of year examination.

“Some of my schoolmates are so competitive, whenever they see another person’s notes lying around they may take it and throw it away. They think that this will deny another person of doing well and therefore benefitting them. I don’t like my classmates who are like that, it makes me dread school and because of this mindset that some of these people have.”


Changing the paradigm

Teaching the right values first will make schools a more conducive place to learn. Everyone, from students, parents, to our future generation, will benefit from this improved eco-system. If we instil the mindset of helping one another, the students with better grades can help the weaker ones. This can actually be adopted in the form of a buddy mentoring system. A stronger student can be paired with a weaker one and he can help to teach the weaker student. This can make learning more fun as well as students can learn from their friends and perhaps even spark a love for teaching.




Smaller classroom sizes are better for teachers and students. Current classroom sizes have an average of 35 students in primary school, about 38 – 40 students in secondary and about 28 – 30 students in primary 1 and 2. In most developed countries primary and secondary classroom sizes hover around 20 – 25.


Let’s try it out

Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera called on the MOE in Parliament to conduct a trial here to find out if reduced sizes could improve students’ results, citing academic studies that have shown how this could improve grades and students’ holistic development.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the MOE said the form class size is only one facet of how it organises its pool of resources. The OECD’s research, it said, has shown that between reducing class sizes and investing in teacher quality, the latter provides for better educational outcomes for students.


Better outcomes

“We are confident that this emphasis on teacher quality would result in better educational outcomes for our students, which cannot be achieved by just blindly reducing form class sizes across the board,” said a spokesman. If it assigned one teacher for a class of 16 pupils – which was the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for primary schools last year, every primary school teacher would only be teaching in front of a class, with no time left for other activities such as lesson preparation, co-curricular activities or having small-group consultations. – MOE in response to Straits Times queries.


Is 30 the magic number?

Even in tuition centres it is rare that classroom sizes go beyond 30, compared to up to 40 students in some secondary schools.

MOE must ensure that teachers do have time for their other requirements such as CCAs and lesson preparations. A small classroom size will actually require teachers to teach more classes. This is concurrent with the views by MOE on reducing classroom sizes as mentioned earlier.

MOE will need to thoroughly assess the reduction of classroom sizes. It might be beneficial to each student as there is more time with the teachers. However, it needs to be feasible and effective for the whole education ecosystem, involving teachers and school management.