Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Exporting Singapore's teacher training methods: NIE International

By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 10 Nov 2015

As Singapore's knack for topping the charts of global mathematics and science tests gains fame, its teacher training methods have also drawn interest overseas.

The National Institute of Education (NIE) International - the business consultancy arm of NIE - has been training more educators worldwide in leadership skills, curriculum planning and teaching methods.

What was once a "very small unit within one of NIE's programme offices" has become a main way the teacher training institute shares its expertise abroad, said Professor Lee Sing Kong, its managing director.

The consultancy, which started in 2003, took in revenue of $5 million to $6 million annually in the past three years, he noted.

In its early years, it raked in an average of $3 million to $4 million, he said, adding that the earnings fluctuate yearly depending on the size of projects.

The first request came from Abu Dhabi more than 10 years ago to review the quality of its teachers, and train them. One of the consultancy's recommendations was for a teacher training college, which it later helped to set up.

Since then, it has trained about 7,000 educators from about 35 countries in areas such as teaching and assessment method, and school management.

Its flagship programme, which was launched in 2006, is the Leaders-in-Education Programme International, a two-week course in which participants gather at the NIE to network and brainstorm on changes in education and school leadership. They also visit schools here to learn about the system.

The programme has trained 363 educators so far.

Dr Goh Chor Boon, NIE International's general manager, said most participants are teachers, principals and ministry officials.

Its programmes, which range from three-day visits to three-month courses, are customised to the needs of countries.

For instance, in one of its latest projects - in Jamaica in July - 80 university maths teachers attended a customised one-week course to learn to use real world statistics such as airport passenger arrivals or car population numbers in a city.

Prof Lee said there are lessons Singapore has learnt that it can share, even though education systems cannot be tele-ported in total as there are local and cultural factors to consider.

He added that the consultancy only responds to requests, and it does not bid actively for business.

NIE to offer courses on open online platform
It is working with popular US-based Coursera to cater to educators around the world
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2015

Educators worldwide will soon be able to tap the expertise of Singapore's teacher training institute over the Internet.

The National Institute of Education (NIE) International - the business consultancy arm of the institute - intends to offer courses with United States-based education provider Coursera.

The tie-up is the latest here, after the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) started putting up courses last year on the popular massive open online course platform.

Professor Lee Sing Kong, managing director of NIE International, told The Straits Times that it hopes to launch one or two courses by the end of next year.

The courses, which will cater to educators around the world, are likely to cover topics such as management and school leadership.

Prof Lee said that many educators are interested in the teacher training institute's courses but they come from very faraway places such as South America.

It started talks with Coursera this year to develop a few specific modules so that educators can tap into the content that NIE has developed to train teachers.

Participants will have to pay a fee for the course, at the end of which they get a certificate of accreditation from NIE International.

Prof Lee said that if there is interest in the initial courses NIE International plans to offer, it will offer more courses in science and mathematics teaching methods in future.

Meanwhile, thousands have signed up for the online courses offered by the two local universities.

NUS, the first university here to partner Coursera, offered three courses to the public last year.

This year, it launched two more - one on superhero entertainment and another specialisation programme in public relations for digital media. A specialisation programme on Coursera is a series of courses bundled together.

So far, NUS' courses - each usually comprising six to eight weeks of video presentations, exercises, quizzes and peer-to-peer assessment - have attracted about 180,000 learners from more than 100 countries. In January next year, it will offer another specialisation programme - Communicating in the Globalised Workplace.

On top of courses for the public, NUS also introduced courses on Coursera in January last year for its students and those entering university after full-time national service.

These 28 courses have received more than 21,000 sign-ups to date.

An NUS spokesman said that it will put up more courses in the coming years, particularly in those with large enrolments so that students can have more time for in-depth learning through discussions and debates in class.

Meanwhile, 210,000 participants - including 10,800 students from NTU - signed up for the courses taught by the university's professors on topics such as forensic science and e-commerce.

To date, 6,000 students from NTU have received credits for completing two courses in symmetry and forensic science.

The university's third course on Coursera in January this year, on e-commerce, attracted 28,000 participants from around the world.

Its next course, on Confucian philosophy, to be launched in the first half of next year, has already had 6,200 sign-ups.

Professor Kam Chan Hin, NTU's senior associate provost for undergraduate education, said Coursera has provided a platform for NTU's content to reach a global audience.

Ms Sandy Lee, 22, a second-year NTU sociology student who took the symmetry and forensic science modules this year, said: "I like the flexibility to choose when I want to go through the materials as long as it's before the deadline for assignments."

She added that online learning would be more suitable for science courses which "tend to be more straightforward".

"Humanities and languages still require classroom learning as the content is more diverse and usually require more interaction," she said.

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