Immigrant Teachers in Singapore Schools: Backgrounds, Integration, and Diversification , pp. 10 of 11

Conclusion and Recommendation

Foreign and migrant-background teachers in mainstream primary and secondary schools constitute a sub-group within Singapore’s teaching fraternity that has received little research attention so far. Drawing on possibly the first study of this kind done in Singapore, this paper has sought to present an overall picture of these immigrant teachers’ profiles and their professional experiences. The study found that this group as a whole is well integrated, notwithstanding which immigrant teachers also encountered and negotiated with certain obstacles or tensions in the process of their professional integration. In the case of the MT (Chinese) immigrant teachers, they felt that the language barrier hindered them from utilising their unique cultural strengths and resources to enrich CCE learning for Singaporean students. Among non-MT immigrant teachers—especially those with more diverse and cosmopolitan life/career trajectories—having to negotiate with dominant local school values and practices that were at odds with their personal values and beliefs was a commonly reported experience.

Immigrant teachers typically dealt with such challenges in a pragmatic fashion, prioritising professional integration with a view to fitting in. Overall, the immigrant teachers in this study were highly conscious of their role as civil servants employed by a government ministry, and thus carefully observed the boundaries and norms governing their professional setting. Where tensions in values and ideologies were indeed experienced, immigrant teachers were careful to keep their personal stances and beliefs outside the classroom. At times, they genuinely shifted their views as a result of working in the Singapore system which allowed them to develop a greater appreciation of the local context and point of view. In other instances, the immigrant teachers entered into subtle negotiations with the system, exercising a modest degree of teacher agency without challenging the status quo.

Considering that educating Singaporean students to become cosmopolitan and critically minded global citizens requires certain exposures to diverse values and perspectives, it might be said that immigrant teachers—especially those embodying non-mainstream backgrounds and cosmopolitan values and outlooks—have a unique role to play in terms of adding diversity to the education system and broadening students’ intellectual and moral horizons. Findings from this study show that while immigrant teachers currently are well placed to enrich Singapore school education through their subject knowledge/expertise (particularly in terms of Mother Tongue language expertise), there may be further potential to leverage on these teachers’ inherent diversities of experiences, perspectives and value orientations to contribute to education in Singapore in a more well-rounded way.

The overall positive social and professional integration experiences reported by immigrant teachers attest to the education system’s existing capacity to accommodate diverse skill sets and talents. Thus, future policies relating to teacher recruitment and teacher development could possibly further tap into the immense diversity of cultural values, life experiences, and intellectual and moral outlooks of immigrant teachers to maximise their value-add to the Singapore education system.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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