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Our Teacher Education and Development Journey

We have come a long way in teacher education and development, building on the efforts of the past. Guided by our vision to ‘Lead, Care and Inspire’, our focus today is on professional development and continuous learning which meets the needs of our teachers in a fast changing landscape. At the same time, teacher ownership and teacher leadership are fostered as we learn from one another. Amidst the changes, one thing remains the same: we share the commitment of previous generations to bring out the best in every child, by upholding the ethos and code of conduct for our profession. This zone traces the professional development of teachers in Singapore from the 1950s to the present, illuminating significant milestones along the way.

The Early Years (1800 – 1979)

1800s to 1945: From Pupil-Teacher System to Normal Training Model

No formal structure for training teachers existed in the early years, other than a rudimentary system where pupils were handpicked to help teachers maintain discipline and teach junior classes. The pupil-teacher system eventually transitioned into a two-year part-time Normal training system from 1907 to 1941.


1950: A Training College for Teachers

At the end of World War II, an overwhelming shortage of locally-trained teachers led to the establishment of the Teachers’ Training College (TTC) to train English medium teachers. TTC subsequently conducted training of teachers in vernacular schools, following the recommendation for equal treatment of the four main languages.



Briefing of teachers-in-training at the Teachers’ Training College (1954).
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.


1955: Charting a New Course for Education

The Ministry of Education (MOE) was formed with the goal of charting a new course for education in Singapore and carrying out the necessary reforms. Since its founding, MOE has actively implemented and formulated policies on education structure, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.


Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox Boyd visiting the Education Ministry and University of Malaya.
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.


1960: A Unified Training System

The dual system of part-time and full-time training at TTC proved inadequate for producing enough trained teachers for the growing number of schools. A three-year single in-service training system was introduced where teachers were trained at TTC in the morning, before assuming teaching responsibilities in schools in the afternoon.


A teacher conducting a lesson.
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.



1966: Training Teachers in Media Use

The use of audio-visual resources became an integral part of professional teacher education in the 1960s. This was particularly significant when the Singapore Educational Television Service was established in 1966 as a production centre for instructional television programmes within MOE.



The Educational Television premises at the Teachers’ Training College library block.
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.


1973: Formalising Teacher Education on a National Level

TTC was replaced by the Institute of Education (IE), marking a milestone of organisational change in teacher education. Under its first Director Dr Ruth H. K. Wong, IE established itself as a significant institute for both pre-service and in-service teacher education, as well as education research.



Dr Ruth H. K. Wong, Principal of Teachers’ Training College 1971 – 1972 and Director, Institute of Education 1973 – 1976.
© NIE. Courtesy of NIE Visual Memories.


1976: Improving Quality of In-Service Courses

MOE formalised in-service administration with the setting up of the Committee on In-service Courses, with IE representation. This was later replaced by the Staff and Training Branch, to reconceptualise in-service provision as part of an overall staff development strategy.

In-service training for teachers.
© NIE. Courtesy of NIE Visual Memories.


Transforming Teacher Education (1980 – 1997)

1980: Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Educational Technology

Following a review of the education system by MOE in 1978, the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS) was established to develop a range of local teaching materials. Instructional materials included a wide range of AV resources, with an emphasis on teacher education in Educational TV programmes.

Language laboratory lesson in progress at Anglo-Chinese Secondary School, Dover Road (1986).
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


1984: Developing Teachers to be School Leaders

The Diploma in Educational Administration (DEA), a one-year full-time in-service programme, was introduced. It stemmed from a desire to promote excellent teachers to school leadership positions to allow MOE to increasingly devolve the responsibility of educational management to school principals. This evolved to become the Leaders in Education (LEP) Programme in 2001, which focused on innovative and future-oriented leadership.

Teachers attending Singapore's first course on management skills for would-be principals at IE. This leads to a Diploma in Education Administration, developed by IE and MOE (1984).
The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reprinted with permission.


1991: A New Phase for Teacher Training

In July 1991, IE and the College of Physical Education were merged to become National Institute of Education (NIE), which in turn became a part of Nanyang Technological University.

First National Institute of Education convocation at Kallang Theatre (1992).
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.


Our Mission Continues (1998 – Present)

1998: By Teachers, For Teachers

The establishment of the Teachers Network in 1998 was a concrete move towards promoting teacher ownership of professional learning, with ground-up teacher development initiatives.

Sharing session at the Teachers Network (c.2000).
Courtesy of Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Singapore).


2003: Teacher Work Attachment (TWA) Programme

The TWA programme encourage teachers to take up work attachments in other organisations to broaden perspectives, which could be infused into classroom activities for students. It also helps them understand skills which students need in the changing workplace.

Maha Bodhi School teacher Mr Preston Tan, with the article he wrote for The New Paper during his TWA (2009).

2005: Expanding Opportunities for Lifelong Learning

The Professional Development Continuum Model was implemented by MOE in collaboration with NIE, to empower teachers to pursue professional upgrading and in-service course accreditation.

Teachers attending courses.

2007: A Whole-School Approach for Professional Development

The School Staff Developer position was created in 2007 to help school leaders look into systematic professional development of teachers and staff within a school.  

Group discussion during SSD Induction Programme.

2009: Fostering Teacher-led Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) were set up in schools to promote professional collaboration and excellence among teachers, so as to facilitate improved student learning outcomes.

Teachers sharing teaching and learning practices in a PLC.

2010: A Leading Academy for Teacher Development

Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) was established on 1 September as a leading academy championing professional excellence and development for the teaching fraternity.

Built on the foundation of the former Training and Development Division and Teachers Network, AST, together with the teacher academies and language centres, continues the work of providing all educators with quality learning opportunities while advancing its philosophy of ‘teacher-ownership, teacher-leadership.’


2017: A Model for Pedagogical Excellence

The Singapore Teaching Practice, a model of teaching and learning built on past experiences, was introduced to guide and strengthen effective teaching and learning. Jointly developed by local educators and researchers, it articulated the beliefs of the teaching fraternity and distilled teaching practices that worked in our Singapore context.

The Singapore Teaching Practice.

2020: Launch of SkillsFuture for Educators (SFEd)

In line with the “Learn for Life” movement, SkillsFuture for Educators (SFEd) serves as a professional development (PD) roadmap for teachers to focus their efforts in prioritised Areas of Practice according to four levels of Practice in each area.

Launched in 2020, SFEd supports the continuing professional growth of our teachers.


Into the Future...and Beyond

The effort to develop teachers into skilful professionals, able to bring out the best in every child, is a relentless one. As the education system evolves to meet future needs, so too must teachers, as each generation builds on the foundations of the last.