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NIE, Columbia University launch joint master’s programme

The Singapore education sector received a boost through enhanced collaborations with the United States, along with a new joint master’s programme for middle-level school leaders.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signed a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two new focus areas. They are teacher development and school leadership, as well as education research and benchmarking studies.

The latest MoU builds on the first agreement on education signed in 2002, which focused on the teaching and learning of mathematics and science. To enhance teachers’ leadership and curriculum development skills, the National Institute of Education (NIE) and Columbia University’s Teachers College launched a joint Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change.

This is the first joint master’s degree between NIE and an overseas institute, and it targets middle-level school managers such as heads of department. As more autonomy is given to educators to design their programmes, NIE director Lee Sing Kong felt the course would better equip school heads to guide their teachers and enhance creativity in conducting lessons.

“School leaders are increasingly expected to play a greater role in instructional leadership … encouraging teachers in bringing innovation to classroom teaching and to meet the interest and excite our students,” he said. The NIE-Teachers College Master Programme will commence in January, next year with an inaugural batch of 30 students. Based in Singapore, NIE and Teachers College lecturers will share in the teaching of modules.

Marrying the Teachers College’s strengths in curriculum development with NIE’s strengths in educational leadership, Professor Lee felt this would result in “a win-win situation and bring (about) a better (and) more exciting experience to our teachers in the schools”.

The latest agreement between US and Singapore also marks closer collaboration in education research and benchmarking studies to increase understanding of best education practices, including the assessment of students’ non-academic traits. NIE is also looking at future tie-ups with Boston College to strengthen the capabilities in assessments.

Sharing his thoughts after the MoU signing ceremony, Mr Heng said the collaboration is part of “continuing effort to provide the best possible education for our children”.

“To provide our children with a good education, we need good teachers and good school leaders, working together to deliver a holistic and future-oriented curriculum,” added the Education Minister. “Learning from the experiences and achievements in other countries, and deriving insights from research and benchmarking studies will also stimulate us to explore areas of improvement.”

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