(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

Some were dismayed. But for many of the teachers who were told yesterday morning that their schools were going to be merged in 2019, there was little surprise. They had been hearing rumours about the move since late last year.

The teachers were officially told of the changes before the public announcement by the Ministry of Education (MOE), which has assured them that no one will be retrenched.

Staff at an affected junior college, for instance, received an e-mail at 9am yesterday, asking them to attend a meeting two hours later. One teacher said there was a “sense of anxiety and sadness” at the session. She added some of the concerns raised included where staff will go. “It can be quite unsettling. We know we won’t lose our jobs, but we are also concerned about adjusting to a new environment.”

Affected teachers will be posted to the merged school or redeployed to other schools or the MOE headquarters.

Some may also be posted to teach at other school levels – for instance, moving from a junior college to a secondary school. They will be provided with bridging courses and networking sessions, to equip them with the competencies and content knowledge to make the switch.

Some lessons were briefly suspended yesterday at several affected schools to inform teachers and students about the upcoming mergers.

Apprehension was felt not only at the schools which are set to move.

Mrs Tan-Kek Lee Yong, principal of Pioneer JC, which will merge with Jurong JC, spoke to about 150 staff for about an hour in the lecture theatre, where concerns about school identity, programmes offered, and academic standards were addressed.

She told The Straits Times that the mood was quite positive. She will conduct one-on-one sessions with staff from today to hear their concerns.

The Singapore Teachers’ Union said any transfer would not be easy, “especially for teachers who had been teaching in the same school for a long time”. It added that there “ought to be a fair representation of key personnel from both schools in the merged entities”. The union will offer assistance for its members who face issues with deployment.

Many teachers understood the need for the merger, given the falling birth rates. One told The Straits Times that due to declining enrolment at her school, it was not as easy to implement some educational programmes and co-curricular activities.

“Students won’t be short-changed,” she said. “They will get opportunities to try out more subject combinations, for instance.”

Still, she felt that it would have been better if staff had been informed earlier, especially with rumours causing some worry. “I feel a bit disappointed that we were left in the dark for such a long time,” she said.

More Info: www.straitstimes.com

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