MOE Internship

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The MOE Teaching Internship Programme (MOE TIP) is a programme held yearly for graduating students to experience teaching at a school. For the duration of Term 1, you will be able to experience, first-hand, what it is like to stand at the other side of the teacher’s table and be in charge of teaching a class of 30 to 40 students, some of whom may only be 2 years younger than you (and in my case, usually towering above me)!

The entire process can be broken down into a few parts:

  1. Application
  2. Internship
  3. The End (or maybe not!)

Part One: The Application

Firstly, I would like to clarify that unlike most people, I applied for the early provisional round of MOE Scholarships, having been referred to MOE by the PSC board. This means that I attended my scholarship interview first (ie. before the IB exams), and applied for the MOE TIP after. However my experience applying for and during the internship is still largely the same!

The application is relatively straightforward, consisting of an application form and an interview.

An email came in from the COG in September of Y6, describing what the internship entails and a link to apply. As the deadline to apply is typically late October, you will have to apply with your Preliminary Examination results. In the application, other than the usual things like personal details, schools, results and so on, you have to choose your preferred teaching level (chosen between primary, secondary and JC), teaching subjects (usually limited to 2, depending on the subjects you want to teach), and even the school you wish to have your internship at (you have 5 choices).

However ultimately the decision as to what school you are posted to is subject to the schools’ needs, and in the event none of the schools you opted for are able to accommodate you, you will be assigned to a school based on where you live. Based on previous years, you may also need to include character referees in your application, so be sure to contact your teachers to get any necessary information from them.

After submitting the form, you may be shortlisted for the next round of interviews. The interview is a group selection interview, held between late November to early December, with the outcome of the interview being released in late December. Usually, MOE will send another form for interviewees to indicate which days they are available to attend the interview. In my case, I did not have to attend the group interview as they had conducted the internship interview concurrently with my scholarship interview that I attended a month ago. However, from what I have heard from my fellow MOE friends and seniors, all interviewees will report to a room at MOE HQ, where you will be separated into groups of 8-10 interviewees each. The session will usually be facilitated by a current or former principal/teacher, where they will ask questions ranging from why you are interested in taking up the internship, to questions regarding the conduct of teachers (eg. use of social media) and difficulties you may face in a classroom.

Finally, if you pass the group interview stage, you will receive an email containing details for a 4.5-day training session, your tentative school posting and teaching subjects.

On another note, for boys serving National Service and enlisting in early January, you can still participate in the TIP after you ORD. Even if you are enlisting in late-February you can still submit and application while informing MOE of your enlistment date. In some cases you may be allowed to teach for half of the term (up to Week 5).

Part Two: Internship

MOE provides 4.5 days of training and preparation for all interns before you report to your schools to start teaching. Fast-forward 3 weeks from the acceptance email – on 2nd Jan all the interns reported to MOE HQ for an administrative briefing and public speaking workshop, while the rest of the week comprised of training in smaller groups. It was jarring to be thrown back into a lesson-lecture setting immediately after Post-IB festivities; it already felt surreal waking up before the sun was up!

The training was incredibly useful, somehow managing to simplify 16 months’ worth of teaching pedagogy at NIE into 5 days. It was only then that I realised just how much consideration goes into making lessons work. From setting lesson objectives, to different methods of engaging students, activating their prior knowledge, testing for understanding, the list goes on. The teachers for the training sessions are former teachers and/or principals themselves, who injected many of their own anecdotes into the lessons. We had the opportunity to break out into smaller groups to plan a lesson demo, giving us but a very brief taste of what the next 9 weeks of school were going to be like.

On a separate note, IB results day is usually held in the first week of January, meaning that more often than not, either the training or the internship itself will clash with it. MOE is usually already aware of this, though you will still have to email them to ensure they are informed! You will get excused to come back to school to collect your results.

Once the training concluded, we were all whisked away to different schools across the island the next day. I didn’t get a school that was among my choices, but the school I was assigned to was a reasonable distance from my house (a 30-40 min bus ride; my fellow intern lived 10 mins away on foot!). I was assigned to teach secondary school level Biology and Chemistry as my subjects. One way or another, I found myself successfully getting out of bed at 6 am for the first time in several months, and making the trip to school.

Every intern, regardless of which school you are assigned to, will have one (or more) mentors or supervisors. These are teachers in the school whom you will be attached to for the duration of the internship, meaning that they have the same teaching subjects as you (eg. If you are assigned to teach Bio and Chem, you might have 2 mentors, one for each subject, or one mentor who teaches both). During the 9 weeks, you will be shadowing them and observing their lessons, and what you get to do during your internship largely depends on your mentors and school, but more on that later.

The teaching experience is roughly broken down into a few parts. The first few weeks (depending on your school and mentors) will be orientation and shadowing, getting to know the school and getting acquainted with mentors and their classes. This includes having a meeting with the Principal/Vice-Principal, attending staff meetings, getting to know the school rules, and even getting introduced in front of the whole school! During this time, I was assigned a proper desk in the staff room (it was more exciting than it sounds) and my own timetable, showing the lessons I was going to follow my mentors for, and eventually teach later on.

After a few weeks, your mentors may start assigning you lessons to teach, with them observing at the back of the classroom and providing feedback. The content will depend on the school and level you are teaching. For a Biology and Chemistry teacher like me, I taught Secondary 1 Express General Science and Secondary 4/5 Express Biology, and the content of my lessons varied from (DNA) transcription and translation, to explaining the concept of materials and waste.

Besides lesson observations and teaching, I was also involved in relief teaching, where I helped to take over classes when other teachers were on MC or on course. My school also assigned each of us interns a CCA to shadow. I was assigned to the Choir, where my responsibilities ranged from being present at biweekly Choir practices to supervise the students, to standing at the back of the hall with the other Choir teachers, waving our hands and clapping along to Chinese New Year choreography in an effort to enthuse the Choristers singing in front of the school! Besides these, I also attended Staff Meetings held once every other week. It was there that I had the chance to find out what teachers do during PLT (teachers have to learn too!), and to find out about just some of the work that goes on behind the scenes when planning for school events!

The most memorable parts of my time back at school was participating in all the school events. I remember enjoying the cool morning Breeze and sunrise at MacRitchie, while watching my students run by my checkpoint during Cross Country. During the school’s camp week I stayed behind in school with the non-campers, enjoying a good laugh as we concluded a week of VIA and excursions with a movie screening.

Part 3: The End (or so you think?)

I saved my goodbyes to the last week of lessons with my classes. Though my time with my students was short, I will always remember the boundless curiosity and energy of my Sec 1 class, still bright-eyed and excited to start Secondary School, to my Sed 4 and 5 students jokingly asking “Cherwhy are you so short?” I remember the times with my fellow interns, eating lunch together from the uber good and reasonably-priced Malay food stall, and sometimes eating with other teachers in the canteen.

The internship was incredibly eye opening. Very rarely will you get the chance to step into a classroom and be entrusted with the shaping and mounding of the 40-odd students under your wing.  Outside the bubbles of AC and IB, the 3 months of teaching made me acutely aware of the world around me, and how my own education in school has shaped the way I view the world and my own personal values. The school you may be posted to may be very different from the schools that you’ve studied in (such as AC) and you’ll meet students from all walks of life and different academic streams, and immerse yourself in a different school culture. Although you may take some time to build rapport with your students and assimilate into a new environment, keep an open mind and enjoy new experiences as they come. It never struck me until my time teaching, but education is more than just going to school to learn things; it is truly and more importantly, about what you learn about yourself along the way. Without my teachers, I would not be the person I am today, and though it may sound cliche, but the internship has made me immensely grateful for the wonderful teachers I have been blessed with! It also confirmed my desire to teach as a career, which led to me accepting the MOE Teaching Scholarship soon after.

Sometime in the later half of the internship, MOE sent out an email with details about applying for the MOE Teaching Scholarship and Awards, and it is around this point of the internship that most interns would decide if they want to pursue teaching as a career. It is good to note that MOE recommends(though it is not mandatory) that applicants for the scholarships and awards undergo a teaching experience/attachment. Though you could, of course, source for your own teaching internships or relief teaching stints, the MOE TIP is a good platform to try teaching and get a feel if the career is a good fit for you. It helps that the internship itself is structured, providing training to interns before they head out to school, and that you have mentors assigned to you and monitoring your growth and progress over the course of the term. Your mentors will send feedback to the Ministry once the internship has concluded, which will be given to the scholarship panel for consideration. In any case, it’d be good to undertake the TIP or source for your own teaching stint in order to have a better chance of receiving a scholarship, and more importantly, determine if teaching is something you’re passionate about.

If you are considering applying for the internship or are interested in teaching as a career, I would highly recommend you take up the TIP! It helps to get some on-the-ground experience as a teacher, and to see if you have the determination to take up the job. Who knows, you may find it more meaningful and enjoyable that you would expect! From teaching subjects that you’re passionate and interested about, to being mentors for your students, teaching, though tiring at times, opened my eyes to the joy of seeing your students understand new concepts and enjoying their time in school! Even if you decide that teaching isn’t your cup of tea, the experience of teaching and trying just a fraction of the work that teachers do in school, will surely impress upon you the incredible passion and dedication that teachers have for each and every student, and will surely be eye-opening and enriching.

Emma Soh is a Year 7 bound for Cambridge. She likes all things Japanese, playing with her unaffectionate cat, and trying to prove to people she’s not short.

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