Teaching staff in the junior colleges affected by the JC mergers will be equally represented in the merged JC, said principals of two JCs slated to merge in 2019.
Earlier on Thursday (Apr 20), the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that four pairs of JCs would merge in 2019. Staff in the affected JCs may go on to teach in the merged JC, or be redeployed – either to teach at primary or secondary schools, or to a posting at the ministry’s headquarters (HQ).
But Innova JC principal Michael de Silva stressed that the merged JC will comprise staff from both JCs in “substantial numbers”. Innova JC (IJC) will form a merged pair with Yishun JC (YJC), with the site of the merged JC to be located at YJC.
But in determining which staff will be redeployed, he added that there are some “structural issues” that need to be considered
“This is multi-faceted,” he said. “It’s not so simple to say that we’ll take the best teacher because teachers have different strengths.”
“Some teachers teach math, some don’t, and you can’t have a GP teacher that teaches math … so as in all teacher deployments, it begins with the students, and the courses and what they need. From there, we decide the teachers that will be put there,” Mr de Silva added.
Nonetheless, he reiterated that his teachers will have a choice in the matter.
“We will be having conversations with them on a one-to-one basis to find out what their preferences are,” he said. “But we will work with MOE on the deployment, taking their choices into account.”
The same goes for staff at YJC. Its principal, Edelweis Neo, noted that before news of the merger broke, some teachers had already approached her indicating their interest in a different posting.
“One teacher wants to do something else, like a stint in HQ, and a few told me they wanted to try going to secondary or primary schools,” she said. “So we’ll work with them; the majority will move on to the merged JC, and for those who want to try other posts, we will help them to achieve this.”
QUESTIONS REMAIN: TEACHERS IN AFFECTED SCHOOLS
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia on the condition of anonymity, some teachers in the various affected JCs said news of the merger did not come as a big surprise, citing persistent rumours that have been floating around for some time.
But even after the news officially broke, questions still remain, according to a teacher in one of the affected schools.
The teacher said that for some of the staff, issues like what was the criteria used to select the schools for merger, the conditions of the merger and how does the school decide who stays and who leaves were topmost on their minds. Others were concerned over what is going to happen to the merged school’s identity, and how it will affect the students.
“There is a certain level of anxiety, sadness and discomfort, maybe a bit of vulnerability,” the teacher said.
It will take some time for people to come to terms with the mergers and its implications, the teacher noted.
A teacher in another JC said staff appear to be “re-evaluating their options”.
“But there is always the concern that we will be redeployed to another school,” she said. “There’s already a surplus of JC teachers and now there will be even fewer JCs with the merger.”
The teacher added that she enjoyed teaching her subject and the cognitive challenge of teaching it at the JC level.
Another teacher, who has more than a decade of teaching experience, said it is likely that the teachers most “vulnerable” to being re-deployed are those in the mid-tier, with about eight to 12 years of experience.
“We know very well that for example, some staff like the key personnel and heads of department will certainly stay, unless they prefer not to. So where does that leave the rest of us normal, ordinary teachers?”
The teacher added that younger staff are likely to be more secure in their position, given their higher levels of energy and newer skills.
The teacher added that if she ends up being re-deployed against her will, she will consider leaving the teaching service.
“Even though teaching gives me this stability and security, it seems like the security is no longer there,” she said. “I think the real beneficiary will be the tuition industry.”
BEST OF BOTH COLLEGES
At IJC and YJC, effort has been put in to reassure staff and explain the rationale for the merger.
IJC’s Mr de Silva said explaining the reasons for the merger is “the biggest challenge faced by the school at this moment”.
He said: “Like the students, many staff would also have an emotional attachment to the place. But they understand the need for the change.
“I called to their attention why we are teachers and why we joined teaching. At the end of the day, it’s about the education of students, not just the current cohort but also future cohorts. I think if one is a teacher – and we go to the heart of why we are a teacher – one would do the right thing via the students. And I think the teachers see it that way.”
He added that communication channels will be kept open for staff and students, and the school will also be engaging parents and alumni.
In terms of programmes and opportunities for students, the merged JC will also comprise the best of both colleges, with YJC’s Mrs Neo describing it as “an equal fusion of both JCs”.
In the interim, plans are in the pipeline for both JCs to field joint sports teams for competitions, and hold a joint open house next year.
“Next year’s batch of JC1s is shared between us and IJC,” she explained. “So even though IJC will not have a JC1 cohort next year, their JC2s can team up with our JC1s to field teams or go for competitions together.”
“Michael (de Silva, IJC’s principal) and I already work very closely, and in fact we go back a long way to when we were in school division together. Our staff also work very closely with each other,” she added.
“So I think we will have a good working relationship for this.”