To meet the growing demand for Principals to run Singapore’s pre-schools, younger and younger teachers are promoted to head up schools. To improve the performance of young head teachers the Lien Foundation recently launched a programme, called Principal Matters, which is targeted at supporting around 10% of Singapore’s head pre-school teachers with their tasks. One of the partners to the new programme is Korn Ferry Hay Group.
The number of pre-school educational institutions in Singapore has increased by almost a half over the past decades, resulting in an increased demand for teachers. A lack of interest in the profession, high turnover rates of teachers, and a rapidly growing and ageing population in Singapore, means too few teachers are available to meet demand, resulting in a manpower shortage in the pre-school sector. The consequences is not merely the entry level roles cannot be filled fast enough, but also that higher level positions, such as that of Principal, are going to younger and younger teachers.
For one group of schools, the NTUC First Campus, estimates show that the median age for Principals has fallen from 40s ten to fifteen years ago, to 30s today. Teachers are rising up much faster, and, with the required qualifications in hand, a teacher can be promoted to Principals with just two years of teaching experience. Such a short step to being a Principal may mean that they have less life experience but still need to supervise teachers and keep up with various changes in the sector. The additional task of running the school as a business adds additional challenges.
To improve the acumen of incoming Principals, the Lien Foundation, a Singapore-based philanthropic organisation, recently launched a new programme to improve the effectiveness of pre-school principals: ‘Principal Matters’. The programme aims to improve the heads of schools, which is correlated with improved performances for the school as a whole. The programme is supported by four key partners: Korn Ferry Hay Group (formerly Hay Group*); Wheelock College, a top pre-school training institute in the US; NTUC's Seed Institute, the largest pre-school training provider in Singapore; and SIM University.
The programme leverages a new model of behavioural skills, to, among others, provide Principals with a means of better navigating the often trying emotional conditions associated with the position. The model was developed from interviews with 50 leaders comprising ECDA Fellows, business owners, HR experts, and veteran principals from across private, non-profit and anchor operators – and out of the field work the researchers identified the most important leadership traits of preschool Principals.
The programme itself will be freely available to around 150 selected head teachers, close to a tenth of all pre-school Principals in Singapore. The programme involves mentorship from pre-school Principal veterans, a number of workshops, as well as a 12 day trip to Wheelock College, Boston, US, in order to learn from foreign best practices. The programme costs a total of $2.7 million.
Lee Poh Wah, Chief Executive of Lien Foundation, says: "In a few short years, teachers go from managing a class to having to manage a business – from supervising and retaining teachers to engaging increasingly well-educated parents who are often older than them.” With the programme, she adds, the Lien Foundation is convinced the organisation can support teachers in Singapore with their transition.
* In September last year recruitment firm Korn Ferry acquired HR consultancy Hay Group for $452 million.