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NIE trainee wants to teach students to be future-proof

By Rachel Ng

The pandemic has shown that our lives can be disrupted in major ways with little warning. Mr Clarence Toh believes that being adaptable and open to change will help us better navigate the new normal.  

The 23-year-old is in his third year pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Education) in Biology under the Nanyang Technological University-National Institute of Education (NTU-NIE) Teaching Scholars Programme. He hopes to guide the next generation of students to “think out of the box and embrace perspectives from different fields”. 

Furthermore, as the nature of global issues becomes more complex and requires solutions that span various disciplines, he feels that it is even more crucial to take an interdisciplinary approach to education and teaching. 

“This requires me to build up my mastery of content and be more adaptable towards interdisciplinary integration,” he says. He is determined to make the most of his remaining time at NIE to acquire more knowledge and teaching pedagogies before he graduates in July next year. 

“By being open to change, we can find new ways of doing things,” he adds. 

A calling to teach

Mr Toh’s love for teaching is sparked by his own teachers and mentors throughout his school years. They made him realise there was more to teaching than just imparting knowledge.

He admits he was not the brightest student in school and never saw himself becoming an educator. It was the values and life lessons learnt from a teacher in junior college that sent him down this path.

He counts himself fortunate that other teachers also motivated him to push past his limits. This made him want to learn how to likewise encourage his students.

This goal, coupled with his interest in biology, made him pursue a course that would teach him both pedagogy and subject knowledge. He applied for a Ministry of Education (MOE) Teaching Award to fund his studies. 

As part of his programme, students take on teaching assistantships in schools to gain experience in the classroom. They get assigned a teacher as a mentor, who will guide and provide feedback on their teaching. 

“There is a lot of reflective learning as we teach, which helps our professional development as educators,” Mr Toh says. 

Overseas exposure

At the end of their second year, students get to go to a country of their choice for five weeks as part of the International Practicum programme to learn about other countries’ education systems.  

The pandemic disrupted Mr Toh’s plans to visit Linkoping University in Sweden. Although disappointed, he managed to complete his teaching assistantship locally and is grateful that his learning was not interrupted as he could still attend lessons. 

He encourages aspiring educators to apply for the NTU-NIE Teaching Scholars Programme and the MOE scholarship if they have a passion for teaching.

“Passion is an essential fuel for education. Remember why you chose to teach and it will take you far,” he says.

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