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Monday January 22nd 2018

Father fighting against daughter’s $76,000 bond debt to MOE for failing teaching course

Hi Mr Gilbert,

So let me share something with you. I hope it will get some attention as it is my own plight with the government.

Yes, many would say why bother to sign an agreement when the terms will ultimately go drastically against you.

My family was overjoyed when my second daughter got accepted to become a trainee teacher right after her ‘O’ levels, especially that she is a Normal Academic student.

She did very well in the GCE ‘O’ Level Examinations — she has achieved credits for all six subjects.

She struggled in the polytechnic, but her hard work paid off as she passed with flying colours.

Well, everyone thought the worst was over.

Since she managed to score better results in the NIE, one would think that she’d certainly pass her teaching practicum (a formality before starting the job, for most).

However, this was not to be.

My daughter failed both practicums.

She did worse in the second one…

What puzzled me is this: it was so close when she did the first practicum, so how come she did worse for the second one?

When I asked her about this, my daughter told me that there was no real proper coaching offered so she wasn’t aware of her mistakes.

From MOE’s point of view, coaching is about writing a report on the findings, but never a face-to-face session.

To make matters worse, when my daughter was tested right after she resumed her second practicum, she was “thrown into the deepest section of the pool”.

It feels as though they’ve been planning for her to fail, rather than helping her to earn the certification.

MOE ceased paying her salary right after she failed the first practicum. On top of that, she paid $700 to NIE for the second practicum assessment.

Even this doesn’t bother me anymore.

The main problem is that my daughter has to pay MOE around $76K  – because failing equates to breaking the bond.
My daughter is a diligent person. Who knew that this can happen to her?

Worse still, the diploma that my daughter received from this course is worthless in the job market. Even though she continues to put in job applications every week, she is still unemployed.

She has one job interview, though, it requires her to handle pork meat everyday — which is not suitable for Muslims.

MOE asked my daughter how much can she pay for the monthly installment. She put in $50 because really, how can an unemployed person afford to pay anything at all?

Thank you, Mr Gilbert.


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24 Responses to “Father fighting against daughter’s $76,000 bond debt to MOE for failing teaching course”

  1. Chillax says:

    I feel your pain Mister. My relative was a victim and i heard first hand stories about others. The shit that goes on in schools is one of unbelievable portions. Every school has certain individual who behave they are running their own concentration camp. There is simply no grievances procedures, no accountability and so on.

    Basically if any established staff have the faintest dislike for your daughter, that person clique will work to end her career in the school. That the reason why MOE are always short of teachers. the ones that are humans are driven out or devoured into submission.

    Bring it to your MP for an appeal. Never pay them even if you can afford to. i dont they will declare anyone bankrupt.

  2. xyz says:

    Normally when you fail a MOE initial practicum, the 2nd practicum will be conducted in a different school. Hard to fail 2 practicums unless don’t have ability to control kids in class. That’s the main reason for practicum failures. That’s why to be MOE teachers you cannot like kids too much or be soft hearted. You need to be an asshole and fuck the kids.

    You can appeal to be assessed for malay lang teacher in primary school, instead of home ed teacher in secondary school. Pri school easier to pass practicum, but your salary will be lower.

    Govt can make you & your dad (guarantor) both bankrupt if they don’t like your repayment ability. Luckily you stay in HDB so they cannot force you to sell the flat. If stay in private property, creditors can force you to sell your condo, house, etc. They can still force you to sell car, and can get court officials, bailiff, policemen to force entry into your house to force sell chattel like furniture, TV, fridge, washing machine, computers, laptops, ipads, etc etc.

    Our laws are based on indian laws of 1850, which is based on uk laws of 1800.

    • Zulkifli Jabal says:

      Hi xyz…

      Yes, unfortunately my daughter failed the second time as well and she was given another school when she did the second practicum.

      The thing is she almost passed her first practicum but somehow she didn’t.

      When she was at the 2nd school, the situation was really bad because the teacher who was supposed to coach her didn’t have the time to do that at all and the funny thing is because of that they push the assessment earlier when my daughter was not even clear why she failed the first time around.

      Some teachers want her to be firm whilst others do not allow her to be like that..

      She passed very well at NIE and no clear directions when she was in the practicum…

      But I am interested to know more about getting another shot to become a teacher at a lower level.

      Right now she is unemployed but going for several interviews. I will still go and see my MP again to seek help

      • Rose says:

        Dear Mr Zul,

        I totally understand your situation as my husband is faced with a $140k payment. How was your daughter’s case? Did you manage to get MOE to waive the $76k payment? Please advise. Thank you!

  3. Zulkifli Jabal says:

    The thing is there are never a clear instruction to do things during practicum…

    Especially during her 2nd practicum when the teacher that was supposed to be assigned as her mentor got no time for her at all and the assessment was made earlier before she could really understand what when wrong in the first practicum where she almost passed.

    One mentor told her to be soft with the kids and the report comes back negative…

  4. Betty Tan says:

    Someone from a SG tutoring website left this on their FB page in response apparently to the post:

    Credits for all 6 ‘O’ Level subjects is plain mediocre, or should I just say it straight: WAY BELOW AVERAGE.

    Perhaps the Ministry of Education could shed some light on how a person can be accepted as a trainee teacher on the basis of such dismal grades.

    I don’t even want to venture a guess as to why she really failed both practicums.

    Something is terribly wrong with the selection system judging by her case.

    • Dico says:


      Even this may offending you but I am going to be straight forward.


      Why did MOE accepted trainees if they think that these trainees’ grads are not up to their expectation? Are those paper scholars who people like you think highly of stupid to even allow this to happen? $76,000 is not a small amount for most families in Singapore already struggling to keep their jobs while living cost is rising like crazy and worrying about when we would be replaced by a cheap foreigner.

      MOE had been spending $350 million a year for free education and even monthly allowance for foreign students while many of them fare badly in Uni and many break their bond and return to their home country without paying back a single cent after they graduate!

      Stop playing the blaming game like you din goes to the right school, you din have the grads, you din have the right family background or even you are not smart enough.

      If you are in the States playing this bitch blaming game, you will be fark by every forumner because people had realised that these are dirty tactics by the rich and well connected to get ahead of the game.

      So don’t try your stupid blaming game, not everybody is a fool and you think you can get away with your stupid little obsolete trick!

      What so big deal about passing with flying colours in Singapore? Look at our paper experts the scholars! They screwed up so badly in the public sector and in the GLCs. Had LKY not been so obsessed with his stupid ideal of the supremacy of the paper smart but work stupid scholars, we would not be in this mess!

      The worst is our education system in Singapore. The education system here train people to pass exam and not to do a job!

      Go to the States had see how classes are being conducted and it will open your narrow view about what education is all about! This is why I must agree that our graduates are weak when they hit the job environment not because of their fault but because of the education system here!

      Singapore’s Unis are rank high not because the education quality is good but because our graduates knows how to pass exams. The other reason is also the ranking is bias towards Unis that don’t use English for teaching. There are many extremely good Unis in Germany, France, Sweden, Japan and S.Korea who did not enjoy good ranking because of the language they used for teaching.

      You think Unis in Germany and Japan which are extremely high tech is below our Unis here? Wake up if you are so backward and uninformed!

      That is why the whole scholarship thing in Singapore is a total fiasco.

  5. J Y says:

    I can understand your pain and anguish. I had heard of a similar story many years ago and the person had to pay for the damages while working elsewhere. The moral of the story is not to sign any bond with anyone. It is better to work and save money for our own education than be saddled with debts. There is a high risk of taking scholarships since nothing is certain in the future.

    I think all employers offering scholarships should screen the candidates carefully using aptitude, psychology and personality tests. Most often, it is only after going through the real experience before we can know whether we are suitable for the job or not. Otherwise, everything is just theory.

    It is like passing the theory for driving, but driving on the roads also involve the patience of other drivers as well. Similarly, in a class, teachers also need the cooperation of students and parents.

    Treat it as a blessing in disguise. Students today are not like the past. Most of them don’t respect their teachers since they can have tuition outside. Many sudents are also getting more mischevious and rebellious. In the end, the P and VP will blame the teachers of their inability to discipline the students instead of guiding the new teachers along.

    Many experience educators believe that if you don’t have the aptitude to manage the class, it will be better to leave the job than to suffer the stress of facing the rebels daily. Most of the rebels won’t be grateful for your desire to help them. They just treat studying as a chore.

  6. Hertz says:

    Funny. Your child is not up to standard and you blame govt? Before one sign a legal binding contract, you should know what it entails.

    And now you want to take the State to court? YOU ARE THE ONE PAYING TAXPAYERS MONEY! Your daughter too!

  7. O0h Tham Eng says:

    I sympathise with the Malay girl. She has gone so far, and yet she flung her practicuum. Her experienced peers should try to help her pass.

    Maybe someone can circulate a petition for us to sign to appeal for understanding from MOE. We can try to contribute ideas for how they petition could be written.

  8. Zulkifli Jabal says:

    Betty Tan, yes.. to you its a mediocre results but my daughter did it without any tuition throughout her schooling life.

    She qualified for all the diploma courses but chose to be a teacher because she wanted to show people that with pure consistent hard work one can achieve anything one sets ones’s sight upon…

    She failed at her first practicum due to the failure to control the class during moderation and she cannot be faulted just because of that when her CT had advised her earlier not to be too firm with the class..

    My daughter is a very firm person and very focus but the CT’s advised throw her off balance. The CT apologized profusely but what can be done ?

    Yes, I think Betty you may think only highly qualified straight A’s students can become a teacher, how myopic can you be…

  9. Jeff Chang says:

    There are many people who scored straight As without tuition. I am sorry to hear about your daughter’s predicament, still it does not take away from the fact your daughter’s results do SUCK. Its not about being myopic, its about playing things safe. Who would feel comfortable with a teacher who has below average scores? I for one would stay far away from your daughter and not let her teach my son. Harsh truths which you can’t face up to.

  10. jacques says:

    An old classmate of mine, he was from an Integrated Programme school, has almost straight A’s in his O & A levels, local uni engineering honours degree. But still fail his practicum for math in a primary school. The principal told him being smart doesn’t mean he’s fit to teach, & failed him. Chillax is right: Basically if any established staff have the faintest dislike for your daughter, that person clique will work to end her career in the school.

  11. Zulkifli Jabal says:

    Hi Jeff Chang,

    You may think the world about high achievers and you got all the right to feel that way…

    If MOE deemed my daughter to be unfit to teach, why did they accept her in the first place, she did aced her Home Econs for your info.

    If MOE did not accept her, there were many other courses wanting to let her in..

    Well, an update… she has been accepted into the advance diploma in sports management and we will go not pay MOE a single cent for the LD

  12. Fascinated says:

    Someone with just six CCE “O” levels can get accepted by the MOE for a course at the NIE and thereafter become a teacher?

    I think the fault is not with Zul’s daughter.

    It plainly rests with the selectors who accepted her knowing pretty well what the outcome would be. Achieving mediocre results may not indicate acceptable academic prowess. You need creative and analytical thinking, especially in dealing with children nowadays. They are inquisitive and curious in ways more sophisticated than a generation ago.

    It could also indicate how desperate the MOE is trying to plug the teacher shortage.

    Even if she passes, it’s likely she’ll be posted to a neighbourhood school.

    From there, you can imagine what damage would be done to the neighbourhood kids with a merely competent teacher. With an outstanding teacher, mediocre kids become “A” star pupils. Small wonder that the average school going child must have outside tuition to supplement what they are not properly taught at school.

    They want to make all neighbourhood schools “good” schools.

    Yeah, right. Dream on………..

  13. sal says:

    @Fascinated, the min qualification eg 5 o level + pass the interview…. As long you make the min requirements n passed your interview, you’re enrolled for the course. So its not the gal fault to qualified for this course. Maybe the MOE should review the case and see how they can help this individual… by case basis, what if this gal just need 1 or 2 points to make the marks.

  14. Dico says:

    Mr. Zul,

    This is what you get for voting PAP.

    Do you know that PAP spend $350 MILLION EVERY YEAR AS FREE EDUCTION for foreign students while they make sure they get every single back from us?

    Many foreign students on scholarship fare badly and most did not complete the bond upon completion of their studies and MOE is doing almost NOTHING ABOUT IT. The only thing that MOE had did is to cover up until it was dig up recently!

    • Tiffany says:

      Hi Dico. As a foreign student studying in Singapore I cannot just accept your baseless claim that foreign students have it easy here. The amount you mentioned is indeed big, but it is only a little amount when compared to the money spent on education for Singaporeans.

      I am neither a supporter of PAP nor a hater/opposition. As a secondary school student from an ASEAN country, I pay about $500 in school fees every month! And my Singaporean friends only pay a tiny fraction of it! ($15?)

      Many of us come here prepared to spend big money on education, and we work hard to make sure our parents’ sacrifices don’t go to waste.

      Now that I have made my point, I do wish Zafirah much patience and perseverance. If she truly is working hard, she will get her rewards in due time.


  15. asl says:

    im a current teacher working at NIE and i want to break my bond cause of the inhuman workload. i would need to pay them the same amount back too, which i couldn’t possibly have since our pay is only 1.6k per month. Just want to know is it okay to pay in installment or not.

  16. LTEH says:

    Hi. I am also a student studying at NIE. Just sharing my honest opinion – I think before signing a bond, one should be responsible of the outcome. It is already known that there is a penalty for failure, and that everyone signing it should have thought through the choice clearly; it is one’s own responsibility… I don’t believe there’s much fault/blame on the interviewers or selecting panel. As for the matter of failing practicums, a lot is based on luck (whether you meet nice senior teachers or not). I’ve heard stories whereby there are teachers bitter to new trainees, so marking them down by a lot. I don’t think it’s an intentional act whereby the government is trying to ‘sabo’ us – look at the ratio of graduates to failures. In fact, I have a lot of seniors pulling through their practicums. Teaching isn’t a simple job. I guess much consideration have to be made before tying yourself to a bond especially with such a high amount (because you actually get paid to study + bonus for maintaining a GPA of a certain cap). More monetary benefits = higher risks if you were to fail. A trade off I guess.

  17. Reality says:

    Maybe as parents, we should rebook at being supportive to our children when it comes to jobs with sponsorship and bonds.

    No offence Mr Zul, but allow me to share my views.

    There are many organisations out there offering similar bond related sponsorships to students who are at the O-level or A-level age.

    I have seen many and spoken to many parents whose children are in the same situation as your daughter. Most parents have been supportive when being told of the opportunity .
    Beyond passion and being guaranteed a stable and full time job upon graduation , did we do our due diligence to access if our children are able to handle the job?

    1. At the age of 17-18, can we determine if our children actually know the stress behind the job?
    2. Beyond passion, do our children have the mental strength to ‘slug’ it out the whole bond?
    3. Interviews and analysis are just modes to qualify the potential candidate as much as possible, but it is us as parents who will know our children the best when it ones to strengths and weaknesses. So do we ourselves analyze or understand ia our children are abad to Handle teh hazards of the job?
    4. Whatever jobs that have bonds definitely comes with penalties, do our children understand the severity?

    I am not in anyway implying that education grades play a part here . But my main concern is about parents allowing their children to sign on bonds at an age that they have not even experienced the harshness of the working society.

    And let’s say if you were to be the policy maker of the NIE sponsorship, what would you do?
    Bearing in mind that if you allow a deviation or concession from the current policy , you have to make sure this is Also allowed for future similar situations.

    Lastly, if another practicum was allowed and your daughter was given the opportunity again and passed, do you still confidently think that she could still last the full bond?

    My humble advice that you try to find out if your daughter is able to handle the stress level that comes with the job

    I am aware that teachers to cry and get depressed over school too.

    It’s not an easy Job.

    So when our children fail, whose fault is it?

  18. Brandon says:

    Mt. Zul,

    A legally binding contract was entered into between MOE and your daughter.

    Terms and conditions are clearly and specifically spelt out. Your daughter comprehends them ya?

    Your daughter wasn’t held at gunpoint and forced to sign it, no?

    To simply brush it aside, and cite various reasons, or rather excuses, ain’t right.

    Speaks volumes about one’s character to simply disregard any contracts should one is at the short end of it.

    I sincerely hope there’s a guarantor involved, and the MOE gets back what’s due.

    Formal contracts are entered into for a reason. To be binding.

  19. jasmine says:

    I am speaking as an MOE teacher who just graduated NIE and completed Practicum a few years back. For every Practicum, a trainee is required to undergo a total 8 formal lesson observations by his/her Co-operating Teachers (CT) aka mentor. Out of these 8, there will usually be 2 where an external mentor from NIE will be present as well. In the event that a trainee is deemed likely to fail or be awarded an Excellent grade, the school is required to notify MOE in advance so that an external moderator can come down to provide an additional avenue of assessment for the trainee. Very often, school leaders such as the HOD, P and VP will also get involved, as failing Practicum is actually a pretty rare case. Therefore, when a trainee is deemed to have failed, it is a joint agreement made by the CTs, school leaders, NIE mentor and external moderator. While it is a possibility that the CTs were very unhelpful, it seems a little unlikely that the mentor as well as the third-party moderator would also have provided no help or feedback at all. From what I understand, it is a must for the NIE mentor to sit down with the trainee after the 2 formal observations and give the trainee feedback. It would be good if Mr Zul could clarify as to whether this was done. If it wasn’t, then perhaps that could be cause for concern. The truth is, it is actually easier to just close one eye and pass a poor-performing trainee than to fail her, because the latter would result in a lot more work (meetings, paper work etc) for all parties. So for both schools to have made the decision to fail the trainee, I think it does say something about the trainee’s performance.

    It seems that the main reason why Mr Zul’s daughter failed her Practicum was because of her inability to manage the students. This is actually one of the most important skills for a teacher as whether or not teaching can take place depends on whether or not the students are behaving properly. It is also another reason why trainees go through a Practicum, to give them first-hand experience to learn how to manage a large class of students (and therefore, the Practicum is really NOT just a formality, it is a chance for trainees to learn and for MOE to assess with more certainty whether or not a person is suitable. After all, how would it be possible to determine from just an interview or some tests whether a person can manage a class?) I’m not sure why the CT apparently told Mr Zul’s daughter to be ‘less firm’ with the class during observation, but if this was really the case, was this direction questioned? Especially since one of the favourite things NIE always drills into trainees is ‘be firm and fair, but not fierce’. Mr Zul’s daughter was training to become a Home Econs teacher, and I believe that is a subject where classroom management is especially important, because students are working around potentially dangerous things like knives and fire. I’m sure no parent would want their child to be in a Home Econs class taught by a teacher who is not able to control the students, so if classroom management was really a big issue, then it’s unfortunate but also only responsible and necessary that the candidate not be allowed to become a full-fledged teacher.

    The unfortunate thing is that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher, the same way not everyone is cut out to be a salesperson, or an artist, or a doctor. Presumably it is possible to hone your skills and nurture a young trainee slowly, but the government also has to justify the amount of resources it is able to invest in someone who does not appear to have much aptitude for the job. Sometimes passion and hard work just isn’t enough. After all, this is also a job where the person will receive a salary and other benefits, and the opportunity cost for keeping someone who needs a lot of help is to deny someone else who might be able to do the job better. The harsh reality is, in the private sector, if someone is not cut out for the job, he gets the sack immediately. Just because this is MOE does not make it obliged to invest lots of manpower and resources to ‘guide’ someone who is clearly struggling – this is not the same as when we see cases with struggling students, who are the real people MOE needs to focus on.

    At the end of the day, the conditions (including having to pay liquidated damages in the event of failing the course – which happens when you fail Practicum twice) have been clearly spelled out in the contract that Mr Zul’s daughter signed. I understand that it is a huge amount for most families in Singapore, but on the other hand, it wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers to waive the amount as well. The money spent on the trainee’s tuition fees and as allowance / salary paid to the trainee while studying are public funds after all, and I do think MOE has the responsibility to recover this money when the trainee is unable (whether willingly or not) to meet the requirements and fulfil the original duty that she was groomed and paid for. Afterall, this money could have been spent on another stronger candidate, and the position given up to someone else who might have passed.
    Lastly, regarding the candidate’s O level results, while it was not stellar, I think it is entirely acceptable, especially for the scheme that the candidate was under. I have a few colleagues teaching Home Econs and Art who went through the same scheme (Poly and then a Diploma in NIE) with below-average O level results as well, but they are all very competent teachers, because the truth is, you don’t need an O Level Distinction in subjects such as Maths or Literature to be a good Home Econs /Art / Music teacher.

    After writing so much, I really have lots of sympathy for Mr Zul’s daughter, it must have been a terrible experience to suffer through, but unfortunately, sometimes we just have to learn from such painful life lessons, dust ourselves off, and try to figure out how to make our situation better instead. I hope Mr Zul’s daughter is able to find another vocation that she is passionate about, and can perform well in. All the best.

    • Rose says:

      As an MOE teacher myself for the past few years, I have learnt about how a practicum should be like is as what you have stated. I was never aware about such details, and I went through practicum in a blur as I was loaded with 30 periods per week. As I’ve said, it is how a practicum SHOULD be like but it does not mean that it is true for all. My husband, unfortunately, was met with a similar situation as Mr Zul’s daughter, except that he has to pay $140k to MOE. He does not know why/how he failed his practicum – he was not informed about it. We tried to ask MOE but MOE refused to tell us. Over the past years, I have seen new teachers who do not know the basics of their teaching subject yet they still pass their practicum smoothly. Hard truth.

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