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Wednesday December 13th 2017

Father resorts to crowdfunding for daughter’s debts of $69,000 owed to MOE for failing teaching course

Dear Friends,

Our whole family was delighted that our second daughter got through the teaching interview. She was an exemplary student in school and her strongest characteristic is that, she does not give up in all her pursuits.

She got all the relevant teachers and even her PE teacher to write her testimonials in order to support her application to join the teacher’s trainee programme for ‘O’ Level students.

Prior to this, my daughter had already gained entry to one of the diploma courses in the Polytechnic through their Direct Admission exercise, where they base the qualification on the student’s preliminary examination.

She qualified for health and fitness, event management and nursing courses. If we had a crystal ball, we would not have opted for the teaching course.

I had always thought of my daughter’s strong determination to overcome all odds to succeed in life would enable her to be successful in any course that she took. This is after seeing her excel in the National Team in Silat (Malay Martial Arts) and doing well in training others to master the skill.

She even cleared her studies in the Polytechnic even though she had never studied chemistry and additional mathematics during her secondary school years.

Our main intention for her to take up the profession was because of the values she can pass on to her students, if she were to become a teacher eventually.

She proved herself well when she was doing the course at NIE scoring over 3 points for her GPA. The practicum was supposed to be just a formality before she became a teacher.

Life is known to throw you a curved ball and we were shocked when my daughter did not get through her first practicum despite almost getting a pass for the second observation.

She had to pay $700 to do the second practicum without getting any allowance for it.

This is very stressful for everyone because it is at the tail-end of the course and the amount to be paid back to MOE is certainly much more compared to if she were to drop out of the course earlier.

At the second practicum, she had to take it in a different school. It was as though she started from ground zero because the school’s culture was different from the previous school.

She did not go to a higher ranking school so actually she was in a worse position coupled with the mentors having no interest to coach anyone.

One mentor was furthering her studies during the night and the other mentor had lost all passion for teaching. The other mentor has since left the teaching profession.

My daughter wanted to do her best at this second practicum but it seemed that nothing was going her way.

The following is her personal account of what she went through at the second practicum.

1. I spent sleepless nights to prepare the lesson plan and taken every feedback to improve it and work on it.

2. I spent a lot of time improving my lesson plans, I did my very best to execute everything I have planned during lesson. Due to the amount of time I spent improvising the lesson plan, it hinder my progress to prepare for my other topics.

3. I have spared time to participate in preparing for teacher’s day celebration. I choreographed a presentation by the students for the occasion which have taken much of my own time.

4. I am involved and present in every Judo session and wrote a reflection about what I had observed

5. I paid $700+ to redo my practicum and when I explained to CT 2. She said that money doesn’t go to them. I was taken back by this reaction and felt lost.

6. CT 1 was taking part-time degree studies, she made me felt that I was a burden to her hence, I dared not approach her for help. She too had sleepless nights, her son was falling sick most of that time. I felt stress about it. She did try to share with me about her problems and how she was able to overcome it.

7. She could only spend a certain amount of time with me as she has to complete her own assignments.

8. CT 2 was planning to resign and she did.

9. I came very early to school at 6am to prepare equipments for students so that I was able to save time and able to carry out my lesson smoothly.

10. I tried to approach to CT 2 for advice and motivation to persevere; she said that if I failed this practicum, I have a diploma to get a stable career and pay the liquidated damages and the numbers will eventually go down.

11. I have a friend in the same school, she’s a classmate of mine. She too was teaching the same subject as me. The CTs goes to her and tell her what were my flaws and finding out from her what was wrong with me. My friend would come to me and tell me what they had spoken about me. Why must they do that instead of discussing this with me directly?

12. My friend and I, we quarrelled about it because I was unhappy that the CTs went through her instead of facing me. The CTs tried to find out more from her about me whether I am always this emotional. I felt that this situation was as if they were talking behind my back.

13. This caused me to build a barrier between myself and the CTs. I was clear that I have to work together with them. Due to this incident, I dared not to speak or seek help from anyone.

14. When my NIE supervisor wanted me to do a reflection, I did and email to her. I never got any reply from her on how I could overcome it.

15. A week before the moderation, I came to my senses and told the subject head; Ms ABC  that I want to put all this behind and forgive my friend, I want to keep moving forward and do my best in the moderation.

16. I went back home and take every feedback and make amends. The feedback that kept appearing was that there was no link in my PowerPoint slides and in my delivery. I should add more visual so to cater the different learning needs of the students.

17. I felt the moderation was my only hope that I could prove to them I have not given up. I had searched for hours, videos and clear explanations for the terms which were one of the areas of improvement that I felt I did quite well but still it was not significant enough

18. I have done well in NIE as I passed all the modules.

19. I was late once because of the traffic jam. The rest of the week I reported punctually to work. (unquote)

The thing that we feared most has now dawned upon us. My daughter is now slapped hard with a SGD$69,000.00 debt.

What is worse than this is, the diploma that she received from this course is too specialized for teaching and have no commercial value. This means that she had wasted 4 years of her life pursuing something that cannot be used unless she is a teacher.

So friends, this is where we as a family are now. We are burdened with a debt of SGD$69,000/-. We cannot afford to pay and have exhausted all avenues for appeal, including to the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. MOE says our daughter has to pay and there is no other alternative.

We appeal to your good sense to help us in our bad financial times, so that, as a family, we can move on and have closure to this horrendous episode in our lives. No amount is too small for us. We thank everyone for reading and understanding our plight and donating to us.

May God bless you all!

Your humble family of 5!

Editor’s note: Zulkifli is a regular volunteer at our charity events and his wife joins him regularly. The crowdfunding site is listed here.

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6 Responses to “Father resorts to crowdfunding for daughter’s debts of $69,000 owed to MOE for failing teaching course”

  1. grace says:

    pls provide POSBank savings acc so can do direct transfer. Do not want to use credit card for transaction. Take care.

  2. Charice Tay says:

    Taken from https://www.facebook.com/domainofexperts :

    I am somewhat skeptical of this sob-story:

    http://www.transitioning.org/…/father-resorts-to-crowdfund…/

    Why? Because in March last year, the site broadcasted a similar predicament faced by one Zulkifli Jabal’s daughter, and in that written piece it was mentioned the cost of the bond was 76K. (see http://www.transitioning.org/…/father-fighting-against-dau…/)

    I am most inclined to presume it’s the same person this time round, yet why was a drastically different amount of 69K announced instead?

    Oh and here’s my one word response to point number 18 of his daughter’s recent personal account (in which she stated: ” I have done well in NIE as I passed all the modules”) : BULLSHIT.

  3. 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 of 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 liquated 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.

  4. Manson says:

    She can work and pay back the loan slowly.

  5. anthony says:

    Why can’t she just declare bankrupt instead of dragging the whole family and public into it?

    • xyz says:

      Becoz the father & another relative/friend (probably relative) have already signed as guarantors. If she don’t pay, MOE will use the courts to force the father & the other relative to pay. If no cash, then the courts can force them to sell house to pay. Or declare all 3 as bankrupts, and force-sell their household possessions like furniture, laptops, TV, washing machine, etc.

      I already said many months ago in the original story that they have 0% chance to get MOE/govt to waive or reduce the bond $$$$. Obviously they didn’t try hard enough with my suggestion to downgrade to teach as Pri1 – Pri2 teacher. Salary will be 30%-40% less but so what?? You want to pay the bond $$$$???

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