Samuelson in Singapore

Danette Dooley
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Former St. John's teacher brings expertise to the Far East

Keith Sameulson feels like pinching himself to find out if what's been happening to him over the past six months is real.

"Sometimes, when I think about working with such incredible people and living in a beautiful condo with a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, I can't believe I'm here and not back in a classroom gazing out through The Narrows wondering if there's a place for me out there somewhere," the former Prince of Wales Collegiate (PWC) teacher says of his life in Singapore.

Centre for British Teachers consultant Keith Samuelson at Crescent Girls School in Singapore. Submitted photo

Keith Sameulson feels like pinching himself to find out if what's been happening to him over the past six months is real.

"Sometimes, when I think about working with such incredible people and living in a beautiful condo with a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, I can't believe I'm here and not back in a classroom gazing out through The Narrows wondering if there's a place for me out there somewhere," the former Prince of Wales Collegiate (PWC) teacher says of his life in Singapore.

Samuelson often wondered where life would take him after he retired from PWC in June 2008.

A month after his teaching career ended he left this province to work as an international educational consultant in Singapore where he works for the Centre for British Teachers in a two-year partnership project with the Singapore Ministry of Education.

His job is to enhance the teaching of English in areas such as critical reading, creative writing and confidence speaking.

"It's sort of a combination of professional development/curriculum enhancement position, thus similar to my previous project I work at home but with the full support of the system," he says.

Exciting life

Born and raised in St. John's, Samuelson says it's exciting to live in a financial centre on a par with London and New York and observe rapid developments in commerce, technology, the arts, tourism and fashion.

"They have a world class economy ... and one of the world's highest student achievement rates," he says.

Samuelson's 30 years of experience as a teacher, administrator and curriculum consultant has earned him numerous accolades, including the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

A holocaust educator, he was also a finalist for the 2006 Governor General's Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Canadian History.

It's been an eye opener, he says, to work in the Singapore education system which is rated among the best in the world in terms of student motivation, academic achievement and teacher morale.

The Singapore government has hired consultants from several countries, including the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States to implement specific reforms for the benefit of youth and society.

Like Samuelson, the teachers have proven track records as innovators.

"I think there's an expectation that adapting some of our approaches to creativity will make them (the Singapore students) even more competitive globally, as their education system is a major factor which has lead to economic prosperity," he says.

Strict rules

Singapore is one of the world's few city-states.

The smallest country in Southeast Asia, it gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.

With over 4.8 million people, Singapore has earned a reputation as the safest, cleanest and greenest country in the world, Samuelson says, and recently was rated by the United Nations as the world's most sustainable city.

"It is the only major city in the world that has no slums," Samuelson says.

It's also a place where chewing gum (except for medicinal reasons), spitting, littering and rude public behaviour are prohibited, and English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and Hindi are the official languages.

Teachers are highly respected and accountable and students are extremely motivated, Samuelson says.

"The system is based on meritocracy. The ministry seeks out talent and fast-tracks the most accomplished into leadership positions. ... People are promoted based on their record of achievement. Those who advance have already proven themselves in the classroom, and they're expected to continue to do so," Samuelson says.

He recognizes that improving a system that is already operating at such a high level of efficiency is challenging.

"There's real talent at the top as well as at the classroom level, real vision, real action, and real results supported by data and evident in relationships between students and teachers, teachers and principals, principals and the Ministry of Education."

Motivated students

Singapore's public education system is intertwined with its economic survival, as well as national security.

It's a country that has excellent relations with its neighbours, Samuelson says.

"Singapore's armed forces are among the strongest in the world, well capable of defending this tiny city-state against any attack."

Law and order are maintained on the home front by consensus, he says, with serious consequences for anyone who disrespects the law.

As a result, he says, the crime rate is extremely low and women can walk the streets alone at night without fear of being harmed.

The public is reminded, however, that low crime doesn't mean no crime and that vigilance is a civic responsibility.

With temperatures between 26 C and 31 C most days, the weather is quite a contrast to Newfoundland, Samuelson says.

"Fortunately, it rains frequently, which makes it much more comfortable."

The food industry is also second to none in Singapore, Samuelson says.

"Every nation on Earth seems to be represented in the food industry. You can enjoy any kind of delicious food at any price and in any locale, whether it's sky dining in a cable car overlooking the harbour, sitting in a cafe alongside the Singapore River, or sampling local delicacies at your neighbourhood hawker centre."

Samuelson says his wife Maureen has also settled into her new life.

She also finds the people - who bow frequently and smile often - open and kind, he says.

"We've been made so welcome and formed so many personal friendships with local Singaporeans as well as other ex-pats that we feel very much at home, yet very much a part of the exciting adventure that is Singapore."

It's an adventure that Samuelson and his wife will savour for at least another year-and-a-half.

"I've always heard overwhelmingly positive things from everyone I know who's ever visited Singapore. Now I understand why. I only hope, in all humility, that at the end of our two-year project, the people I'm working with regard any contribution I make as adequate for the honour of working with them."

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Prince of Wales Collegiate, Singapore Ministry of Education, United Nations

Geographic location: Singapore, St. John's, Far East London New York Australia New Zealand Canada United States Southeast Asia Malaysia Newfoundland Singapore River

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • G
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Great teacher, Great Person - Wish you all the best Samuelson!

  • Jamie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    As someone who did the Asper Holocaust study program with Mr. Samuelson I've never had more respect for a person. Mr. Samuelson was amazingly dedicated to human rights and still without him there the program he brought to PWC has experienced so much growth within the school and expanded to others. It's great walking into his former room at PWC and seeing that most of his chalkboard isn't possible to write on because of human rights and holocaust awareness posters.

  • G
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Great teacher, Great Person - Wish you all the best Samuelson!

  • Jamie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    As someone who did the Asper Holocaust study program with Mr. Samuelson I've never had more respect for a person. Mr. Samuelson was amazingly dedicated to human rights and still without him there the program he brought to PWC has experienced so much growth within the school and expanded to others. It's great walking into his former room at PWC and seeing that most of his chalkboard isn't possible to write on because of human rights and holocaust awareness posters.