S'pore teacher shares what it's like to spend 6 years teaching inmates in prison

She encounters students of all ages.

Tanya Ong | September 13, 2019, 01:16 PM

Since 2014, MOE teacher Sem Hui Leng has spent her time teaching in Prison School.

In a piece titled "Teaching behind bars" published in Contact: The teacher's digest, Sem shared her experiences educating students behind bars.

Curriculum compressed into 9 months

Sem revealed that she spends about four hours and 30 minutes teaching Mathematics for one class in a typical week.

In addition to that, she also teaches 90 minutes of Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) lessons.

Her classes comprise students from the ages of 17 to 60.

"Teaching in prison is a race against time," she said.

She has to teach four years of secondary school curriculum in nine months because the curriculum in Prison School is compressed to allow inmates to advance quicker within a shorter amount of time.

Students help each other learn as well

Even though her students are of varying abilities, one teaching strategy that has been helpful to their learning is peer teaching, she said.

When weaker students are paired with stronger ones, she noted that both students can benefit from the tutoring.

She also explained that she will try to simplify her explanations of certain concepts and use real-life examples that students can relate to.

Education as a "social leveller"

In her piece, she shared how one of her students struggled in his studies initially, but eventually managed to perform well in his O and A Levels.

This student is currently pursuing his degree in the National University of Singapore.

For Sem, it is stories like these that show her how education can be a "social leveller".

"For inmates, it helps them build a better future for themselves and their families," she added.

You can read the full piece here.

Top photo via FB/Singapore Prison Services & Schoolbag