River Valley High teacher wins Outstanding Economics Teacher Award
Ask Ms Tee Lay Hoon, 54, why she decided to pursue a career in teaching 30 years ago, and she says: “I want to tame the wild, and wild the tame.”
What this means, she says, is that she helps students break down complex concepts, for instance, by telling stories that illustrate them, but she also likes to give them challenging questions to which they have to seek answers themselves to take their learning to the next level.
A firm believer in learning through application and exploring real-world scenarios, Ms Tee started the Economics Explorer Programme in January 2022 at River Valley High School, where she teaches economics and project work. In this programme, JC1 economics students have to work in groups to investigate contemporary economics issues before presenting their findings to their peers.
Said Ms Tee: “I was inspired by an NHK programme called the Ground Detective Simon Wallis, and thought why not send the students out as cub reporters to explore everyday economics in the real world.”
Ms Tee, who received 2023’s Outstanding Economics Teacher Award (OETA), said that instead of simply teaching concepts in a classroom, she tries to arouse her students’ curiosity about how economics shapes the real world.
When the first group of students embarked on this programme in 2022, they were challenged to look into an incident of chicken price fixing, where 13 fresh-chicken distributors had been fined a record $26.9 million for restricting market competition and customer choices by fixing and increasing chicken prices.
The students interviewed the senior assistant director of economics for policy and data from the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore to gain expert insight.
“We are able to excite the students who investigate these real world situations, and they can come back and report this to us. We find that the motivation of the students is stronger, and it makes the concepts stick better,” said Ms Tee.
She received her award from Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum at Voco Orchard Singapore on Tuesday.
The OETA was launched in 2016 by the Economic Society of Singapore to recognise secondary and pre-university teachers who have contributed significantly towards the teaching and learning of economics in school.
Ms Tee started her teaching career in 1993 at Shuqun Secondary School, where she taught principles of accounts for almost eight years.
She had graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1991 with a Bachelor in Business Administration degree before earning a post-graduate Diploma in Education from the National Institute of Education in 1993.
Seeking a new challenge, she moved in 2001 to Jurong Institute – now Millennia Institute – where she taught management of business and project work.
She herself kept learning so that she could be a better teacher, she said. In 2002, Ms Tee studied for a Master of Social Science in Applied Economics at NUS.
She then moved to River Valley High School in 2009, where yet again, she taught a new subject, economics.
“Because I did not start out as an economics teacher, it (teaching a new subject) has taught me the value of learning for life to better pre-empt and manage change in education,” she said. “My teaching philosophy and way of life are grounded on ‘kaizen’ – the frequent cycles of continual improvement.”
Ms Tee says that today’s teaching landscape is much more diverse and complex than when she started teaching 30 years ago.
Instead of a one-size fits all approach, the education system has evolved to provide various educational pathways to students who have different talents, needs and interests, she said.
“I’m one of those rare few people who like change. And seeing my students find a sense of purpose, I think that has been very fulfilling in my continuing journey as a teacher.”