31 December 2007

Is Grow 2.0 the Growth Bonus?

Based on the response from the Singapore Teachers Union on the Ministry of Education's (MOE) announcement of its new renumeration scheme, Grow 2.0 may have the effect of attracting talented people to the education profession and positioning teachers and educators more than "a step child" to the other professions.

http://www.todayonline.com, 29 December 2007, More Apples For Teachers

From a reward management perspective, money is never enough. Simply throwing more cash at a problem may motivate teachers to behave like mercenaries. It may also have the undesired outcome of attracting more people into the profession for the wrong reasons, as semi-retired military officers and the unemployed may have once dream of becoming teachers in our schools.

The internet poll conducted by Channel News Asia (accessed on 31 December 2007, 0535 hr Singapore time) re-enforces the notion of "money for nothing" syndrome.


Perhaps, Grow 2.0 may address the "money not enough" mentality fueled by debates on ministerial salaries and pay hikes of public servants. The most significant change in Grow 2.0, in my opinion, is that public servants at the Singapore Ministry of Education may no longer be perceived as "money-grabbers" conducting the business of education.

Competitive salaries, as the Singapore Minister of Education commented, are "a necessary condition, even if they are not sufficient to ensuring a top-class teaching service.” He adds that “there is no trade-off between ensuring that we pay teachers competitively and sustaining the commitment and passion for teaching”.

More importantly, the Growth, Career Development, and Well-Being components of the MOE's reward program may be relevant in attracting and retaining people who have the passion to teach, to share knowledge, and to do something useful with their lives. After all, it has always been the non-tangible rewards that attracted the "people sculptors' into the teaching profession and education in the first place.

In addition, Growth 2.0 may be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise "Gordon Gekko" playground. Resource allocation, continuous learning, career mobility, balance in work life for teachers and their spouses regardless of gender, work performance differentiation, spot bonuses, and the refinements contained in the connect (gratuity?) program could spark an "education revolution" within the teaching profession. Whether it stays a revolution in the classroom remains to be seen as the devil is always in the details.

On a positive note, Grow 2.0 may not be contingent on the exceptionable growth (?) of the Singapore economy. Inspiring young people to be entrepreneurs through education is very different from motivating "bottom-line" results-oriented behaviours regardless of ethics, morality, and its undesired consequences.

An English teacher from a secondary school sums up the MOE reward initiative aptly, “Performance-based pay is a double edged sword because it benefits those who shine the most.” The teacher who declined to be named adds “But there are teachers who are more low-profile, yet doing very good work that might go unnoticed.” But then, if you are starving, it is better to be in the kitchen.

Regardless, the anonymous English teacher has a point. We want our teachers to mould our kids and young adults into thinkers, and reflective practitioners. In the realm of "Gordon Gekko", people may have substantial form and dubious substance. These are the extrovert "money-grabbers", and the highly successful players in the game. As we frame our performance indicators for teachers and educators, we should avoid the folly of "rewarding A while hoping for B".

Incidentally, GROW is an acronym for the MOE pay package for "the professional and personal Growth of education officers, through better Recognition, Opportunities, and seeing to their Well-being". What a mouthful !!! and how creative can our public servants at MOE get?

Version 1.0 was announced on 4 September 2006, and version 2.0 on Friday. Perhaps, our technocrats are migrating from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 metaphorically. Can we stop dehumanizing people by digitalizing them with alphanumeric labels? Otherwise, we may get to GROW version 3.0, release 8A in quick time.

Tomorrow will be a brand new year. If there is a new year message, it would be a "keep it simple, stupid" (KISS) message. The success of a reward program lies in its simplicity, and the ability to communicate its value. Not many of us will comprehend the details of our hospitalization benefits or our insurance policy until we are warded, strapped to our hospital beds, and search frantically for that additional insurance cover presented in small prints.

Happy New Year and Good Health !!!

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