To be an ethical educator: Narratives from Singapore teachers in an era of deprofessionalisation

In this paper, I focus on how Singapore teachers, through their decisional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2013), developed and built their professional identities, especially that of being ethical educators who demonstrate high professional standards of integrity and moral courage in carrying out their duties, and are role models for students and teachers. The concept of professional identity generally pertains to teachers' interpretation of their professional image as a collective based on the continuous interaction formed with the teaching environment (Knowles, 1992; Nias, 1989). Through the continuous negotiation with the teaching community on the expectations of professional roles, teachers define the professional standards that (re)define their professional selves, the cultural contexts, and the traditions within which such identities are situated. We focus on teachers' decisional capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012), which denotes the level of competency in reflective practice with the view of deepening teaching and learning through the iterative critique of professional identity, so to understand teachers' sense-making of their professional identities. As a concerted effort by the education ministry to build the profession, the Singapore teachers' identity is articulated in the Ethos of Teaching Profession, which guides teachers towards a desired professional identity through the Teacher Growth Model (TGM). The TGM aims at encouraging Singapore teachers to engage in continuous learning, take ownership of their own professional growth and personal well-being, and to help them be "ethical educators", "competent professionals", "collaborative learners", "transformational leaders" and "community builders".

A qualitative methodology is used to investigate the open-ended dimensions of teacher's professional development. The first phase involved 101 teachers who were selected using random sampling methods to ensure a good representation, in semi-structured interviews in an online discussion board, and the second phase consolidated the conversations that had transpired in the online dialogues through focus group discussions which involved a subset of 35 teachers. Data collected from both the online discussions and focus group discussions were analysed in terms of how ideas, experiences, logical connections, relational networks, and contexts, contribute to Singapore teachers' sense-making and interpretation of being ethical educator as framed in the TGM. The findings showed that Singapore teachers were generally able to align their personal values with the code of conduct, school culture as practiced by the teaching community in terms of being ethical educators but not without tensions and challenges. The latter include the lack of bottom up ownership by teachers, the increasing challenges to professional identity and judgement by parents, balancing equitable practices in increasingly diverse classrooms. The principles which guided Singapore teachers' decisions in being ethical educators, the tensions and challenges faced by teachers as well as the implications to practice and policy will be discussed.