Communication in Singapore secondary schools
This study sought to gain some insights into the communication system in Singapore secondary schools, particularly the so-called 'neighbourhood schools', larger in number than the independent or the autonomous schools. The dearth of research on communication in Singapore schools makes it timely for this study to be undertaken, with electronic communication or e-mail, as a communication tool. This is probably the result of, among other factors, the implementation of the IT Masterplan in Education (Teo, 1997), and the concept of Thinking School, Learning Nation (TSLN, 1997), both national initiatives, which have shaped the communication process in schools, with attendant influences such as school organisation, communication climate and school culture (Refer to Table 7, p. 125). In this study, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. 152 self-reporting questionnaires, (Appendix B), each with an introductory letter explaining the purpose and scope of the survey, were sent to teachers of three secondary schools. The principals consented to the administration of the questionnaire in their schools. Of these, 117 questionnaires were returned. However, two were incomplete, and thus, invalid. Findings were based on the responses in the remaining 115 questionnaires, which constituted 75.66% of the questionnaires sent out. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, SPSS, was used to generate the statistical tables, for frequency, correlations and, Analysis of Variance, ANOVA. The Cronbach alpha on the 185 items in the questionnaire was 0.97 and, for the standardized items, the reliability was 0.96. Qualitative data was gathered by means of person-to-person interviews, based on the Interview Schedule (Appendix C). Teachers' responses served as corroboration of the quantitative data gathered from the survey, and enhanced the research study on the communication climate in their schools. They also highlight how the national policy above has shaped, not only the culture, covered in the survey, but also the climate in which sharing and transfer of information take place, amidst a hierarchical organisational structure, with its authority vested mainly in the Principals and Vice-Principals. Grounded in this set-up is a highly work-oriented cultural ethos, envisioned with the ultimate 'value-addedness' in the performance of the pupils. Such is the communication climate and culture that information flows mainly downwards. Hence, message content would inherently be directives from school management - the Principals, Vice-Principals and the HODs to the teaching staff. Also highlighted was the use of the e-mail as a communication medium. While the younger teachers are computer-literate, the more senior experienced teachers voiced their concerns with IT-phobia, and see IT as a hindrance to communication. Organisational structure and IT-phobia are both issues to be managed for improvements to the communication process in Singapore schools.