The idea of a network for humanities teachers first emerged out of focus group discussions with beginning teachers (BTs) held on 30 April 2014 and 27 January 2015. Amongst the many issues discussed, a call was made for greater support for beginning as well as pre-service history teachers, and for closer collaboration between HSSE and the history education fraternity.
In response to the proposal, the HSSE-History Educators Network (HSSE-HEN) was formed in May 2015 to serve as a platform for networking activities among history teachers and a central repository for resources related to history and historical instruction. Subsequent discussions with members of the teaching fraternity raised suggestions for HSSE-HEN to be expanded to include social studies education as well. This has led to the current upgrade of the HSSE-HEN: from the History Educators Network to the Humanities Educators Network. This upgrade signalled both an expansion in scope, i.e. to include support for social studies instruction, as well as an extension in reach, i.e. to provide opportunities for history and social studies teachers to build wider networks and collaborate on areas of common interest.
The HSSE-Humanities Educators Network was officially launched on 20 May 2016 with the aim of providing history and social studies teachers with opportunities to network and engage in sustained, meaningful discourse with HSSE staff on issues related to classroom pedagogy, academic content as well as assessment and evaluation. The Network also serves as a dissemination point for information regarding recent pedagogical ideas/innovations undertaken by HSSE staff, and for news on research-related opportunities for schools/practitioners keen on developing pedagogical expertise that is informed by empirical research and professional practice. This is one way the HSSE-HEN intends to assist history and social studies teachers in bridging the theory-practice gap in classroom instruction.
In proposing a move towards a culture of professional excellence in history and social studies teaching, HSSE-HEN hopes to enlist the support of history and social studies educators in schools to help promote active and collegial interaction within the fraternity - for example, in sharing best classroom practices, in exchanging teaching and learning resources, or in encouraging sustained conversations about effective instructional approaches in history and social studies education.
A key feature of the HSSE-HEN is its function as a repository of teaching resources and materials, based on voluntary (but highly encouraged) contributions by members of the Network. A number of our enthusiastic and enterprising beginning teachers have willingly stepped forward to serve as web-administrators to ensure that the portal is constantly updated, and to assess the suitability or quality of the teaching resources/ materials to be uploaded. HSSE-HEN will also provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to work on selected project initiatives, while linking them up with history and social studies teachers in schools for instructional advice or curricular guidance in these projects.
As a network that aspires to strengthen the professional practice of history and social studies teachers, HSSE-HEN encourages (and will support) ground-up initiatives that are aimed at developing expertise, as well as ones that will build interest, appreciation and love for the subject.
In striving to make history "a living subject", HSSE-HEN has been working with the History Association of Singapore (HAS) to organise and run activities that are of relevance to history teachers and student teachers alike. In the same way, HSSE-HEN hopes to work with the Singapore Association of Social Studies Education (SASSE) to promote activities and initiatives that support informed and active citizenship. In maintaining a visible presence both online and in the physical sphere, HSSE-HEN hopes to increase the profile of History and Social Studies as critical subjects in the humanities, work together with teachers to strengthen history and social studies teaching in schools, and initiate ways to help raise the status of history and social studies teachers within the profession.