Our Community

Guiding Trainees on a Journey of Discovery

As a Senior Trainer at the Prison Staff Training School, Assistant Superintendent Theepan Prakash s/o Ravintheran has mentored more than 100 trainees.
He was first a teacher, then a Prison officer – Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Theepan Prakash s/o Ravintheran’s interest in sharing knowledge and coaching was reignited after he joined the Prison Staff Training School, located at the Home Team Academy, as a Senior Trainer in 2015. He has since mentored more than 100 Singapore Prison Service (SPS) officers.

PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Tell us about your work at the Prison Staff Training School.
I conduct functional and leadership training for new entrant and serving officers. I’ve been with the Prison Staff Training School for three years now. Previously, I was attached to the SPS’ Prison School. There, inmates study as a form of rehabilitation, and we also have teachers seconded from the Ministry of Education to conduct classes. 

It was a very good experience because I saw how rehabilitation can come from education. I was previously a teacher as well, and I always encourage the inmates to embrace education and continue to pursue their studies, even after their release. 

I believe that knowledge is power, and what we know can help us to become better people. I’m not only referring to literacy; it’s about what we do with the knowledge we have. That’s powerful. For inmates, it can be helping them get a job. 

Experiencing the power of knowledge: ASP Theepan believes that education can be a form of rehabilitation. PHOTO: Desmond Ang
I understand that you were a Secondary School teacher.
Yes, I taught History, Social Studies and English for six months before I decided to join the SPS. Working with inmates and helping them with their rehabilitation was something that I really wanted to do. Even in my current role as a Home Team Trainer, it’s all about moulding my trainees to be better than who they were. This has been the recurrent theme in my work. 

Did joining the SPS change the way you engage and teach others? 
As a secondary school teacher, I worked with students who were at an age where they may not know what they want to do with their lives. With such students, it was about exploration and teaching certain subjects that were required for their development. 

Now, I work with adult learners. Our SPS trainees know what they want and are committed to becoming better and improving their skills. They’re also more resilient and determined to get things done.

Education as a two-way street: ASP Theepan also draws life lessons from his trainees by understanding how they see things and absorb information. PHOTO: Desmond Ang 

I try to conduct facilitated learning with the topics I teach. That means not telling the trainees how things should be done, but helping them discover the right conclusions, with guidance. For example, we discussed role-modelling in class this week. But instead of telling the trainees what a role model should be, I asked them what kind of role model they’d want to be. And I was very surprised at their answers. 

Sometimes, holding back and letting the trainees answer for themselves is more rewarding. There’s a greater sense of ownership on their part. 

What do you like most about being an educator at the HTA? 
Well, it can be a bit like raising kids! As trainers, we see our trainees for eight months, which is a significant portion of their early professional life as SPS officers. We’re like gate-keepers. We set the standard and tell them our expectations, and we’re often one of their first examples of what the SPS is about, to a certain extent. So witnessing their growth and transformation, and having the assurance that they’re ready for their jobs – that’s really rewarding.

I find meaning in serving others. What we do matters, and I’ve experienced this working in the Home Team, specifically in the SPS, and even more, at the Prison Staff Training School.

Written by

Desmond Ang


30 August 2018

Prisons Management and Rehabilitation
Related Articles