“To all who are reluctant to enrol in the ITE, do not hesitate. ITE does not stand for ‘It’s The End’. On the contrary, it is the beginning, of a wonderful journey in education and, above all, life” (Lessons From School Of Life, Mr. Aloysius Teo).
I refer to the recent assortment of articles with regard to the education system in Singapore, and specifically to the wonderful letter, “Lessons From School Of Life” (January 29, 2010), by Mr. Aloysius Teo.
The education landscape in Singapore is a diverse and unique one; particularly in recent years, with the implementation of new policies and various institutions, students are given the opportunity to choose from an assortment of curriculum and programmes across the island. From the International Baccalaureate (IB) to the Integrated Programme (IP), from Junior Colleges to Polytechnics, and from the Singapore Sports School (SSS) to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA); this diversity is clearly unprecedented, and the challenges are well-intentioned for youths to pursue their passions instead of conforming to the traditional academic route to success.
However, it seems as if the increasing differences and evolving pedagogies have led to a series of misinterpretations and construed perceptions towards the various institutions. In addition, traditional perspectives have remain unchanged as well. As Mr. Teo has pointed out, there is still a degree of “intellectual discrimination” towards the ITE, even though the latter has introduced a slew of comprehensive courses and has clearly produced outstanding students. On the other hand, many assume that the “smart kids” head to JCs, while the others congregate in Polytechnics for vocational and technical education; even though both forms of tertiary education have hugely improved their standards, albeit in different directions. All these hasty generalisations and unfortunate misunderstandings clearly stem from the lack of interaction and exchanges between the students from the respective institutions.
Individuals simply do not understand the dynamics in the other schools. Coming from a Junior College background, I was often curious about the conduct of the lessons and styles of learning in a Polytechnic and in a school offering the IB programme. Orientation programmes do offer prospective students a glimpse into the schools; but specific immersion activities should also be offered to existing students. Exchange programmes can be organised across differing institutions; thereby granting students the opportunity to know more about the ways their counterparts study, instead of allowing assumptions to manifest.
We cannot afford to allow our students to remain insular within their own books and syllabuses without putting in the effort to comprehend the different availabilities in Singapore. Only through direct interaction and exchanges would differences be negated and true understanding be achieved.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.