“He is just two days into his new job but Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat has already received feedback directly from parents through his FaceBook account and via e-mail”. (Heng Welcomes Parents’ Feedback, Miss Gwendolyn Ng).
The sheer amount of feedback gathered via his social media and email accounts – as shared by Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat in the article “Heng Welcomes Parents’ Feedback” (May 25, 2011) by Miss Gwendolyn Ng – reflects not only the alarming levels of on-the-ground concerns, but also the desires for changes and improvements to be instituted. The concerns penned on Minister Heng’s FaceBook wall range from worries over standardised examinations to frustrations with the purported lack of accessibility for special needs children; however, what is especially poignant is the fact that such perspectives have been articulated in online commentaries on a regular basis.
Organising more customised sessions for meetings with educators, students and parents is a constructive way to solicit honest feedback for education policies, and empower the Ministry of Education (MOE) with comments on its strategies and adopted teaching-learning methodologies. Continued usage of the Internet will also allow for the comprehension of ad-hoc or spontaneous sentiments by relevant stakeholders, and render Minister Heng more sensitive to struggled experienced by the involved parties.
First, school visits are a tangible way to evaluate how different institutions function, and distinguish first-hand what pedagogies can be employed or altered to cater to the needs of the students. Beyond the organisation of regular schedules for school visits, it has been recommended by many – especially teachers – for Minister Heng and his administrators to make unannounced visits so as to get a sense of the developments without the lesson rehearsals and coordinated responses. These sit-ins can be proportionately more productive for evaluations to be conducted.
Second, as efforts are streamlined to provide for more interaction platforms on-line, the MOE should not forget about parents who do not have access, or are unfamiliar with virtual communication and navigation. Simultaneously, as feedback is gathered through comments, emails and articles, the ministry should look into the planning of feedback sessions in various school districts for vis-à-vis communication. These forms of engagement can gather stakeholders collectively, and individual sessions should be tailored to address specific considerations: for instance, discussion on enhancing the value of co-curricular activities, contemplating stress levels, language subjects et cetera.
Last but not least, continued quantitative studies and focus group discussions conducted by the departments within the MOE would provide for a more complete picture of the education landscape. Given the importance of education to the lives of all Singaporeans, collecting feedback would certainly not be a problem if the right mechanisms are set in place proactively.