Last Tuesday, along with four other individuals and writers, I was invited to tea with the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Miss Sim Ann to be updated on the Ministry’s upcoming plans; at the same time, we had a fruitful dialogue on the shortcomings of the education landscape in Singapore. Besides the traditional discussions on intense stress levels in schools and the need to continuously empower both parents and teachers et cetera, the discourse was premised upon two focuses: first, on the need to improve pre-school and special education; second, how the growth of the student – at the secondary school and tertiary level – can be rendered more holistic.
Thinking About Pre-School And Special Education
Recognising the importance of pre-school education and preparations for parents especially, the participants made astute propositions on the need for Singaporeans to be more aware of the options and resources available for their children’s development. Given the evolving curriculum and pedagogies in the education system and the increasing demands of syllabuses and examinations at the primary school level, having a healthy head-start would be potentially beneficial for a student’s progress.
Coupled with the perceptions that expatriate parents are more adept with these assorted manoeuvres, sentiments of dissatisfaction are beginning to surface, with calls to grant Singaporeans more clearly-defined advantages in the Primary One registration process. This form of information asymmetry cannot be allowed to manifest; progressively, sessions should be organised to guide households through these various procedures. Parents, at an earlier point of time, should be engaged more effectively and intensively.
Miss Sim Ann also shared about efforts – existing and upcoming – introduced to not only assist in the education and rehabilitation of special needs students, but also to heighten levels of sensitivities and awareness amongst the Singapore population. It seems imperative for students in general to be more cognisant of the challenges faced by their counterparts, and develop much-desired levels of understanding and comprehension.
The Value In Customisation
The greatest argument that can be levelled against our current education system is this: that the pedantic concentration upon academics and examination performance, which in itself is premised upon antiquated methods of rote memorisation and regurgitation, fails to take into account the overall maturity and needs of the student. G.T., writer with The Thinking Fish Tank (http://thethinkingfishtank.wordpress.com/), reflected on her relief teaching stint in a neighbourhood school. She observed that Humanities education there placed emphasis on content per se over skills enhancement, and lamented about the poor reliance upon Information Communications Technology (ICT), and how Project Work was frowned upon rather than adopted as a creative means of engagement.
Educators and the ministry cannot expect syllabuses, pedagogies and teaching-learning techniques to be a one-size-fits-all. Academic performance cannot be the sole determinant for a student’s success within the system.
Perhaps it is part of a cultural phenomenon in which academic focuses take precedence over everything else in schools; even though institutions are available for the pursuit of sports, the arts, individuals seem hesitant to take leaps of faith in these studies. Mr. Soh Yi Da, a political science student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), highlighted the possibility of expanding the concept of Education and Career Guidance (ECG) to offer parents and students more options beyond the sole scholastic sphere; if this proposal is taken seriously, it would be the start of something new.
Some of the other discussions include: the possible need to review and expand the Community Involvement Programme (CIP) and Service-Learning (SL) projects, the merits and drawbacks of the Integrated Programme (IP), improving bilingualism and language education in Singapore, as well as the dilemma faced by Singapore’s universities (how to strike equilibrium between research and teaching standards; for good researchers do not necessarily make good teachers or tutors).
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Looking Forward (guanyinmiao’s musings)
For the rest of the week, two separate posts will look at two key issues that were raised by Minister for Education Mr. Heng Swee Keat during his speech at the MOE’s annual workplan seminar: whether the new Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) programme would suffice for values education (also, what policies should be adopted and how should it be facilitated), as well as the need to engage students more intensively.
An Education Roundtable segment will also be launched in the upcoming weeks. More details will be furnished on the individual page for the endeavour, and also reflected in a FaceBook page that would be established in the immediate future. Do stay tuned for it!