“Instead of operating as single entities and focusing only on individual excellence, schools should collaborate as they innovate and improve so that good practices can be shared” (Excellence In All Schools, Not Just Some, Mr. Tan Weizhen).
Building consistent excellence in Singapore’s education institutions is a noble ambition; and as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has expounded – in the news report “Excellence In All Schools, Not Just Some” (December 31, 2011) by Mr. Tan Weizhen – it is imperative for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to heighten levels of teaching-learning processes in each and every school. Moving forward, stakeholders should be increasingly cognisant that success in the classroom should not be premised upon academic performance per se, and the construction of economies of scale can diversify pathways for students.
Diversifying Pathways For Students
The biggest obstacle to Minister Heng’s vision – unfortunately – is the observation that there remains an almost exclusive, traditional concentration upon scholastic achievements. From the pedantic focuses upon standardised examinations with the assigned grades to the obsession over rankings and syllabuses, the determinant for what renders a school “good” appears to be tied exclusively to results. The current proposition for all schools to be holistic value-adders is idealistic, and expectations unrealistic in the near future.
For sustainable change to take root, the MOE and its administrators must design a greater assortment of pathways for individuals to constructively pursue their talents and abilities in other spheres. The present network of Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) affords schoolchildren tremendous flexibility after determination of their inclinations or interests; however, choices are relatively limited at the secondary school level. Schools – “neighbourhood” or not – beyond adopting myopic pedagogies of test memorisation and regurgitation – can develop niches to appeal to the appropriate groups of students.
Constructing Economies Of Scale
Secondary institutions in proximity-based clusters could establish quality centres of excellence, specialising in a unique, differentiated field of interest. This focus can be in design and technology, hospitality management, writing and journalism et cetera; coupled with the necessary resources, manpower and partnership programmes. These can form part of the co-curricular activities (CCA) framework, and should also be incorporated seamlessly into the respective school curriculum. These creative approaches would increase standards of inter-disciplinary education, broaden applicability of subjects outside of the classroom, and allow students to pursue their ambitions more tangibly.
Building these aforementioned economies of scale would ensure that finances or infrastructural development are done efficiently, and relatively cost-effectively.
Parents and students would be the greatest beneficiaries, as they comprehend the notion that true learning is a lifelong commitment, and does not revolve around the report card. Present undertakings are woefully passive, not sufficiently far-reaching, and continually allow antiquated notions of education “success” to manifest in households. It is high time to change mindsets back at homes, make our schools more diverse and less reliant upon academic-scholastic benchmarks, and help students cohesively take full advantage of their education dreams, whatever they may be.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.