“It is important that I want to focus my efforts first and foremost on raising the overall standards of all schools” (Neighbourhood Schools Are Good Too: Minister, Miss Ameilia Tan).
On Friday – in the news report “Neighbourhood Schools Are Good Too: Minister” (February 24, 2012) by Miss Ameilia Tan – Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat was reported as explaining: “We have many good schools in all our neighbourhoods. I think it is important for us to let parents know what our schools are doing”.
I appreciate and applaud the general vision that Minister Heng has articulated for the Ministry of Education (MOE); however, I believe it would be constructive for us – starting from our bureaucrats – to actively discourage the use of the term “neighbourhood schools” in our education parlance. Literally, the phrase refers to education institutions in a certain district or locality (then again, which school in Singapore is not in a neighbourhood), but has been associated with unfair stereotypes and connotations.
Students Can Excel In Any School
Most of the time, whether an institution is judged to be prestigious is heavily dependent on academic-scholastic performances per se – the number of top-scorers, percentages of passes in a particular subject et cetera – and this traditional adherence certainly does not give credit to educators or students who excel in other, more “unconventional” fields. Increasingly, individual schools have proactively developed niches in science and technology as well as the performing arts, and allowed their students to excel in these fields.
The term “neighbourhood schools” is really quite meaningless, is it not? We can surely give educators and schools due credit for what they do, instead of generalising them.
Collectively, we must start to recognise that an individual’s success should not be dependent on his year-end report card. Steadily changing this mindset can be challenging, especially if our socio-economic circumstances dictate otherwise, but it is possible. A basic level of proficiency in the foundation subjects is necessary, but it should be understood that schoolchildren have dissimilar ambitions and aspirations.
One of the strategies that could be contemplated would be to encourage cross-interactions between institutions – at the secondary and higher levels – and foster greater levels of understanding (here and here). Beyond the Open Houses, the MOE could arrange for students and parents to visit and experience teaching-learning pedagogies in an assortment of schools, so as to be aware of differing specialisations or focuses. This would not only build crucial bonds across different groups, and correspondingly heighten integration, but also reduce incidences of irresponsible typecasting, and allow more to be cognisant of talents or mastery of abilities in a variety of courses or subjects.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.