“The framework, used in secondary schools, awards students grades for their co-curricular achievements. The bonus points earned from top grades can be used when computing net aggregate scores for entry into junior colleges, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education” (MOE Revises Framework for Recognising CCA Achievements, Miss Tiara Hamarian).
That the LEAPS framework has been revised to give equal weightage across the four domains and include a wider range of accomplishments is encouraging (MOE Revises Framework for Recognising CCA Achievements, Jan. 10). This is probably part of a bigger push from the Ministry of Education (MOE) to move beyond a traditional, disproportionate focus on academic pursuits, to encourage schoolchildren to explore their interests.
Shortcomings should nonetheless surface after a few months of implementation. For instance, there might be greater quantitative emphasis upon community service and community involvement programmes, particularly in terms of the hours and breadth of the projects, but this increase has to be matched by opportunities for reflection and introspection.
Yet within an imperfect system of assessment there should be room to exercise discretion flexibly. Administrators seem fully capable of doing so, and we should be off to a good start.
Objections will still surface. Sceptics point to the creation of perverse incentives, when students undertake endeavours not out of interest, but with a desire to maximise their points. What are the minimum requirements to be considered “Excellent”? Which initiative will be the most beneficial to the portfolio? How can one get away with the least amount of effort? The concern is that students will carry such pragmatism over to the junior colleges and polytechnics, when they prepare applications for colleges and scholarships.
This new scheme may reduce such predilections, but the problem will persist.
One could argue that such intents, besides being hard to accurately ascertain, are not necessarily deleterious. Furthermore the ubiquity of learning opportunities and interactions can yield unexpected outcomes. When I made my first foray into service-learning, I did so with the aim of dolling up my curriculum vitae, to prove to various assessors that I was a “young, passionate, civic-minded Singaporean with a big heart for the community”. It took years of personal involvement and cruel self-assessment – part of the growing up process – before I recognise how myopic and selfish I had been.
In other words individuals can, and do, change.
The responsibility – unfortunately – appears to fall on the shoulders of our already over-stretched educators. There can be frank discussions within the classroom about motivations, and to challenge prevailing preconceptions. Why have you chosen this CCA or undertaking? How can we make our service projects more meaningful? Can more be done? Perhaps parents could feature more prominently in these learning processes, to help the young ones.
It is true that the MOE can get carried away with its unique language, “which revolves on ‘frameworks’ and the development of a ‘holistic and well-rounded individual’”. But where credit is due, this is a good leap forward.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.