Is the current System still valid?

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Is the current System still valid?

Postby LightingtheSpark » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:00 am

Hi,

I am a new father of a boy. Starting to think about his education and primary school. Yes, a bit early, but it's just me... I like to plan ahead. I see 3 choices ahead of me:

1) Follow the well-trodden path to getting my son into the "best" primary school that makes sense for us, in terms of distance and available means to increase his probability of getting in.

2) Find a school that gives my son the best exposure on multiple fronts. One with passionate teachers and principals. One that truly cares about the individual students. (unfortunately, I can find no ranking list based on similar criteria)

3) Something totally different. I do not know what this may be yet.

But, I have deep concerns about option 1. While it may be a bit strange for me to be airing such a view on Kiasuparents, I have no ill intent. I just hope to get some feedback to develop my thoughts further. My concern is this -- THAT THE CURRENT EDUCATION SYSTEM WILL NO LONGER BE VALID FOR OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE. No doubt, it is all we have now. But I really think we need new models going forward.

Why do I think so?

1) Graduating from the System no longer guarantees you a job in the real world.

2) The System is too restrictive and is too conformist. The typical graduate from the System (by this, I do not mean tertiary graduate, I just mean someone who has exited at whatever level) is one who is likely too fearful to be independent, too conformist and not too hungry. Hunger and passion is severely lacking in many people.

3) The current System is unsustainable if we, as a Nation, want to remain competitive going forward.

-----

This topic is something very close to my heart. I really got down to thinking about it only after watching the following videos from TED.COM. I recommend you watch all 3 and think about the topic.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robins ... ution.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_s ... ivity.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin ... minds.html

-----
Ok, that's all for now. Will be most appreciative if the community can contribute your thoughts on this topic please. Thank you and I look forward to an interesting discussion.

To the Moderators: If you think this is a topic of importance, I would be grateful if you could set up a discussion topic, with higher visibility on this forum, in order to generate a better discussion. Thank you.

: ) LightingtheSpark
Last edited by LightingtheSpark on Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Newbie LightingtheSpark - Is the current System still va

Postby ChiefKiasu » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:39 pm

LightingtheSpark wrote:... But, I have deep concerns about option 1. While it may be a bit strange for me to be airing such a view on Kiasuparents, I have no ill intent. I just hope to get some feedback to develop my thoughts further. My concern is this -- THAT THE CURRENT EDUCATION SYSTEM WILL NO LONGER BE VALID FOR OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE. No doubt, it is all we have now. But I really think we need new models going forward. ...


The question is, nobody knows what the future is, and even if we do, how do we know what we are doing today will be really effective in preparing our kids for the future.

The irony is, it is because of attempts at predicting the necessary skillsets of future populations that have led to the radical changes in early childhood education in Singapore. Primary school education is no longer recognisable by old fogies like ourselves even though we have gone through the same number of years of education. Very few of us will be able to excel at answering the math and science questions posed to P6 kids in PSLE. Did they change the syllabus? Perhaps a little, but not by so much that we can claim that we did not learn the same material in school in the past. So what was changed? What makes subjects like math so much more difficult to us, even though they are supposedly solvable using basic skills that we should have learnt at those same levels?

It is the "thinking" worker that MOE is trying to create now. Gone are the days where the mere application of formulae and techniques will assure a student good grades in examinations. The focus is on the understanding of "why" as opposed to "how".

Curiosity, which drives the pursuit of "why" questions, is the fundamental ingredient that differentiates the geniuses from the ordinary. The passion to find out why things are the way they are allowed the caveman to discover that fire makes raw meat easier to store and digest. It allowed the Greeks to explore beyond their island in search of new and fascinating knowledge and grew a great culture of their own that formed the very foundations of civilisation as we know it today. It makes possible the things that were once thought impossible, eg. flying, traveling to the moon, etc.

It can be argued that the old education system we went through is a factory that produced cookie-cutter workers who are efficient and able to perform well in well-defined environments and sufficient resources. The question is whether the future environment will be as "well-defined" as it is today. And if not, will the current system be able to produce workers who can work in a more fluid and indeterminate environment?

By addressing the method of teaching, and not how proficiency is measured, the education system will remain unable to spark the kids' interest or curiosity. How can someone be passionate about something when he/she has to sit for a written test to prove that he is proficient in it? And when math questions that are more suitable as IQ or math olympiad questions are put into a country-wide examination that could determine the future of a child, can you blame the outcry from the public?

IMO, it is a case of the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak. The fundamental constraint that hems our education system is emphasis on meritocracy. As long as students continue to be measured by book-work, as long as they are rewarded physically, ie. getting into good schools, good jobs, etc, by getting good grades; no amount of tweaking the syllabus or pedagogy can create the really "thinking" entrepreneurs who are confident enough in themselves to know they can survive and even thrive in uncertainty and chaos.

Ask yourself, if you have a choice between having a good and stable job with sufficient income, versus getting immensely rich but with a high risk of failure, which option would you take? I daresay that most Singaporeans will choose the first option, and since the criteria for that option is to do well in your studies, the obvious pre-requisite is to focus on education.

I believe the MOE recognises this, but faces an up-hill task trying to correct the situation. It has tried changing the syllabus, but ended up with creating more stress for students and their parents because the fundamental issue of grades was not addressed. When it tried to address the issue of grades, it faced immense criticism from the public. Look at what happened when MOE proposed the lowering of Chinese weightage in PSLE, and the new issue of P1-2 not having examinations or grades. See how parents reacted to the issue. The fundamental public opinion is that the education system should prepare children to SCORE in examinations!

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Re: Is the current System still valid?

Postby verykiasu2010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:43 pm

LightingtheSpark wrote:Hi,

I am a new father of a boy. Starting to think about his education and primary school. Yes, a bit early, but it's just me... I like to plan ahead. I see 3 choices ahead of me:

1) Follow the well-trodden path to getting my son into the "best" primary school that makes sense for us, in terms of distance and available means to increase his probability of getting in.

2) Find a school that gives my son the best exposure on multiple fronts. One with passionate teachers and principals. One that truly cares about the individual students. (unfortunately, I can find no ranking list based on similar criteria)

3) Something totally different. I do not know what this may be yet.

But, .....................



: ) LightingtheSpark


Option 1 & 2 need not be mutually exclusive
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Re: Newbie LightingtheSpark - Is the current System still va

Postby verykiasu2010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:58 pm

ChiefKiasu wrote:
I believe the MOE recognises this, but faces an up-hill task trying to correct the situation. It has tried changing the syllabus, but ended up with creating more stress for students and their parents because the fundamental issue of grades was not addressed. When it tried to address the issue of grades, it faced immense criticism from the public. Look at what happened when MOE proposed the lowering of Chinese weightage in PSLE, and the new issue of P1-2 not having examinations or grades. See how parents reacted to the issue. The fundamental public opinion is that the education system should prepare children to SCORE in examinations!


Do we have any alternative that is objective enough to replace the exam grading system to measure the learning progress of the kids ? Until and unless an alternative has been identified and tested, proven robust, easy to implement and widely accepted ...... we are still a long way off

exam system has been around since the days of Qin Shi Huang when he standardised languages and words and oh......he could have finished burning all the books then .........lol
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Re: Newbie LightingtheSpark - Is the current System still va

Postby mrswongtuition » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:30 pm

verykiasu2010 wrote:and oh......he could have finished burning all the books then .........lol


Oh yes, he should have burnt every book on Earth!

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Re: Newbie LightingtheSpark - Is the current System still va

Postby LightingtheSpark » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:32 pm

Thank you for your replies. I understand that this is a difficult topic. Let me state upfront that I am no Education expert but I have a vested interest (my son) for wanting to learn about it and see how it can be improved further.

It is likely not just the education system that has to change, but also the way employers judge their prospective hires and the way that majority of the people make a living. It is a big problem that needs to be resolve at different parts of society.

Verykiasu2010, I think Chief made a good point about meritocracy, which underpins much of Singapore’s success. We do need a fair way to differentiate people and direct them to their most suited role in society. Some form of examinations is thus inevitable. We have come some way in the way we conduct our examinations. Today, you have the Through-train system and I read that 16 primary schools have even done away with P1 examinations. I applaud the efforts our Ministry have put in over the years, but I do think we are far from a steady state process of tweaking the System in the right direction. The way we implement changes seem to be (1) playing a catch-up game all the time, (2) changing without really changing legacy mindsets and (3) not daring to confront the difficult issues, including how we incentivize the teachers and various parties.

Why is this a problem? Playing catch-up means going after the ball by aiming for where it is right now in the air, instead of running to where it is likely to end up. You are likely to miss. Tweaking the system without addressing legacy mindsets is simply putting on bells and whistles onto the same old thing that doesn’t work. Not addressing difficult issues like teacher incentives lead to implementation problems like those that even I, as a 3rd party bystander, can identify and can see getting worse. For example, I think our culture of sending kids to tuition classes has led to perverse twists in the System, where full-time teachers are attracted to moonlighting and worse still, more and more parents think Tuition is necessary (just to keep up, or to gain an edge). I feel sorry for the children, especially when I truly believe Tuition often does more harm to the child’s psyche and is much less useful than perceived. Parents send their children to tuition because they have no time to help or no ability to help. It helps to relieve their guilt. Children just obey, for the sake of not wanting to hurt their parents.

Verykiasu2010, Singapore has done a good job in copying the best of everything from the rest of the world. It is the smart way to do things and also easy for civil servants to write papers to justify. But I increasingly believe that it is time that we thought for ourselves and walk our own path. There is no such thing as “an alternative that has been identified, tested, proven robust, easy to implement and widely accepted”. By definition, alternatives are not like that. We must write our own story. And I think we can. Let us move away from our Colonial hangover, thinking that it is sexy and best to just go round copying. We are likely at the stage where most of the people that we are copying from also don’t know what they are doing. We must think for ourselves and try to design our own. And we can. Singapore, being a small city, is much easier to implement new systems. The caveat is that we should implement well-thought through and comprehensive systems that are not just an amalgamation of best practices. Things just don’t work like that. The changes must be both good in concept and executable in implementation.

Yes, exams have been around for thousands of years. But pervasive internet penetration has only been around for ≈ 20 years. The world has changed and change is accelerating. We need to move on and prepare for the future. Those who believe that the old school still works ought to take a look at our Asian competitors and try to understand how competing with them head-on is futile. We need to find our own place in this smarter web of value chains.


Dear Chief,

Firstly, thank you for starting this thread. Really appreciate it. For a moment, when I saw my posting removed from the newbie folder, I thought that I kena kicked out for raising this issue. But I now know better.

Thank you for your reply. I see that you have given it some thought as well. I will touch on a few issues.

I agree that no one knows the future and that we can only do our best. What I do know however, is that the current system will likely be not good enough. And I am quite fed up with just accepting things as they are. I am less willing to accept it anymore simply because I want the best for my son, like all of us who even bother coming to this website.

I agree that Curiosity is very important, but I think not everyone is wired that way and we probably don’t need everyone to be. Thinking worker? I agree that “thinking” is what we need, but “worker” will no longer be sufficient for the future. We seem to be moving towards a COLLABORATIVE model of working. Societies are moving in that direction, thanks to the proliferation of social networks. Workplaces are also doing the same, especially since employees’ value add is no longer just about vomiting out information but actually USING that information.

I don’t think Passion and exams are inherently incompatible. What is more important is that we as parents do not kill our children’s passion, in the fear that time spent on Passion = time and results taken from exams. In his 2009 speech that I posted, Sir Ken Robinson quoted the poet WB Yeats:

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
He reminded us that every day, our children spread their dreams under our feet. And we ought to tread softly.

Does “having a good and stable job with sufficient income” make us happy? Many live in quiet desperation, not understanding how is it that, even after achieving a good and stable job with sufficient income, they are still very unhappy? Does doing well in your studies guarantee you a good job and career? Does not doing well in your studies condemn you to a lesser job and career? My answer to both questions is “Not necessarily”. I personally know of many counter examples. Passion and love for one’s work is still the most important ingredient for success and a job well done. Idealistic and naïve? Maybe, but I know no other way except to tell the truth about something this close to the heart. Others may continue to live in quiet, desperate, denial.

What can MOE do? I don't have a good answer and am not in a good position to comment, especially without knowing their institutional and political constraints. But I hope to be able to develop an answer with all of your help. Sometimes, change needs to be comprehensive instead of piecemeal. Because only when it is comprehensive, people can understand what you are doing and where you are headed. Timid bite-size evolution may not be appropriate at the important junctures when a true revolution / mindset change of the system is required.
Last edited by LightingtheSpark on Thu Jun 03, 2010 9:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby verykiasu2010 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:48 pm

so what is your proposal ? if there is no alternative then what are you trying to say ?

so what is so wrong with tuition ?

Quote : "For example, I think our culture of sending kids to tuition classes has led to perverse twists in the System, where full-time teachers are attracted to moonlighting and worse still, more and more parents think Tuition is necessary (just to keep up, or to gain an edge). I feel sorry for the children, especially when I truly believe Tuition often does more harm to the child’s psyche and is much less useful than perceived. Parents send their children to tuition because they have no time to help or no ability to help. It helps to relieve their guilt. Children just obey, for the sake of not wanting to hurt their parents." Unquote

does more harm ? to relief guilt ? you come from Utopia ?


why is internet penetration perverse ? you mean there is no good use to it ? aren't you using it now t o communicate with us in this Forum ?

the day Singapore does away with exams will be the downfall. Ample examples from neighbouring country where they make it easy for the bumi to move on the grades by lowering the standard. they graduate without knowing what they have learnt.
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Re: Is the current System still valid?

Postby mocharita » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:42 am

LightingtheSpark wrote:Hi,

I am a new father of a boy. Starting to think about his education and primary school. Yes, a bit early, but it's just me... I like to plan ahead. I see 3 choices ahead of me:



1) Follow the well-trodden path to getting my son into the "best" primary school that makes sense for us, in terms of distance and available means to increase his probability of getting in.

2) Find a school that gives my son the best exposure on multiple fronts. One with passionate teachers and principals. One that truly cares about the individual students. (unfortunately, I can find no ranking list based on similar criteria)

3) Something totally different. I do not know what this may be yet.

But, I have deep concerns about option 1. While it may be a bit strange for me to be airing such a view on Kiasuparents, I have no ill intent. I just hope to get some feedback to develop my thoughts further. My concern is this -- THAT THE CURRENT EDUCATION SYSTEM WILL NO LONGER BE VALID FOR OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE. No doubt, it is all we have now. But I really think we need new models going forward.

Why do I think so?

1) Graduating from the System no longer guarantees you a job in the real world.

2) The System is too restrictive and is too conformist. The typical graduate from the System (by this, I do not mean tertiary graduate, I just mean someone who has exited at whatever level) is one who is likely too fearful to be independent, too conformist and not too hungry. Hunger and passion is severely lacking in many people.

3) The current System is unsustainable if we, as a Nation, want to remain competitive going forward.

-----

This topic is something very close to my heart. I really got down to thinking about it only after watching the following videos from TED.COM. I recommend you watch all 3 and think about the topic.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robins ... ution.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_s ... ivity.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin ... minds.html

-----
Ok, that's all for now. Will be most appreciative if the community can contribute your thoughts on this topic please. Thank you and I look forward to an interesting discussion.

To the Moderators: If you think this is a topic of importance, I would be grateful if you could set up a discussion topic, with higher visibility on this forum, in order to generate a better discussion. Thank you.

: ) LightingtheSpark


Homeshooled your kiddo, babe. :roll:

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Postby mrswongtuition » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:53 am

verykiasu2010 wrote:the day Singapore does away with exams will be the downfall. Ample examples from neighbouring country where they make it easy for the bumi to move on the grades by lowering the standard. they graduate without knowing what they have learnt.


Eh, I know of someone from a neighbouring country, graduated with equivalent to our 'O' Levels, can't read or write English at all. Even in his native language, he can't read well. Do we want that to happen to our kids?


Being a mother to a 3yo boy and someone who has first hand experience with the local school system, I would have to agree with you. Doing away with exams will be the downfall.

If we remove the exams...
Are the kids mature enough to know that they are learning for their own sakes?
Without exams, 90% of them would not even bother to pay attention in class, do their homework, revise what they have learnt, etc.

Exams are necessary. However, changes can be made. More can be done to ensure fair testing (teachers must have taught the concept and technique before testing the children). Concepts that students are expected to know must be spelt out clearly and given to parents in advance.

Also, we cannot push education to the school/teachers only. We, as parents, also have to take responsibility in their learning.
I do not agree with certain things in the current education system. What can I do? Educate my boy my preferred way at home. MOE is promoting 'soft skills' now. How can schools enrich their 'soft skills' when there's limited leadership positions for all to try out? Parents can step in and give opportunities from home or create them outside home through religious classes, enrichment classes, etc. Even through informal playgroups with cousins/other relatives/friends.

Instead of worrying about our education system (unless you intend to type out a proposal with evidence of success to back up to submit to MOE), maybe you should be more concerned about how you are going to build a strong support system for your child. Parenting styles need to be discussed and agreed upon with your spouse too. Parenting is not just about academic education. Before you frustrate yourself with this issue, you have to arm yourself with knowledge on breastfeeding, weaning, common childhood illnesses, vaccinations, surviving the 'terrible twos', discipline, social interaction, sleeping patterns, etc etc.

It's nice to see parents concerned and thinking about their kids' education, but sometimes, we think too much. I admit - I get paranoid at times wondering if sending my boy to my hub's alma mater will do him good or harm. I get paranoid about his current kindy not teaching enough to prepare him for primary school. It's unavoidable for us to worry. My hubs told me to stop worrying and start brainstorming for solutions instead :) So I'm spending alot more time with him, playing and learning together through games and physical play.

Btw, you must understand that most parents are busy earning money for the family's daily expenses. Not all of them can afford to stay home with their kids though they may love to.
Not all of them are equipped with the knowledge or the 'know-how' to help their kids academically. Tuition and enrichment centres are to help the kids. Many kids I know of actually requested for the lessons as they have a competitive spirit too. I personally feel that if the kids enjoy it, it's no harm done. Like my boy, he'll beg us to take him to his phonics class when we are in that area. He loves it so much we could not bear to stop that class although they are shifting and it will be rather inconvenient to drive to their other centre.

If you are going to write a proposal to MOE, do share with us too. I'm sure parents here will give support to a proposal that will benefit the future generations. :)

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Postby mocharita » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:42 am

mrswongtuition wrote:
verykiasu2010 wrote:the day Singapore does away with exams will be the downfall. Ample examples from neighbouring country where they make it easy for the bumi to move on the grades by lowering the standard. they graduate without knowing what they have learnt.


Eh, I know of someone from a neighbouring country, graduated with equivalent to our 'O' Levels, can't read or write English at all. Even in his native language, he can't read well. Do we want that to happen to our kids?


Being a mother to a 3yo boy and someone who has first hand experience with the local school system, I would have to agree with you. Doing away with exams will be the downfall.

If we remove the exams...
Are the kids mature enough to know that they are learning for their own sakes?
Without exams, 90% of them would not even bother to pay attention in class, do their homework, revise what they have learnt, etc.

Exams are necessary. However, changes can be made. More can be done to ensure fair testing (teachers must have taught the concept and technique before testing the children). Concepts that students are expected to know must be spelt out clearly and given to parents in advance.

Also, we cannot push education to the school/teachers only. We, as parents, also have to take responsibility in their learning.
I do not agree with certain things in the current education system. What can I do? Educate my boy my preferred way at home. MOE is promoting 'soft skills' now. How can schools enrich their 'soft skills' when there's limited leadership positions for all to try out? Parents can step in and give opportunities from home or create them outside home through religious classes, enrichment classes, etc. Even through informal playgroups with cousins/other relatives/friends.

Instead of worrying about our education system (unless you intend to type out a proposal with evidence of success to back up to submit to MOE), maybe you should be more concerned about how you are going to build a strong support system for your child. Parenting styles need to be discussed and agreed upon with your spouse too. Parenting is not just about academic education. Before you frustrate yourself with this issue, you have to arm yourself with knowledge on breastfeeding, weaning, common childhood illnesses, vaccinations, surviving the 'terrible twos', discipline, social interaction, sleeping patterns, etc etc.

It's nice to see parents concerned and thinking about their kids' education, but sometimes, we think too much. I admit - I get paranoid at times wondering if sending my boy to my hub's alma mater will do him good or harm. I get paranoid about his current kindy not teaching enough to prepare him for primary school. It's unavoidable for us to worry. My hubs told me to stop worrying and start brainstorming for solutions instead :) So I'm spending alot more time with him, playing and learning together through games and physical play.

Btw, you must understand that most parents are busy earning money for the family's daily expenses. Not all of them can afford to stay home with their kids though they may love to.
Not all of them are equipped with the knowledge or the 'know-how' to help their kids academically. Tuition and enrichment centres are to help the kids. Many kids I know of actually requested for the lessons as they have a competitive spirit too. I personally feel that if the kids enjoy it, it's no harm done. Like my boy, he'll beg us to take him to his phonics class when we are in that area. He loves it so much we could not bear to stop that class although they are shifting and it will be rather inconvenient to drive to their other centre.

If you are going to write a proposal to MOE, do share with us too. I'm sure parents here will give support to a proposal that will benefit the future generations. :)


Eeeieks! Why are you comparing with neighboring countries??? Why do you have to compare with the lower ones to make your points known?

You said, ‘Without exams,
90% of them would not even bother to pay attention in class, do their homework, revise what they have learnt, etc. Ho ho ho.., that’s means only 10% from the school will do well without homework, revisions or what they have learnt from teachers??

Blimey! No wonder tuition fees are extremely high!

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