P5 vocabulary list shocks parents
by KSP » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:11 am
Maureen Koh, Jennifer Dhanaraj, Benson Ang, Benita Aw Yeong | The New Paper | Tue Jan 15 2013
SINGAPORE - Diurnal.Anemometer.Navvy. Osseous. Philately.
These are some of the words in Creative Vocabulary 6, a book which is on a 2013 list of reading materials given to pupils from a primary school in the west.
It is a well-known, but not elite, school.
A parent, whose daughter is in the school, compiled a list of 24 words and posted it on her Facebook page.
Her tongue-in-cheek caption: "I do believe the school is prepping my 10-year-old for her SATs already".
The SATs is a standardised test for college admissions in the US.
The post has got some parents and netizens riled up, as questions arise about the standards - and stress levels - of education here.
Mr Ronnie Goh, 44, an engineer, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "My son, who is now in Secondary Three (Dunman High School), cannot even recognise half the words on the list."
As a test, we asked Madam Selina Foo, 40, a senior business manager, to ask her kids - a daughter in Primary 5 and a son in Primary 6 - in the Gifted Education Programme if they knew the words. They got 10 and11 correct, respectively.
The list worries Madam Foo.
he says: "Does this mean my kids have been short-changed?"
She is worried that her kids need to do more now to keep up with their peers.
At the heart of this is a perennial worry about the standards and stresses of education here, with many saying that the pressure on children is simply too much.
Late last year, the Education Ministry took the unprecedented step of not naming the top students of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said the move was aimed at recognising other aspects of excellence and celebrating the efforts of students who persevere and reach their full potential.
It is also important that children are allowed to develop at their own pace, and holistically,he pointed out.
But parents are still spending money on tuition - some as much as $11,000on a single subject, says Mrs Celina Ho, 36, a housewife.
She has a Primary 2 child who takes tuition at a top tuition centre.
She says she knows of parents who spend upwards of five-figures on tuition alone.
"There is so much competition and fear. Lists like this make us more paranoid that there are others who will top our kids," she says.
Housewife Bernice Koh, 38, says such lists makes her question how much her child has to go through.
She says she cannot do the mathematics and science questions that her Primary 6 daughter has to do.
"Sometimes, she asks me for help with her maths homework and I'm just stumped. I take about 45 minutes to complete one sum. I wonder how they are able to do it in 10 minutes."
She adds: "This is why I'm forced to let her go for tuition. There is only so much that I can help her with."
Mrs Ng Lee-Anne, 39, a human resource director, is more concerned about the stress that such lists may place on pupils like her twin boys, who are in Primary 5.
Like most of the parents, professionals and expats polled, she felt that the words were "ridiculous" for those in primary school.
The primary school in question did not reply to The New Paper on Sunday's queries on the book.
But teachers we approached said schools use vocabulary lists for varying purposes, like composition, spelling or editing skills, says a primary school teacher, who wanted to known only as Mr Yeo.
Some stick to the words covered under the Strategies for English Language Learning and Reading programme in primary schools, which is developed by the Ministry of Education.
Mr Yeo adds: "Other schools might find these words too simple and plan their lists based on words they hope pupils will be able to use."
Some teachers say that while the vocabulary list is difficult for young students, it actually helps them prepare for the PSLE examinations and even secondary school.
A primary school teacher, who wanted to be known only as Miss Lim, says: "Yes, the list is challenging, but it may help them in the long run.
"It doesn't hurt to have more words in your vocabulary bank. Sometimes, comprehension exercises in secondary schools have difficult words and having exposure to such words may come in handy.
"The schools just wants their students to have an edge in the examination." Gifted pupils may also benefit from being stretched, say other teachers.
"Perhaps the class being exposed to these words is a high-ability one, and the teacher hopes to stretch the potential of the pupils," says Mr Patrick, a tutor from Genius EduCentre, a tuition centre in Hougang.
"But asking students of average ability to learn such words is likely to backfire."
Madam Foo's daughter, Alicia Lee, who turns 11 this year, admits she was stumped by the words when her mother showed her the list.
The girl, who has been getting distinction in English since Primary 1, says: "I felt so stupid and thought, die! How can I not know these words if others in the same level (Primary 5) do?
"But honestly speaking, if our teacher made us learn these words, I'd still do it. But it will likely be rote-learning and I don't think it'll help improve my vocabulary bank."
Next: The Quiz
Celine Chen quizzes 30 expatriates and professionals at Raffles Place on the 24 words given to Primary 5 pupils
Mr Ian Gordon, 60, retired civil servant
Unlike the others, the Englishman didn't break a sweat.
But when he found out that primary school kids were being taught these words, he knitted his eyebrows in disbelief.
"They are supposed to know that?" he says, before explaining "anemometer".
Mr Gordon says of the list of words: "Goodness me, they are demanding words. I can see why Singapore schools do very well."
Mr Choo Fu Wah, 51, crewing manager
He seemed confident at first. But as his eyes
scanned the list, the lines on his forehead got deeper and deeper.
Although he was unfamiliar with only three of the 24 words, he says: "It's too hard for a 10-year-old to learn all these words.
"Singaporean kids nowadays are already so stressed out with studies and homework, and you expect them to learn these words?
"This would be more suitable for a student in Secondary 2."
Mr Kunal Asnasthy, 40, businessman
His shock was apparent from the start, with a pithy... epithet.. escaping his lips.
He knew just 12 words.
"It's amazing that they are learning this in school," says Mr Asnasthy, who is a father of two girls who are in Grades 4 and 8 at the Global Indian International School.
"If students are being asked to memorise such words, I'd be worried," he says.
Mr Pasquale Molluso, 36, trader
He started out as one of the most enthusiastic participants.
And the exchange went like this: "Anemometer. I haven't got a clue."
"Diurnal. Sounds like a fragrance?"
"Navvy. As in, 'whatever'? 'Maybe'?"
As we went down the list, the Australian broke out into an abashed grin when he couldn't figure out what many of the words meant.
After five words, he says: "Are these real words or are you just making them up?"
Next: Can you answer these Pri 5,6 questions?
Can you answer these Pri 5,6 questions?
Stumped parents have flooded Internet forums, exasperated by the questions set for their primary school kids. Can you answer them?
The following questions were set for Primary 6 pupils:
1. I am a 2-digit number. I am a multiple of 4. When I am divided by 9, there will be a remainder of 6. When I am divided by 7, there will be a remainder of 5. Who am I?
2. Both shops ABC and XYZ , offered a 15 per cent discount for the same type of mattress. If Mr Muthu were to buy from shop XYZ, he would have paid $38.25 less than the discounted price in shop ABC.
a) What was the discounted price in the shop ABC?
b) The original price of the mattress in Shop ABC was $1,510. What is the minimum percentage discount it must offer so that the discounted price in shop ABC would be lower than the discounted price in Shop XYZ? Give your answer correct to the nearest per cent.
3. Cynthia walked to the library from school and at the same time, Mrs Lee walked to school from the library. If they walked towards each other, they would meet 4mins later.
If they walked in the same direction, it would take Cynthia 20mins to catch up with Mrs Lee, whose walking speed was 40 m/min.
How far is the library from the school? Assume that Mrs Lee's walking speed was constant at all times.
The following questions were set for Primary 5 pupils:
1. At a Science competition, 25 problems were given. Each correct answer earned 4 points, and 2 points were deducted for each incorrect answer. Liang Hong answered all but one of the problems receiving a score of 66. How many correct answers did she have?
2. To number the pages of a story book, 642 digits (0,1,2...9) are needed. How many pages does the story book have?
Next: Keep it simple, Stupid!
Keep it simple, Stupid!
“Pursuant to section...”
That phrase, uttered with such a straight face by Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee while announcing the results of the last General Election could be the only reason why Iam familiar with the term “pursuant”.
Even then, this journalist of more than 20 years was forced to pull out my dictionary when I was confronted with those words in a book recommended for Primary Five pupils in a primary school here.
If someone like me, who needs to think, live and breathe words, has to reach for a guide, how much more would a child be baffled?
How does one encourage a child to learn – and for that matter, love – a language if they have to learn such confounding words by rote?
Crazy. Insane. Ridiculous.
These are the general reactions that I got from my friendswhenI sent the list of 24 words to them.
“Who uses such words anyway?” they wanted to know.
Indeed. (Okay, except for Mr Yam.)
But I’m also grateful thatmyson,who is now in Secondary 2, has never come home with such odd lists.
That said, there have been several occasions when his exasperated teacher called to complain to hismum(whoin turn got annoyed at the teacher) that “the child was using wordsthat were too unrealistic and/or bombastic”.
What’s wrong with using “murderous” to describe anger? Or, “empathised” to describe how he felt for someone’s bad situation?
I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, but I was tired of comments like “unrealistic words” scribbled in the margins of my son’s essays.
So I had to remind him: Write in simple English.
For someone who has a voracious appetite for books – especially books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare and Stephen King – my son didn’t get what the unhappiness was.
That made him unhappy.
I had to resort to a warning: “Well son, our editors (at this newspaper) constantly remind us to ‘keep it simple, Stupid’...and they, like your mother,know best.”
Here’s another point, a key one, in my opinion – ask any English expert – it is often hardest to write in simple English.
By the way, in case you are wondering – and I am unashamed to admit it – I know only 13 of the 24 words on the list.
Get The New Paper for more stories.
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by janet88 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:13 am
Is there any more control over schools and how they set spelling lists ?
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by nms1 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:22 am
For the majority of primary school children, the focus should be on being able to write and communicate clearly in English. This kind of vocabulary should be reserved for those taking their studies further in secondary school, particularly those who study English literature.
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by SAHM_TAN » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:26 am
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by ammonite » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:28 am
It's probably only for exposure, I won't take it so seriously. It doesn't take any more effort than just a quick check in the dictionary or googling. And even if the child can only manage to learn 2 words from that list, it's still knowledge gained isn't it? Don't sweat it.
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by Jennifer » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:30 am
He felt that parents should not rant about the list as it is just a list.
Actually I find those names on trading cards even harder to remember.
When my elder boy just started primary school education, I was very on the ball with learning the spelling lists and making sure he got full marks.
But after a while, I realised that a spelling list is not going to prove that my child has a good English foundation. Why was I so insistent that every spelling test must be a perfect score?
I learnt to let go.
Some schools might be setting a rat race BUT we can opt not to join in.
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by janet88 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:32 am
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by Jennifer » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:33 am
SAHM_TAN wrote:What's more worrying is why should anyone feel stupid if they do not know the words. And the feeling that other kids cannot top yours.
A fragile society in making.
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by BlueBells » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:33 am
My children's spelling lists are pretty decent and acceptable.
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by pirate » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:35 am
Seriously. Chill. These are words in a book on a reading list. The article does not say it is a spelling list.
Are those CHIJ uniforms I see?
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