Calls to review Singapore's education system

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Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby Zhuge » Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:55 am

1. Too many exams
2. Too much obsession of getting into a good school
3. Review the Gifted Education Programme
4. Review the Special Assistance Plan
5. Review the Primary School Leaving Examination
6. Review the Primary 1 registration exercise,
7. Review the term 'neighbourhood school"

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Schools debate leaves questions unanswered
Ministry, parents need to stop talking at cross purposes for a start, to bring about understanding


Published on Mar 9, 2012

By Ignatius Low, News Editor

FIX the system, MPs wailed yesterday, when Parliament turned its attention to the issue that every parent has an opinion on - education. Each had his own suggestions of just what needed fixing.


Yes, we are working on it, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat seemed to say in response. Although, the problem was not so much the system, as the people who use it.


So in the end, the debate resembled that familiar old situation of the student who writes a good essay, but leaves his reader feeling he has not quite answered the question.


Background story
Mr Heng surely knows that the real challenge for his ministry is to reach out to parents and make them better understand the import of the changes he is making to the system.
In a day devoted almost entirely to debating the state of education here, MPs stood up one after another to raise concerns about what they thought to be fundamental problems with Singapore's education system.


Too many examinations that matter too much to the final result, they griped. Too much obsession over getting into a good school.


The result is stressed-out parents pressurising even more stressed-out children, they warned. There is no joy in learning any more and no one, literally, stops to smell the flowers, lamented Nominated MP and Nature Society member Faizah Jamal.


Instead, Singapore has become a 'tuition nation', declared Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC).


NMP Laurence Lien even put a number to it, calculating that parents spend more than $820 million yearly on tuition - 'a massive misallocation of resources nationally', he said.


Acronyms began to fly fast and furious around the Chamber.


Review the Gifted Education Programme and the Special Assistance Plan, some said.


Review the Primary School Leaving Examination, said others - and for good measure, all other such 'standardised unified exams'.


Review the Primary 1 registration exercise, suggested Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), while Ms Phua proposed a 'think-tank' get to the bottom of the nation's heavy reliance on tuition.


Review even the term 'neighbourhood schools', urged Mr Teo Ser Luck (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), a proud graduate of one himself.


At least four MPs rose to recommend the Finnish model, or at least some aspects of it.


The Finns scrapped PSLE and were none the worse for it, said Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who must have broken some sort of record yesterday on the number of times a member rose to speak in one session.


Tantalisingly, the Finnish model ensures no assessment based on grades or marks is allowed for any student below 12 years old, noted Mr Lien.


The result is 'less homework, more creative play and critical thinking', concluded NMP Tan Su Shan, yet the Finns continue to produce leading student scores globally.


Well, if MPs thought they were going to get anywhere with these pithy suggestions, they were wrong.


Cool as a cucumber, and with a gentle and polite insistence that has come to be his trademark, Mr Heng suggested to the House that the problem lay less with the system, than with those who use it.


South Korea abolished exams, but that did not remove the pressure on students, he noted.


Yes, Primary 1 registration is a vexing exercise for parents, he agreed - but people have argued equally fiercely for and against every admission rule.


The most sustainable solution to the near hysteria that accompanies the yearly exercise, Mr Heng argued, was for every school to be a 'good school' and perceived as such.


And tuition?


Again a matter of perception about what works and what doesn't, said the minister, adding that he recently met a 'lovely couple' whose primary school children didn't take tuition but were still doing very well in school.


'I said, 'What do you do with them?' and they said: 'Well, we spend a lot of time with them, not just on academic work but as loving parents.'


'And I said: 'That's wonderful!''


Heartwarming as it was, I doubt that Mr Heng's little anecdote - or his factually based defence of the Singapore system - would soothe the army of anxious parents out there, or any of the MPs they must have vociferously complained to.


The failure on both sides to really connect was a pity, really, because the Ministry of Education has, in truth, made real and tangible improvements to the school system that too often end up flying under the radar. Mr Heng made another gallant attempt at summarising them yesterday.


He said that the ministry is not just levelling up students within a school through financial help schemes and special classes for weak students, but also levelling up schools within the system so that 'every school is a good school'.


Not a lot of people know, for example, that over the past five years, every school in Singapore has added 10 teachers on average to its staff, as well as six allied educators.


Another point that often gets lost in the jargon of 'edu-speak' is that the ministry has established many 'pathways to excellence'.


This means starting new types of schools that specialise in the arts or sports, for example, as well as spreading specialist programmes across existing schools, so that success in education isn't equated with getting into a brand-name institution like Raffles or Hwa Chong.


The ministry also pledged yesterday to do more work at the two opposite ends of a child's education cycle - increasing the number and variety of university places, as well as the standards of preschool education.


How can the ministry and parents stop talking at cross purposes? How can it win them round to its view that 'fixing the system' is more than just a matter of tweaking school structures and rules, but requires a more deep-seated change in how society values education, and how this is conveyed to the young?


This is critical. For Mr Heng surely knows that the real challenge for his ministry is to reach out to parents and make them better understand the import of the changes he is making to the system. Only then will their behaviour start to shift.


Unless that happens, education policy debates might well continue to be summed up this way: 'good effort, but could do better'.


ignatius@sph.com.sg

Zhuge
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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby toddles » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:56 am

Not a bad article/perspective of it all, Ignatius of ST!

Beyond talking at cross purposes, MOE has to give concrete examples of how "the problem lay less with the system, than with those who use it". Most parents (and dare I say teachers) feel that they are victims, not perpetuators, of the system.

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby Sun_2010 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:11 pm

Zhuge wrote: Cool as a cucumber, and with a gentle and polite insistence that has come to be his trademark, Mr Heng suggested to the House that the problem lay less with the system, than with those who use it.


The system is there to serve the people
If some of those who use the system are misusing it, abusing it, exploiting it , then the system is not robust. It must be changed to overcome it.

This it-is-not-my-fault, it-is-your-fault mentality is sickening!

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby Chenonceau » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:23 am

Sun_2010 wrote:
Zhuge wrote: Cool as a cucumber, and with a gentle and polite insistence that has come to be his trademark, Mr Heng suggested to the House that the problem lay less with the system, than with those who use it.


The system is there to serve the people
If some of those who use the system are misusing it, abusing it, exploiting it , then the system is not robust. It must be changed to overcome it.

This it-is-not-my-fault, it-is-your-fault mentality is sickening!


Yes... it is. Instead of stepping up to then podium and generating dialogue with parents and educators to help resolve this... the messaging consistently is "It's YOUR fault. Not MOE's"

The truth is, it is EVERYBODY'S fault and MOE is as much culpable as parents who send unborn children in Mommies' bellies to enrichment. Imagine The Learning Lab's advertisement of the future...

"TLL's Foetal Education grooms leaders in the womb."

Chenonceau
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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby mum_sugoku » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:06 pm

BTW here's one well-written blog article on education, by NCMP Yee Jann Jong:

http://yeejj.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/f ... education/

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby Chenonceau » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:27 pm

mum_sugoku wrote:BTW here's one well-written blog article on education, by NCMP Yee Jann Jong:

http://yeejj.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/f ... education/


Thank you for sharing mum_sugoku.

Yee Jenn Jong, I will remember you with gratitude in 2016. So will...

(1) every parent who has had to see his/her child through P5, P6 and the PSLE

(2) every parent who is told by a school teacher to get enrichment/tuition

(3) every parent whose child has failed only because he/she is tested beyond what is taught

(4) every parent who hates tuition and thus is forced to learn primary school Math (or attend parent workshops) OR find a high quality tutor in order to help his/her child pass exams

(5) every parent who sees his/her child's self-esteem battered down by a system that stresses results and KPIs at every turn

(6) every parent of a child whose teacher makes mistakes in marking

(7) every parent of a child whose teacher marks without giving enugh feedback for effective learning (and thus a tutor needs to be engaged to give feedback)

How many parents experience this? We don't know... but in 2016, their votes will make a difference to you.

Chenonceau
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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby JonC » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:35 pm

Sigh!!!

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby Zhuge » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:44 pm

mum_sugoku wrote:BTW here's one well-written blog article on education, by NCMP Yee Jann Jong:

http://yeejj.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/f ... education/


http://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/forum ... 48&t=33017

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby windie » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:08 pm

Measurement drives behavior. A child's success in school is almost always measured by their grades.

The government will never understand how we feel. Which parent enjoys forcing their kids to go for tuition/enrichment? It is time/money/opportunity cost for children to enjoy their childhood. Now, they're saying it's the parents who are KS that's why we give our kids tuition? Most kids dont belong to top 10% in sgp and need so much help just to cope!

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Re: Calls to review Singapore's education system

Postby 1amber » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:44 pm

windie wrote:Measurement drives behavior. A child's success in school is almost always measured by their grades.

The government will never understand how we feel. Which parent enjoys forcing their kids to go for tuition/enrichment? It is time/money/opportunity cost for children to enjoy their childhood. Now, they're saying it's the parents who are KS that's why we give our kids tuition? Most kids dont belong to top 10% in sgp and need so much help just to cope!


agree :hi5:

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