Project Work (PW) is simply an academic endeavour envisioned and instituted with genuinely-constructive purposes in mind; unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Ministry of Education (MOE) asserts that the programme will allow students to “synthesise knowledge from various areas of learning, and critically and creatively apply it to real life situations”. Conversely, the view on-the-ground is that an initiative that was initially conceived to reduce disproportionate emphasis upon written examinations, heighten student creativity and to significantly diversify teaching-learning pedagogies has increasingly fallen flat in recent years.
Schools and teachers have speedily created pedantic curricular structures for the completion of the projects – to complement the growing rigidity of the established assessment criteria – in a coordinated bid to raise the number of distinctions achieved by their students. While this arrangement produces satisfactory, pragmatic end-results for parents, students and educators, it has greatly limited the potential of this examinable subject, and has done significantly little for the actual skill-development of the students. Not surprisingly, students have been actively putting forth assertions against PW.
Most evidently, the entire yearlong process is perceived as being too lengthy and unnecessarily prolonged; compounded by the opinion that the boring, monotonous approaches do not sustain passions or interests. The fixation upon the step-by-step preparation of documents and corresponding key performance indicators limits the space for exploration, and the fact that all projects are confined within the two topics introduced furthers the aforementioned proposition. The uninspiring methodology in which the topics and processes are conceived makes it unrealistic for students to identify relevant problems, solutions for the preparation of plans of action. In various anecdotal instances, groups have been unreserved in their fabrication of respective research results, especially since assessors would find it difficult to verify the authenticity of the multitude of sources and the conducted quantitative or qualitative research.
But to conveniently dismiss PW in its entirety would be to ignore the benefits it encompasses. By holistically fusing the research, writing and oratorical components, students would be encouraged to hone skills under different circumstances. The challenges of working in a group with diverse individuals – and sometimes demanding or lazy team-mates – will build leadership and team-building awareness.
Hence, the key is really about revamping the curriculum, and producing relevant amendments to address the shortcomings and making the programme more holistic for the students. Reviews through focus group discussions with students can be initially conducted to get a good sense of the perspectives held by them on the status quo of the PW framework. New strategies can include the active incorporation of community service or volunteerism elements, inclusion of conference-sharing or competitive-aspects to provide incentives for excellence, and the increased flexibility granting in the selection of topics for the projects.