“We want to facilitate and get the kids to be curious about learning and to be independent learners themselves” (A One-Stop Portal For Teachers, Miss Joanne Chan).
The report “A One-Stop Portal For Teachers” (July 14, 2010) by Miss Joanne Chan: as we applaud the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) well-intentioned decision to render the learning process for a select group of primary school pupils more flexible and engaging; the fast-evolving global landscape leads many to wonder if the proposed changes are too little, too late. Gone are the days when pedantic pedagogies of rote-learning and enforced memorisation were embraced and overtly accepted as norms; stakeholders are beginning to realise that mere excellence in standardised examinations per se is a poor representation of an individual’s overall abilities.
Under such circumstantial pressures, the MOE has subtly recognised that blind adherence to existing curriculum and antiquated methodologies would be detrimental for students. Reducing the current emphasis in tests, examinations and their corresponding grades would encourage parents and teachers to focus more attentively upon the kid’s holistic development, taking into account his pursuits and endeavours in an assortment of fields.
Even though a probation period is desired to gauge receptivity and the general effectiveness of the implementation, the MOE must be prepared to progress swiftly thereafter. The modes and criteria for assessment should be cautiously calibrated to encompass a variety of other oratorical and research elements, beyond the traditional emphasis on the written and regurgitation aspects.
Ultimately, these adjustments would achieve insignificant long-term benefits if the entire examination culture and presence is not tweaked or gradually done away with. Regardless of the new portals or programmes, the major standardised examinations – the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and the GCE ‘N’, ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels – would continue to provide nuanced incentives and impetus to revert back to the tried-and-tested methods of dull studying and “mugging”. There would be a perpetual obsession with acing examinations without caring for the actual teaching-learning process. The most sustainable approach would be to spread out a subject’s weighting over a variety of skills and components, instead of hedging everything on singular assessments. Allow a student to be evaluated continuously, granting him exploration and development across disciplines: for instance, language subjects should balance the speaking, listening and written parts; while science subjects – especially at the introductory levels – should be premised upon hands-on experimentation to provide a fertile ground for future research exercises and independent exploration.
Change is the new constant; if we persist to revel in our comfort zone, we would only be disadvantaging generations and batches of students in the future.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.