Engagement with parents was a key feature of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat’s speech during the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) annual workplan seminar; notably, he remarked that “reaching out to parents will not always be easy, but our schools should see this as an investment to create a long term, collaborative partnership”. Traditionally, the relationship between parents and educators has been marked by a disproportionate emphasis upon the student’s academic performance and achievements per se; and even though new “report books” provide Holistic Development Profiles (HDP), failure to engage students on a personal and macro level could prove to be significant impediments.
Involving Students On A Personal Level
As the MOE and its schools begin to establish proper rules of engagement, and develop new strategies or platforms – together with the Community and Parents in Support of Schools (COMPASS) – to reach out more proactively to parents, it would be meaningful to get students involved in the process as well; after all, if managed intelligently, they can serve as a bridge between parent and teacher. By having them – especially for students in Upper Secondary and Institutes of Higher Learning – participate in these activities, it would simultaneously strengthen their sense of ownership towards their studies, progress.
First, it would be constructive to have students be a part of the existing Parent-Teacher Meeting (PTM) mechanism; naturally, this would facilitate more comprehensive discourse on the student’s advancement in different areas. Stakeholders would then be able to understand the child’s concerns on a more intimate basis, and ensure that teaching-learning methodologies at home and in school are complementary. Second, in the institutions and community organisations, more programmes can be catered to facilitate bonding and productive interactions between parent and child.
On A More Macro Level…
Existing efforts to have students voice their opinions on broader policy issues – on the benefits of the Integrated Programme, the value of Project Work, respective policies on Co-Curricular Activities et cetera – have been quite perfunctory; furthermore, very few endeavours have sought to gather first-hand perspectives from student themselves on the challenges and shortcomings present within the existing system. Besides the occasional dialogue session or policy forum, there are no sustainable avenues for the active recommendation of ideas and feedback. Even when administrators and representatives from the MOE make visits to schools, anecdotal reports have pointed to how schools are adept with rehearsing for these sessions to show the best side of everything.
Progressively, sessions can be designed to gather proposals from students on changes they believe would be beneficial for their school experience. Vis-à-vis interactions of this nature can yield insights that current measures overlook. If these undertakings are managed effectively, it would definitely raise the level of active citizenry in the country, and make individuals more cognisant, aware and involved in the society in time to come.