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Musings, The Straits Times

Speeding Up The Integrated Programme Train? Slow Down, Singapore

We are desirous of increasing accessibility to a unique programme that affords flexibility and promotes innovative teaching-learning methodologies, but are we moving too far, too quickly?

The YouthInk column “More Tracks For ‘IP Train’?” (December 31, 2011): premised upon the perspective that Singapore’s education system should not revolve solely around standardised examinations, the Integrated Programme (IP) has always been a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, for the benefit of prospective students, the Ministry of Education (MOE) should actively review present progresses, provide clearer, more transparent information to stakeholders, as well as developing sturdy safety nets to render assistance to those who – unfortunately – struggle with the plethora of IP demands.

Engagement, Transparency And Improvements

Before we seek to expand the existing IP framework across diverse secondary schools, it makes perfect sense to slow down, take stock, and implement studies to review the status quo. We are desirous of increasing accessibility to a unique programme that affords flexibility and promotes innovative teaching-learning methodologies, but are we moving too far, too quickly? On-the-ground interactions can heighten the bureaucracy’s understanding of realities, and should take two forms: quantitative data, including scholastic and non-academic accomplishments, projects, research paper; and qualitative interviews, with opinions from stakeholders on IP strengths and weaknesses.

Potential parents and students also struggle with the challenges of information asymmetry, and often do not have a good comprehension of the different pedagogies or curriculum that has been adopted in various IP institutions. Experiences and instances are largely anecdotal, which renders it impossible for them to make holistic evaluations and corresponding decisions, especially when schools are not entirely honest about demands and expectations. Besides the traditional employment of school open houses per se, the MOE can publish observations from the aforementioned studies, and also realistically highlight the immense concentration upon independent, self-initiated learning.

Administrators should install stronger safety nets to help those who struggle, or find it impossible to manage at any point of time during the programme.

Most crucially, administrators should install stronger safety nets to help those who struggle, or find it impossible to manage at any point of time during the programme. Schools must be prepared to help those who choose to opt out after considerations, and devise viable alternatives for these schoolchildren. Options can include lateral movement to vocational courses or polytechnics, proper preparations for the ‘O’ Levels et cetera.

Through-Trains Across The Education Spectrum?

Plans for ‘N’ Levels students to seamlessly move to polytechnics are in the pipeline; similarly, they can be expanded – after comprehensive analyses – to specialisations across the education spectrum. These through-trains can be designed for focuses in the arts, music, hospitality, as well as research and technology; so that participants are equipped with the right resources to develop their ambitions wholesomely.

These are positive movements away from the pedantic assessment modes of memorisation and regurgitation, and should be approached optimistically; still, plans must remain nuanced, relevant and in adherence with the realities on the ground.

A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.

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About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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