Last Saturday, The Straits Times published a letter penned by Miss Patricia Tan – poignantly titled “Pace Of Paper Chase Too Stressful For Pupils” (March 17, 2012) – which detailed how her nephew was struggling with a mountain of homework every day. The letter was complemented by a parallel submission by Mr. Alan Ong, who passionately contended that the sheer quantity of worksheets dispensed in schools could potentially stifle desires for learning and creative explorations.
These perspectives are not entirely new; however, it seems as if these sentiments have been proliferated and expressed more fervently by parents. It is hard to deny the immense pressures associated with academic-scholastic pursuits in Singapore, but at the same time – having graduated from the high school system not too long ago – it is hard not to acknowledge that some concerned parents may be exaggerating about the status quo.
Genuine Worry Or Exaggerated Concern?
I thought I would just make some brief observations based on the letters I had read.
– Both letters made the unfair postulation that the purported increase in the amount of homework, which also might have resulted in the fall in the quality of instruction, can be attributed to schools pedantically chasing key performance indicators (KPI), primarily in terms of grades. Education institutions value scholastic performance (and rightly so, because it provides an aggregation of a student’s progress), but many have adopted pedagogies to enthuse schoolchildren on their learning journeys.
Academic pursuits and co-curricular involvements (or personal development, as it is euphemised) are not mutually exclusive, and I respect educators who progressively raise the significance of the latter.
– Homework and learning cannot be stigmatised: their value should be consistently communicated to the child. “Learning” is not all about generating interest and enthusiasm per se; at the end of the day, it involves graft, and a willingness to work hard. Assignments might be monotonous, but their completion is imperative for future success.
– Miss Tan does make the excellent point that students should not be “pushed so hard at such a young age” (or worse, have parents ridiculously engage “homework tutors”, here). That is why the maintenance of good parent-teacher relationship is so crucial; there should be no information asymmetry, in the sense that parents cab be perfectly cognisant of their child’s growth within and beyond the classroom.
With this relationship, if the kid expresses the feeling of being overwhelmed or too stressed, these two parties can come together to work out something viable.
– The concern with helping weaker student is certainly valid; as the standards and benchmarks are raised, it is equally imperative for teachers to give more attention to these students, or those who might be talented in other fields (helping them establish a sound linguistic and technical background, before they pursue their ambitions and aspirations). There is simply no substitute for hard work and consistency.