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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guest Post by M

After reading my post HERE, M was sufficiently moved to write a very long comment. I kind of expected this because we had had a sort of discussion some days earlier where we disagreed about my rather positive view of the latest MOE changes (banding PSLE T-scores and making every school a good school). Blogger wouldn't publish her comment because it was too long. So here it is... a sort of rebuttal to my post. I write "sort of" because I do agree with many of M's points, and I do hope that MOE will address them by and by, as it pursues its journey along this new shift in philosophy and approach.

I've shortened some of M's sentences and rearranged some of the syntax but by and large, the words below belong to her.


Singapore education system is doing a wonderful job in imparting academic knowledge. However, in term of teaching the right mindset, proper character and moral values, attitude, behaviours, life skills, it has failed miserably.

I kinda disagree here. Judging from the quality of teaching that goes on in MOE schools, I would say that the Singapore education system is good at making PARENTS AND ENRICHMENT CENTRES impart academic knowledge.

Look at the increasing large number of young and well-groomed and yet unhappy Singaporeans with very little drive to solve any problem they encounter, preferring to complain and blame everything and anything as if the whole world owes them a living. Government is now reaping the whirlwind with rapidly declining supports from these people who don’t appreciate what the government has done for them. This is partially government’s own doing because they have emphasized material comforts and academic excellence at the expense of character building, and many others in schools.

Classes Of 40 Are Not Conducive To Teach Less Learn More
“Teach less and Learn More” is a good way for teaching thinking skills (such as Creativity & Innovation). However, it is impractical with a big class-size and inexperienced/incompetent teachers. It is not possible to introduce “teach less and learn more” with such a big class size of 40 students. In a big class of 40, it is not possible to allow the sufficient interactions among students required to effectuate Teach Less Learn More! These are 40 young children with different characters and some even have behavioural problems. Also, the competency level in 1 subject can vary significantly from one child to another.

GEP Have Classes Of 25 But Normal Stream Has Classes of 40
It is really bewildering that MOE sees a need to have a smaller class size of 20-25 students to conduct the GEP program but can’t see a need for a normal-stream class! It makes it worse when the students are being taught little but are tested on a wider coverage/depth (and those who do well are those who have tuition outside and who covered more and in more depth or those in GEP who do so as well).

Entrance Into Top Schools Decided At Primary 3
I am struck by an obsession to pursue academic excellence for most Singaporean. The PSLE has become “the new O level" where competition for entrance to top JC/IP schools has shifted down from the O level to the present PSLE. Some told me it is no longer PSLE but currently Primary 3 GEP selection exams, with the introduction of through-train IP schools where once a kid get into GEP, he will be exempted from competition to get into top JC (no need to compete based on his PLSE and O level results). As such, many parents (I heard that it is an alarming number) pack their kids with lots of tuitions/enrichment classes. Parents are eager to get their kids into GEP to reap the benefits and advantage bestowed to GEP kids. I don’t have exact figure, however, the booming tuition/enrichment centres/industries tell me that it will not be a small percentage. In fact, even the bright students (GEP students) take tuition too. I once saw a junior minister waited outside of a popular enrichment centres for his GEP son!

Are the Horrendously High Standards Necessary?
Just look at current PSLE papers, it is almost Sec 3 to Sec 4 level of the olden days!  Is there a need to load primary schools’ kids with so difficult and high level contents?  There is obviously no benefit as the young has missed out many good opportunity for other development!  If GEP program is successful after 30 years, we would have at least a Nobel-prize nominee (not to say a Nobel-prize winner)!  Education in Singapore context has become nothing but just academics to the extent of training a robot.

This is where I disagree with my friend C. I do think the high standards are necessary.

Do Top Schools Get More Money?
Why now kids are trying to squeeze the selected few top IP schools?  Why these top IP schools are doing so well?  I believe this is because these schools got extra funding and support from MOE for many attractive programs.  For example, when they take in 1 GEP kid, they get extra funding.  This funding that make some schools have extra fund to further develop their programs and make them better.  All these yummy programs should be available in all secondary schools instead and should not be limited to a few top secondary IP schools.  This is a vicious cycle, and makes kids even more eager to squeeze into these few top IP schools.  Also, these kids once entered the IP schools, don’t have to compete using their O level to get into best JCs!  See, these are reasons parents die die must hot-house their kids when young so that their young can reap benefits from all these priority and privilege (and extra funding).  Hence, competition is very keen at young age because the Education system protects the privileges/benefits of those who did very well at young age (PSLE/GEP) and it has very little room (was told 8A1 in O level are unable to get in!) for those late-bloomers to get into the Top schools. 

If Every School Is A Good School Then...
If MOE and government really believe in making every school a good school in its niche area (at least if they really want to try, this is what PM Lee has urged us to take his word for it), they should treat all schools equally, and treat all students equally (instead of like GEP kids got extra funding, IP program kids can get into best JCs without competing based on their O level results etc).  All these make the schools unequal, and hence how can every school be a good school when the actions taken by MOE already said otherwise (some schools got extra funding, better curriculum, better teachers etc because they are richer and have more money!).  Why in the past, parents are fine with their children going into any of the top 20 secondary schools, but why now they are not fine anymore and will only be happy if their kids get into the only few top IP schools? 

Don't Drive On A Narrow Road!
Instead of maintaining a very narrow road and tossing with all sorts of constraints, to even hold the steering wheel steady (a very good chance to hit a bump and then topple), why not expanding the road to many lanes of highway to cater for students with different talents and abilities at the same time teaching the right mindset, values, attitude, behaviours, life skills which are more meaningful in life?


Celine said...

I had the same thoughts, but M is more articulate than I am in putting them down!

Petunia Lee said...

Celine - Hahaha! It does look like I am more forgiving than many readers.

Melodies said...

Haha! Indeed, you are more forgiving than many readers though you disagree with her on some points. M would have been attacked left, right and centre by uncouth parents if she dared to post it in KSP forum!

I do agree that Singapore education system is good at making PARENTS AND ENRICHMENT CENTRES impart academic knowledge. Oh dear, this will make MOE look really bad for running the public schools!

Hmmm, I am curious to know if those CCA centers/industry will be next to boom with the expansion of DSA?

I really don't wish to see the situations such that DSA has been used as a avenue by parents/kids with an extrinsic motivation to get into Top Schools.

Petunia Lee said...

Ah yes... the uncouth parents (some) of KSP who unable to convince with reason descend into barbarism. There are nice people there though...