Related Posts with Thumbnails

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MOE: Dismantle Something

Both Acting Ministers for Education jointly announced (as reported HERE) that...

Primary schools will help students discover their strengths and interests in areas such as arts, music and sports. A stronger emphasis will be placed on outdoor education, "to build up ruggedness and resilience in our students", according to the MOE.

Having some fleeting acquaintance with both Ministers, I am torn between fear and faith. Having a passing acquaintance with Ministers is no big deal. Many constituents have passing acquaintances with their Ministers.

Both Ministers have earned my respect as men of integrity and intelligence. My instinct is to trust and have faith in them. Yet, the announcement strikes fear into my heart because a Ministry can be a much bigger entity than its Minister. It has a life of its own. The Minister is supposed to drive the entity but it can happen that without realising, the entity drives the Minister.

It seems that MOE is like the Alhambra. Every new sultan that takes power builds a new structure to add value. Nothing gets dismantled out of respect for previous sultans. Imagine taking over your parents' bungalow and building a new living room without dismantling the old one. Imagine your children doing that in their turn. And your grandchildren.

Soon, your house will be a clutter of mismatched styles, no?

At first, primary schools taught 4 subjects. Then, they added on niche areas of excellence (orchestra, shooting, gymnastics, wushu, Chinese orchestra, sailing). Then, they added Character Education. Now, there will be Outdoors Education. I doubt the Teachers can cope unless MOE dismantles some things. I doubt that our children can cope unless there is some intelligent dismantling of the humongous and complex MOE primary school to secondary school system.


Our little ones are already doing HW up until 9pm every night in order to cope with the high standards of the PSLE, and strive for DSA... and now they will have to up their game in outdoor activities.

Please dismantle something.

In 2013, Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally speech that the PSLE t-score would be dismantled in favour of letter grades (à la 'A' levels). Till now, 2016, there is no indication that the t-score will be dismantled. On the ground, in the schools, parents with means are still scrambling to help their kids score well at the PSLE. Parents without means send kids to free tuition.

For as long as the PSLE is a gateway to the top schools, parents will continue to push kids to...
- excel academically (cram them with tuition)
- demonstrate awards excellence in niche CCAs (in the hopes of DSA)
- AND NOW more outdoor activities (whatever these may be)

Unstructured Play
What the children need is UNSTRUCTURED play. See HERE. I am not entirely comfortable with this extent of toddler independence but the article makes a point clear. To learn initiative, drive and self-reliance, adults must stop telling kids what to do every minute of the day. The kids need time to play what they want how they want.

So now, good lohhhh... we are going to structure them to play outdoors.

In Dr. Pet's enrichment centre, there are Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian parents. I note that none of these foreign parents have any problems adapting to Dr. Pet's Thinking Curriculum. It is the Singaporean parents that cling on tight to structure, rules and guidance. Singaporean parents need to be spoon fed and told everything because they are so AFRAID to be unsupervised.

These foreigner parents FIGURE IT OUT EASILY like ducks swim, especially since the materials are designed to be EASILY figured out.

Can we please dismantle some MOE mechanisms so that our children can indulge in unstructured/unsupervised play?

Give Teachers a Break
Teachers cannot do everything. The children don't want to be told how to play and what to play. So, why make the Teachers supervise, monitor and structure outdoor play? If you dismantle the PSLE, parents will naturally allow kids to play... and some kids will naturally choose outdoor play.

Busyness is Not Good
MOE is busy. The children are busy. Busy at what? Is there a need to control, monitor, supervise, structure, award, reward, recognise everything? Sometimes, less is more. Re-look at the PSLE as a placement exam. Change that mechanism.

Swimming Up a Waterfall
Else, you are just adding to the pressure for Teachers and Children. As long as the PSLE is a placement exam that leads to top schools, any attempt to reduce focus on exams is like swimming up the Niagara Falls.

With the focus on niche CCAs and outdoor play, what is likely to happen is that kids will go to school to play and then have tuition (paid or free) and parents to help them learn to ace the PSLE. This is the world on its head. In times past, kids went to school to learn to ace exams and then went home to play.

Break Down the System and Rebuild It
Someone must have the guts to break down the system and rebuild it. You cannot keep adding to the structure. It is against the laws of nature. Whether in architecture or in biology, healthy systems possess an internal coherence. Our MOE system lacks an internal coherence. My friend, Dr. A suggested that we learn from nature how to build a system.

Let Us Learn From Nature How to Develop MOE Muscle 
Muscle building results when the body repairs tears that occur during strenuous exercise. Muscle building cannot occur without first tearing down muscle fibers, the main component of muscle tissue. Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in muscle bulk, which occurs when the body repairs torn muscle fibers. Weight lifting, resistance training and long-distance running are among the stressors that initiate the teardown and muscle-building cycle.

- Taken from HERE. - 


Anonymous said...

Dr Pet,
I agree with you =)

I shudder to see how this will be rolled out in schools *bite fingernails*

Artxy said...

Dr Lee, somehow I'm just cynical about this entire Outdoor Activities initiative. Even though it appears to stem from the best of intentions, it will probably fail when the Ministry attempts to implement it in schools. Teachers are overworked and parents are overworked and everyone is afraid to bear responsibility should any accidents happen. There will be some photos captured and interviews recorded to trumpet this as a success - such snapshots are easy enough to capture and re/present to the public. While I'm kind of gratified to hear of this initiative, I'm equally hesitant about how school leaders and parents will try to game it.

I've similar feelings for the grades-are-unimportant-let's-strive-for-lifelong-learning message that the Ministry keeps peddling.

Petunia Lee said...

I agree with you Artxy... completely.

BeLive said...

I agree with what you have written. Nothing is going to happen unless this piece makes it way to the media. No, not even to MOE.