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Sunday, April 10, 2016

So Simple As To Change My World

What is impressive about the slew of changes announced by Ng Chee Meng on Friday, 8 April 2016, isn't so much the...
- changes to DSA
- changes to PSLE t-score
- changes to tertiary selection

These changes are welcome. They made me happier than I have words to express. However, these were not what impressed me. I must say that NCM has been so quiet for so many months that I had just about decided that he wasn't going to do anything worthwhile during in his term in MOE.

I am very ashamed that I had so little faith in him.

What really impressed me was that there was a clear educational philosophy. Every single change announced was coherent with this philosophy.

A child's worth is more than academic prowess.

Of course, it has been years that the MOE has been trying to tout holistic development. However, nobody dared to dismantle the PSLE t-score. Nobody dared to put faith in interviews and other qualitative assessments of human potential and worth (for fear of accusations of subjectivity and unfairness). As such, everything educationally holistic (from awards for character, to overseas trips, to DSA) was unable to pull the attention of a whole population of zombie parents with eyes staring blankly straight ahead at a central beacon of light splitting the pitch back darkness, and shining upon the notion of Top School.

I know. I used to be one of those parents.

When parents realise that Top Schools will now be assessing Character, Passion, Aptitude... when parents realise that top university faculties will now be assessing Character, Passion, Aptitude... they will spend more time paying attention to ...
- teaching their children values such as integrity, kindness, gentleness and collaboration
- discovering their children's passions
- and stop trying to squeeze every child into a single mould of excellence in 4 subjects (English, Math, Chinese and Science)

Schools might ask at the interviews, "Do you have tuition?" If the answer is "Yes", then they know that the child did not achieve his scores on his own merit. Of course, parents might instruct kids to lie, but really, if I were the interviewer, I would know how to probe enough to discover that lie. It takes some training, that is all. Since the child's academic scores were the result of parentocracy, the school might decide to withhold the place from that particular top scorer.

Then, Lo and Behold, the word will get around and the most kiasu parents will stop all their kids' tuition. Now, wouldn't that be a happy day?

The Change Is Now
Some parents lament that 2021 is 6 years away and why can we not have the change NOW!? If you examine the issue somewhat deeper, you will realise that the change is NOW. It isn't yet at the PSLE, but it already is at the universities.

From what I observe of the last 2 years of admissions into Law and Medicine, the universities are ALREADY assessing Character, Passion and Aptitude. Top students with perfect grades can be rejected from Medicine and Law.

So, if you are happy that your child DID make it into a Top School today (thanks to a great t-score) and you believe that this Top School place presages years later, a spot in a top faculty in a top university... and you neglect Character, Passion and Aptitude, you will get your comeuppance soon, if you do not change yourself today.

Conversely, if you have been the type of parent who did what he/she could academically for the child but paid attention to Play, Character, Passion and Aptitude, you will be surprised at how the university system will identify your child from a mere neighbourhood school/JC as worthy to go through its hallowed doors.

The Ministry of Education Is Tentative
The Minister of Education (yes, I know he is only Acting Minister but I have chosen in my own mind to respect him as a FULL Minister) has had ...

(1) the gumption and strength of will to dismantle what is not coherent with his philosophy or view of education

(2) the courage to move aggressively down paths previously untrodden by introducing qualitative assessments of talent and calibre

(3) the boss aura to drive his Ministry where he wants it to go and not let his Ministry drive him

(4) the brilliance to distill the complexity of our education system into a single simple philosophy

Someone once told me that clever people can handle complexity but...

The brilliant person can distill complexity into simplicity.

Yet, to some extent, one can feel he is uncertain. What is he uncertain about? He is afraid that parents will not change along with him. He takes pains to emphasise that he cannot do this without parents. I have this to say... "Sir... don't worry lah... you have all us parents by the emmmm... balls when you control access into Top Schools (to prioritise Passion, Character and Aptitude)." With this lever long enough, you will move my world.

For this, I am ever so grateful.

1 comment:

ZF said...


"Schools might ask at the interviews, "Do you have tuition?" If the answer is "Yes", then they know that the child did not achieve his scores on his own merit."

I disagree.

To do well with help to tuition, the kids don't deserve merit ? Not every one has parents or grandparents who can teach at home or schools who go that extra mile. And not every tuition goers do well in exams.

Wrt character, one recent incident, my boy took the fall for his seniors (leaders) . Is that good or bad character on record ?