Prospects in Singapore's Education System

An interesting thread on the education system in Singapore:

Anonymous, May 7, 3:56 PM

I have some basis for making a comment on education as I had been a teacher, taught civil servants, worked with adult education and also taught at one of our universities.

I put it this way. The batch of civil servants, permanent secretaries, ceos and government ministers as well as mps came through our education system in the 1950s and 1960s. I don;t think anyon would dispute that they did rather well for Singapore compared with this present lot that has, among its credit, running the present mickey mouse election with all its blunders.

what is the advantage that the 1950s and 1960s cohort has? This is a question that every parent should ask when looking at our present education system. Indeed, one major task of parents because of the defects of our present system is to supplement what is being taught. Sometimes this takes the form of enrichment clases, sometimes of tuition and at other times of attending creative classes. Parents also need to do a lot more to educate their children.

Let me be assertive: even if we said that the PAP is good in everything we would say that the PAP has failed in education.
Anonymous, May 7, 4:24 PM

The 2011 Election will soon be over. For parents the task of nurturing their young carries on.

Why is it dangerous for the Ministry of Education to fail and to make mistakes, hnest or otherwise? For that reason it is very important each parent looks at the child and educates the child not for life but to make his way in life.

Do you all know what happens when an education policy goes wrong? It is equivalent to trying to turn round a supertanker! It takes ONE generation to change and reform an education policy.

Let me share with you something from the 50s and the 60s. At that time the PAP made a conscious decision to devalue Chinese language and culture. The history of the Chinese schools and of Nanyang University is to well know to bear repeating. Many parents send their children to English schools because their children COULD not get jobs should they emerge from Chinese schools.

What are the consequence?

1. The standard of Chinese plummetted.

2. A whole generation of Chinese educated graduates and students had to migrate or become businessmen.

3. A great divide grew up between English and Chinese. ask yourself if you are Chinese how did your son/daughter grew up disliking Chinese?

4. A whole generation of Singaporeans grew up unversed in Chinese.

5. A whole generation of Singaporeans gre up unable to access Chinese culture or language.

TODAY the government seeks to emphasize bi-lingualism or mother tongue education. We are seriously disadvantaged with regards to foriegn talent from Malaysia for instance that an speak andconverse in English, Chinese, Malay and dialects. Oh we pride ourselves on the standard of our education but this defect is what the government has created. In ten years the mainland Chinese will be able to speak and write English better than us. They will also speak and write better Chinese than us.

So, if you look at education do think seriously for yourself. I have waited until today to write aboue this because I do not want this to be part of the 2011 election issues.

Nonetheless DO NOT BELIEVE everything you read and are told about education in Singapore.
Anonymous, May 7, 5:57 PM

Mr Wang,

Your child's primary school teacher needs to assume your child (or weaker students) have tuition.

Teaching in an MOE school today has evolved such that 80% of a teacher's time after school is spent on CCA, staff meetings, department meetings, committee meetings, Action Research (writing of educational research paper), organizing school events, rehearsals for Speech Day or Performing Arts concert.

Vast majority of teachers have little time after school to tutor small groups of weak students, mark homework and prepare quality lessons.

Teachers either use their colleagues' teaching resources, photocopy materials wholesale from assessment books or simply rely on their own past years resources to prepare the next day's lesson.

As a teacher, I am disgusted at the way our education system has been shaped under Teo Chee Hean and Ng Eng Hen.

There is no point talking about decreasing classroom size and hiring more teachers, if the turnover rate continues to be high and if most teachers are so distracted from their core duty of teaching, nurturing, guiding and preparing quality lessons for their students.

To get students to think, teachers need time, lots of time to design such lessons, especially if each teacher teaches 4-5 different classes across different levels.

Since most teachers are heavily overworked and have no time to prepare quality lessons, sometimes, the easiest way is just to fall back on rote-memory type of lessons, which usually requires a lot less effort in lesson preparation.

The only exception is of course, when the principal and HOD decides to make a formal visit for a lesson observation.

Which is why I voted against PAP. If not, teaching in an MOE school will continue to suck, both for students and for teachers alike.
I have a vested interest in Singapore's education system. Genuinely believe that learning widely and applying the knowledge wisely is the solution to personal and global problems.

Too bad that concerns about education were overshadowed by worries over inflation, transport, housing and electoral systems during the recent GE. It would be inspiring, maybe even insightful, to have the nation debate education policies, a longer term commitment compared to recent woes but equally significant.

Is there a way to learn while enjoying? To recreate this experience for many people in consecutive years and yet remain unfettered by office politics? To nurture growth without passing critical judgments?

Teachers, by their nature and circumstances, tend to be rather conservative. They won't and can't air their opinions readily. Is there a way to solicit honest feedback from the people who are actually involved in teaching for the greater good of Singapore's future? Seems a bit difficult, hmm.

But just because it's difficult doesn't mean that it is impossible.
Anyway, the three O lvl students I'm tutoring are giving me major headaches.

We're at the tipping point where I can no longer go through new topics - the course materials are covered fully - and the kids must take initiatives to expose themselves to a diversity of questions.

I'm pushing them with the expectation that they want to and will work for distinctions.

A series of dichotomies over here:

Assumption 1: They want to score distinctions.
They actually prefer to get good grades but it's no big deal if they don't do that well.

Assumption 2: They will work towards getting into a course of their desires.
They don't really know what they want, how can they work towards it then?

Assumption 3: They are proactive.
Once I stop pushing them, they cease to move.

What can I do? Employing an array of techniques and strategies:

1) Stagger the revision of a topic such that it spreads over a 3 week period. Repetition as the key to committing information to memory.

2) Try to set a target grade for them.

3) Comprehensive notes for the entire subject.

4) Share lame Youtube videos as diversions during tuition session.

5) Share links and stories on inspiring characters. Sms random quotes.

6) Get parents and siblings to supervise the student on weekdays.

Seriously, the aforementioned strategies can't really come to fruition without their cooperation.

The three kids are really good people - more able than they think they're. If only they can believe in themselves...

I have a quasi maternal/sibling relationship with them. I want them to excel because I'm putting in a lot of effort and I expect the effort to bear proportionately sweet fruits; I want them to do well because I derive part of my identity from being able to help students who are less academically inclined; I want them to score because I'm paid to deliver; And above all, I want them to excel because we're friends - I think they tell me stuff that they don't tell their family - and, as friends, wishing for their success is natural.

It'll be a grueling four months as we prepare for O levels...


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