Thursday, 25 July 2013

Our SG education

Update 30 Sep 2013: Aung San Suu Kyi: Singapore seems to be a "Workforce Oriented". What is the purpose of work?

Of Singapore, Private Tuition, and Aung San Suu Kyi

It was a leading question posed by a journalist to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her first visit to Singapore: what aspects of the Lion City might “The Lady” like to recreate in Myanmar? The question seemed fairly innocuous, albeit arguably loaded. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate dodged the bullet and fired a salvo of her own.

“I don’t think ‘recreate’ is the word, ‘learn’ yes,” said Ms Suu Kyi.

Singapore’s “work-oriented” education system, for example, leaves something to be desired.

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Finland looks to S’pore for ideas

Education Minister hopes to ‘learn from the best of the best’ on educational technologies, innovative teaching methods

The current buzz phrase in the Republic’s education system, “every school is a good school”, is in fact the principle on which the Finnish education model was built over the last four decades.

But as Singapore strives to realise this vision, Finland’s widely praised education system is being challenged because of an increasingly diverse student population, said the country’s Minister for Education and Science Krista Kiuru.

In an interview with TODAY, Ms Kiuru also responded to doubts about her country’s education system, given the high number of jobless youths. The solution does not lie in changing the education system but in spurring economic growth and creating jobs in an economy which has been weighed down by the euro-zone malaise, she said.

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Too many graduates

Singapore leaders start to talk about the importance of having multiple skills rather than just obtaining a degree.

A number of political leaders have appealed to Singaporeans not to place too much faith on university degrees in an apparent effort to manage public expectations.

This is the clearest sign yet that the authorities are expecting a sustained period of relatively low economic growth and slower employment opportunities.

related: Downplaying varsity degrees

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Schools organizing exotic trips costing parents an arm and a leg

I have three daughters, all of whom are either present or former students of a well-known independent school. While I agree with the intent behind overseas educational trips (“Travel agents ride school-trip wagon”; last Sunday), I do not think it is necessary for primary school pupils to go on them. Neither is it useful for students to go on expensive trips to Europe, the United States or Australia, or trips that do not have a well-thoughtout agenda.

When my eldest girl was in Secondary 3, she hankered to go on an educational trip to Italy based on the “fashion” theme. We could not afford the $3,500 needed for the trip, and even if we could, I did not think it was a worthwhile trip to sponsor.

My daughter was devastated because a few of her friends had signed up for the trip, and I had a hard time explaining to her our financial situation and why I did not agree to spend money on a theme she was not mature enough to appreciate.

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Beware pitfalls of direct admissions

The complaints have already started coming in over the education tweaks announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Sunday.

Parents have had much to say about the changes to the Primary 1 registration scheme and the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) scoring system, but some of the strongest reactions have been to the expansion of the Direct School Admission scheme.

Mr Lee announced last Sunday in his National Day Rally speech that top secondary schools will take in more students from different backgrounds through the scheme, which allows Primary 6 pupils to secure a place even before sitting the PSLE.

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Singapore removes secondary school banding and alters school awards

Singapore will no longer group secondary schools by academic results and will reduce the number of school awards from 2014.

Instead, MOE will place more emphasis on recognising best practices by schools in delivering a well-rounded education. These changes represent MOE’s efforts to enable every school to focus on delivering a student-centric and values-driven education.

Since 2004, secondary schools have been placed into academic bands each year, based on the performance of their students at the GCE O Level in the preceding year. 

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Scrapping PSLE not the solution: Lawrence Wong

The stress that comes with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is something that needs to be looked at, but scrapping the exam or tweaking the assessment criteria may not be the solution, said Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong.

Solving the problem requires a mindset change among Singaporeans on how success is defined, he said on Friday.

Mr Wong, who responded to questions raised by polytechnic students at a forum, is the first office-holder from the Education Ministry to weigh in on the debate on whether the high-stake exam should be scrapped

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Scrap the PSLE to attract world-class teaching talent

I read with interest Mr Hri Kumar Nair's comments in "MP echoes calls for PSLE to be scrapped" (Sept 18).

I graduated from an international school in Singapore and have lived here off and on since 1994. I have taught in various international schools since 2008 but never in a public school here.

I find that Western teachers are generally scared of teaching in public schools here. Singapore may score well in international comparisons, but its schools seem old-fashioned and dull to foreigners like myself.

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Calls to scrap it are growing but PSLE likely to stay

Days before the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) start, it seems there is a campaign to abolish it.

Two different Parliamentarians have written about scrapping the exam in recent days and both have been getting rave reviews from netizens.

Last Friday, People’s Action Party MP Hri Kumar Nair blogged that he was “all for slaying the PSLE sacred cow”. He was followed by Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong from the Workers’ Party, who suggested in a blog post today that the Education Ministry do a through-train trial with some schools.

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MP echoes calls for PSLE to be scrapped

As the "national conversation" gets underway, education - an issue close to many Singaporeans' hearts - has quickly emerged as a hot topic. And the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), for so long a rite of passage for children here, has come under the spotlight again, as a Member of Parliament renewed calls for it to be scrapped.

"I am all for slaying the PSLE sacred cow. But we need to first agree on an alternative way of deciding who goes to which secondary school, other than by way of a common exam," Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar wrote on his blog last Friday.

Mr Hri Kumar, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Education, lauded the Ministry of Education's announcements last week to "remove banding, de-emphasise exams and promote non-academic aspects of a child's development", as he put it. But he pointed out that, "so long as a child's PSLE scores determines which secondary school he goes to, and so long as places in 'better' schools are limited", competition and stress are inevitable and parents will also "do what they can to help their kids out-score their peers". "To most, that means tuition," he added.

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The PSLE - Is it so difficult to see what the problem really is?

Gigamole is glad to see the discussions about childhood education shift towards the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). To scrap or not to scrap, seems to be the focus of the debate. To Gigamole, it seems they are missing the point. An exam is necessary at the end of Primary Six. There is no doubt about this.

But people are (deliberately, perhaps) forgetting that Singapore has compulsory education up to Primary Six. The PSLE is appropriately named the Primary School Leaving Examinations. The PSLE should not be anything other than a competency exam. Somewhere along the way, the Ministry of Education allowed the PSLE to morph and mutate to become the grotesque thing it now is.

Currently the PSLE is an uber-competitive exam to identify top students who can be streamed into elitist schools to fuel an even more uber-elitist agenda. The banding of schools serve no other function that to feed this elitist mindset. To disband the schools is however, only a symptomatic response to the real problem, which is that as long as the PSLE remains a competitive exam, parents will relentlessly drive their children into excelling so that they will have a chance to enter elitist secondary schools.

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Dumb Idea

The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) is the culmination of a child's first 6 years of formal education and certification of suitability to move up the higher ranks of scholastic pursuit. Not everyone is inclined to a life of books, some just want to go ahead and do it, like Nike suggests. And come home with a genuine Olympic medal, not a store bought one from foreign sources.

Yet the ability to pass a school examination is a valuable quality. It shows a student has acquired a certain level of competence in some subject and is able to express his thought and ideas in a manner others can understand. If a sportsman, or auto mechanic, has intent to pass down his area of expertise to the next generation, he has to document his skills with educational tools for enquiring minds.

It is believed that the mind of a student, even if he is dull, receives good exercise when he prepares for an examination. A student’s success in an examination, therefore, helps employers and others to assess his mental or general ability.

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Every school's a good school? Show, don't tell

When Education Minister Heng Swee Keat announced last week that secondary schools would no longer be placed in performance bands according to their results, it was hard to see how far this would work in persuading parents that every school is a good school.

Most of us want our children in what we think are good primary schools, so they will have the best chance of getting into what we believe are the best secondary schools. Then they will be set for life, we hope.

We worry, perhaps needlessly, some more than others. Hence the accounts of bizarre behaviour every year around Primary 1 registration time, when places fill up too fast here, require balloting there, grown people shed tears of joy or frustration and the unhappy demand even more admission rules.

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Heng Swee Keat cautions against excessive tuition

At the Education Ministry's Work Plan Seminar on Wednesday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also touched on stress levels in school.

He pointed out that the point is not to reduce stress to zero, but to strike the right balance.

While homework is necessary to reinforce learning, Mr Heng said more homework is not always better

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Will winds of change be for the better?

While Singapore appears to have one of the best education systems in the world, a common gripe is that it is very competitive and highly stressful. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat recently announced changes to the education system. But is there a need to change? Aren't we doing fine?

By many accounts, Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world. Singapore students are top performers in international tests. Its curriculum-based textbooks have been adopted by 39 countries.

A common gripe, however, is that our students are only exam-smart and that our education system is very competitive and highly stressful. Such concerns suggest that there is always room for improvement.

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Educating the parent

The Ministry of Education (MOE) didn't disappoint. Apparently it heard from the ground about some of the grouses about the way children are taught in schools and the school system itself. So in its last policy revision, it is no longer ranking (banding is the word used by the MOE) schools. Indeed it now says that all schools are good schools, whatever that means. We know this is not true, but it doesn't harm to be ambiguous, does it? I suppose not. The MOE says that academic results is not the be all and end all of learning. I will agree wholeheartedly with them, except

But I wonder if parents who still have school-going kids and who still face 2 major national exams - the PSLE and the GCE 'O' Levels, think they can go along, even against their best wishes? Look, so long as these exams exist in their present form and purpose, parents will still engage tutors, send their children for enrichment classes, and God knows what else, to give their children that extra edge. These latest initiatives will mean little.

As they say, the devil is in the details. How will this policy be implemented? How extensive will be be? Will the MOE implement communist-style uniformity? What do we mean by unique programmes? Do they matter when its comes to these major exams? After all, the Education Minister didn't say that these national exams will be reformed. The PSLE, we can control and dictate. But we are apparently now touching. The GCE - well you have to call London.

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Minister Heng blames students to cover up a flawed education system

Education minister Heng Swee Keat has come out openly to say that a lack of drive in Singaporean students is worrying. Singapore’s education system is built to create workers not business starters. Thus students when at the end of the education are often lost in what they can do for a living. Our education system do not identify each student skill and talent very early on in their schooling life.

It is rather ironic that he mentions that that a lack of drive in Singaporean students is worrying when the problem itself is caused by his own govt policies.The conformist, assessment and grade driven education system here sucks. Even when you graduate here, if you hold a pink IC and Singapore passport, you are discriminated as it has become common knowledge that employers in the private sector know about the draconian education system here in Singapore , hence they prefer foreign talents.

To expose half truths and illusion. Let me just state that the education system is one of the most reflective aspects of a country or state’s democracy level. 

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A defence of the Singapore education system

The recently concluded Ministry of Education (MOE) Workplan Seminar 2012 came in the midst of a national conversation amongst Singaporeans.

New initiatives by MOE to improve the quality and focus of the Singapore education system from abolishing the secondary school banding to raising the profile of teachers are commendable.

In the cacophony of ideas to improve the system, perhaps it would be appropriate to address some of the major points of contention stakeholders have about our education methodology. 

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MOE to take firm stand against unreasonable demands on teachers 

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said a firm stand must be taken against unreasonable demands placed on teachers.

He said this in his speech at the ministry's annual Work Plan Seminar on Wednesday.

Mr Heng said the majority of parents are supportive partners of teachers.

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OPINION: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat not that connected to the ground level after all

Where Bears Roam Free, 16 Sep 2012
I agree with the Minister for Education that some parents have gone overboard. However, in the last few days, Heng Swee Keat's method of making his point is much to be desired.

The point of contention is that the minister did not bother to listen to the parent's side of the story regarding the boy who was punished, having his hair cut. He depended solely on the feedback from the school and/or MOE. That itself may be OK, but.... the problem is that he used the above example and publicly mentioned it.

I feel that Mr Heng not only is insensitive towards the boy's mental condition before his exam, he even does not respect his mother's right to be heard. Talking about having the need to respect others, in trying to point out that teachers need respect! How about practising what you preach, Mr Minister? Full story

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Lack of discipline in schools is MOE's own undoing

The mother who reported to the police against the teacher who cut her son's hair is just a symptom of a larger worry - discipline, or rather, lack of discipline in schools. The bigger worry is that some parents seem to "endorse" their children's indiscipline in school. In my opinion, the biggest worry is actually it all started from MOE itself. Don't believe me? Read on then.....

This article discusses the two most influential factors that led to the deterioration of discipline in schools which are:

1. MOE's rule on restriction on the use of the cane for disciplinary measures; and

2. The "medicalisation" of once considered disciplinary behavioural problems by categorizing them as "medical condition", as propagated by the Western schooling system.

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Minister Heng gets his fact wrong about dyslexic people

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has lashed out at the mother who filed a police report after her Primary Six son’s hair was forcefully cut by his teacher.

Speaking at the Ministry of Education Work Plan Seminar on Wed (12 Sep), Mr Heng said that the child was reminded repeatedly to trim his hair, and when that failed, the school sent a letter to the parent.

“The mother’s response was that her son was dyslexic and therefore forgetful. Dyslexic people are not forgetful,” Mr Heng said. “As one writer put it in a media commentary, by raising such a hullabaloo, ‘the mother… did herself and her son no favours’.”

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$60 Haircut: TNP makes Minister Heng looks bad

Again I am reminded to avoid TNP. Esther Ng the journalist who wrote this article had handled a topic that was beyond her ken. As a result it had made the Education Minister looked bad. The issue here is the relationship between dyslexia and memory.

I am familiar with dyslexia, the DAS and their intervention programs, which failed to work for my daughter.

In our society special needs kids are often inadvertently made to feel unwanted. If you have kid that is severely dyslexic, you carry a heavy burden because the academic pressure is much heavier. I sympathize with Madam Ong trials.

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$60 Haircut

Recently 39-year-old sales manager Serene Ong filed a police complaint after a Unity Primary School teacher cut her child’s hair for being too long. The mother is now at the centre of a row as Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has cited Madam Ong as an example of a demanding parent.

Some Singaporeans agree with the minister while others disagree with the action of the school. Now I never understood the need to cut student’s hair because in no way whatsoever do I believe a haircut will install discipline in a student but I think in the midst of the midst of all the argument; everyone has missed the big point of this story.

The school cut the hair and destroyed a $60 haircut!

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Teachers have no business cutting students’ hair

Earlier this year, the police were hauled in to investigate a case of verbal abuse when a teacher told a student that he ‘didn’t want to see her face’. In the case of a vainpot Ryan who spent the equivalent of my entire year’s haircut budget ($120) at Red’s, my concern is not so much whether his teacher went overboard or if his mum overreacted (parents always do these days), but how his reaction to the ordeal of a teacher manhandling his funky mop speaks for kids of his generation, kids whose parents resist till this day from calling them ‘BABY’, though ‘babies’ are exactly what they behave like.

What bugs me is that he’s TWELVE, CRIED and LOCKED himself at home for DAYS as if it weren’t a few snips of a scissors but a crude lopping and scalping with pruning shears.

Ever heard of a CAP, boy? God, it’s like the apocalypse just befell us all. I mean, just look at his pose. Look at it. I don’t blame the teacher for having the urge to run his head through with a motorised grass-cutter. 

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Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter thinks men with long hair look sissy

Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter, Lee Wei Ling, went on a rampage yet again in The Sunday Times on Sept. 2. Thankfully, her editor did a fine job cleaning up after her and the only upside is that it is less bad than the last time she regurgitated in the newspaper.

Right click to open this picture in another tab/ window. Click again to enlarge so that it is big enough to read.

What you can take away from her article: She lectures a mother about how to raise her son. When she has none of her own to speak of. 

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Every school is a good school
Our SG education
Tweaks in Our SG education
Mad About Tuition: The Singapore Dilemma
Too many graduates in Singapore