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Today's Education - Singapore

Insightful Discussions and Updated Information on Singapore's Educational Trends

New Developments in Singapore Education (11 August 2009)

MOE has announced that it was giving out a total of 420 teaching scholarships and awards this year. This is no doubt good news to its teachers who will be given opportunities for personal and professional development.

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education, after reading a list of programmes and sponsorships, ended his speech at the 2009 Teaching Scholarships Presentation Ceremony with:

MOE strongly believes that if we allow teachers to develop themselves fully and train them to lead schools and educate students well, then our education system can continually improve.

It is logical to deduce that when teachers upgrade their knowledge and skills, they would in turn help to uplift the quality of the education system. But I could not accept that MOE just left it at that.

I would like to question: Is MOE's mega investment in the teachers cost-effective? How many students can these teachers benefit? How long would it take to achieve its goal of providing best education for all children when there is no plan and nobody to consolidate the skills and knowledge acquired?

I am pressing for this because many things are happening in our schools that do not look too good. According to feedback from parents and teachers, students from schools that adopted the integrated curriculum (which consists of the 'play' feature), seem to be performing rather badly academically.

Those staunchly academic teachers who are teaching upper primary levels are beginning to put the blame on the new curriculum.

As MOE still emphasises on the importance of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), schools that are very concerned with ranking will be prone to switch back to the old ways of drilling students through rote-memory methods. This is going to set our education system back by ten years.

I am supportive of the integrated curriculum, especially for preschoolers and lower primary children, and I can justify that it helps to improve children's cognitive performance among other areas. (I have been studying and doing research on the curriculum for nine years now; I have proven results, but would not elaborate here.)

However, to be fair to the academic teachers and worried parents, I would have to admit that when the 'play' curriculum is misinterpreted, it could indeed be ineffective.

The part in Dr Ng's speech that caught my attention is the mention of Dr Elizabeth Pang, an Overseas Merit Teaching Scholar who has contributed to the development of the Strategies for English Language Learning And Reading (STELLAR) programme.

However, individual success is not going to make a great difference in our children�s lives. What happened to the other scholars and our pool of master teachers that MOE has appointed over the years? MOE should have a central team to put together their contributions into a workable and effective programme that all schools can adapt.

The latest I read about MOE�s plan is the launching of the Revised EL Syllabus in 2010 and of STELLAR to be dovetailed into the syllabus.

While STELLAR is a good language and reading programme, it does not make as much positive impact on the children as an effective integrated programme. Hence, the focus will still be on the Revised EL Syllabus.

I hope the integrated curriculum with the holistic approach would be explained clearly in the revised syllabus. I am making this request because I notice that many speeches and reports made by Dr Ng and Grace Fu displayed a lack of understanding of the curriculum. (*Note: They kept referring to Art, Music and PE as �non-academic� subjects, without emphasising that these subjects when integrated with EL, Mathematics and Science can bring about very good academic results.)