How will MOE or any of the local schools respond to this letter, I wonder?
March 17, 2007, ST Forum
Which school would students rather be in?
LET me contrast the approaches taken by an international school and an autonomous school in Singapore.
Guess which school offers customer-service orientation to parents and students (teachers respect students and do not scream at them); later-starting school hours; curriculum that allows learning to take place (teach less, learn more); good and motivated teachers; small class sizes; no pressure on students/staff to win accolades (the journey is more important than the destination); minimal homework and tests/exams; hiphop dancing exercise for PE and, best of all, cellphone and laptop usage.
Students and parents are welcome to see the teachers and the principal himself whenever possible - no bureaucratic system to block access, even the security is friendly.
The typical Singapore school's philosophy is that 'children should be seen and not heard'. The moment they arrive in school, they have to sit down quietly in the hall to read. During recess, there is no time to play. They are not allowed to talk in class (too noisy). Small wonder many do not grow up articulate and find school to be, at best, a forgettable experience.
Shoes, socks and hair pose no big issues in the international school (don't sweat the small stuff). Students are free to show individualism (and do they look good). But not the stern Singapore school - it wants the students to look like factory-produced robots. I do not think this is the only way to instil discipline. I recall the time I had to go out late at night to buy white school shoes with laces for my child (velcro not allowed).
Education should reflect changes in the workplace and society - including cellphone usage. Everyone is using cellphones everywhere, except in our conservative schools. How do you expect students to learn to use their phones properly in public if they are not allowed to do so in school? Education is also about teaching them responsible use of the phone during lessons.
Ultimately, it boils down to mindset and how a school manages the students. It is time for the local schools to loosen up.
By the way, ask the international school students if they are happy and the answer is an affirmative 'Yes'. The students also do reasonably well academically, in case you wonder.
Lam Mun Wai (Mdm)
Regular readers of my blog would know that one of my pet peeves is the Singapore educational system. Some of the issues have been highlighted by Mdm Lam: teachers’attitudes towards their students (perhaps not screaming at them, but stern all the same), expecting students to be “guai”& sit quietly listening to the teacher doing all the talking instead of an interactive learning environment, class sizes, the emphasis on results (i.e. exams/tests) instead of the learning process etc.
Will they cite cultural differences as an excuse for the different approach to education? The need for a strict dress/appearance code to instill discipline? Banning cellphones to avoid distractions?
Let’s see what they say…