JC syllabus revamp brings real world closer to students

I wholeheartedly agree with the Education Ministry's move to revisit the junior college syllabus ("JC syllabuses revamped to keep up with the times"; last Thursday).

The trimming of the syllabus for subjects, such as mathematics, provides room for students and teachers to breathe.

Students studying maths will definitely benefit from the 10 per cent cut in content, as it secures precious time for real-world application.

Updating the content gives JC students a confidence boost. Students easily fall into despair when they study materials that seem too distant from the current world.

By carefully fostering this connection with the real world, many students will feel optimistic.

In line with the ministry's reasoning for the changes, I propose two additional suggestions.

First, the 10 per cent cut in content could be extended to the sciences. For example, the sheer quantity of content of biology drowns even the most enthusiastic students. In some JCs, biology notes are around 500 pages in total.

Or consider chemistry: Certain topics, such as transition metals, are more suitable to be taught at university level.

Second, project work could be shifted from a nationwide examination to a schoolwide one. Project work would then not be an A-level subject, but a compulsory school subject in JC.

I offer two points to substantiate my suggestion.

One, it is extremely difficult to standardise teacher assistance in project work across JCs. Hence, issues of fairness arise.

Two, the spirit of project work is systematically abused, due to its status as an A-level subject.

There are implicit boundaries some teachers set to make sure topics students choose are easy to score in.

This runs counter to project work's ethos of generating and solving problems, because most students in Singapore end up doing the same set of topics.

Perhaps the Education Ministry could consider these changes as well.

Kim Kwang Kyu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'JC syllabus revamp brings real world closer to students'. Print Edition | Subscribe