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Nurturing a range of skills in schools

Published on Apr 8, 2014 2:47 PM

SINGAPORE students' consistently good scores in international mathematics and science competency tests have often made non-Asian school cultures wonder whether rote learning explains the success. It is a facile way of explaining Asian scholastic achievements, of course.

The high rating gained in a different OECD-devised test, in knowledge application, could revise opinions somewhat. Singapore schools need not be hung up on labels applied by others if they are confident about where they are headed.

Some parents, however, might cling to the notion of exam candidates in imperial China memorising Confucian texts for entry into the highly-sought mandarinate. Perhaps it reflects a parental hope that their children, by dint of sheer application, can take pathways perceived as desirable by parents even though their children's natural interests and abilities might pull in another direction.

It is important to acknowledge that there is room for different learning methods. Mathematics is mainly about deductive logic, whereas law students who have to study case histories for precedents will be grateful for the memory-retention skills they possess. Lateral thinkers need the habit of exploring different avenues without losing their way.

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