Singapore Schools show new techniques of teaching

Dressed in costumes from the Chinese literary classic Journey To The West, Primary 4 pupils from Mee Toh School (from left) Kiefer Ong, Chen Bailin and Annabelle Yeow speaking to visitors at the ExCEL Fest yesterday. Pupils in the school study the bo
Dressed in costumes from the Chinese literary classic Journey To The West, Primary 4 pupils from Mee Toh School (from left) Kiefer Ong, Chen Bailin and Annabelle Yeow speaking to visitors at the ExCEL Fest yesterday. Pupils in the school study the book in Primary 3 and put up performances based on it as part of their curriculum. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Students at Jurong Secondary School do sums to perfect the right amount of ingredients for ice cream, then conduct scientific experiments to find out the fastest way to freeze it.

Such methods are typical of how Secondary 1 students in its Normal (Technical) stream are taught subjects such as maths, science, and food and consumer education.

Their projects were exhibited yesterday at the Ministry of Education's ExCEL Fest, an annual event to showcase and share innovative efforts in school.

Teachers at Jurong Secondary plan lessons around a theme - in this case, ice cream - to make the different subjects more integrated and interesting.

"These students are very good with their hands," said Mrs Juliana Ng, who supervises the school's Normal (Technical) curriculum. "But their foundation in subjects such as science, maths and English is weak. So we started this project to make the subjects more interesting for them, and more hands-on and relevant.

"It is also instant gratification because they can eat the ice cream after they make it."

Student Nur Shalyn Abdul Halim, 14, said the technique has helped her.

"I used to be terrible in maths in primary school," she said. "I used to get E or U grades for them. But now, learning is very fun. My maths has improved a lot, which I never imagined would happen."

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said that for students to grow to be great problem solvers and innovators, it is important that teachers act as role models.

In a speech, he urged teachers to continue to innovate. He offered three don'ts as advice: Don't be afraid, don't be alone and don't be shy.

"Keep trying," he said. "Don't be afraid to try new approaches... Do it together with other teachers and the broader community, and share (them) across our entire school system... That is how we can... raise the level of our education system."

Mr Heng added that the ministry will scale up good ideas that it identifies in schools.

Yesterday, 34 schools received the Innergy Awards, which are given out by the MOE to recognise innovations in the education sector.

Guangyang Primary in Bishan took home the gold award for its idea to get pupils to learn Chinese through simple physical movements.

Inspired by the 70s disco hit YMCA, Chinese language teacher Lucy Sim got the Primary 1 and 2 pupils to act out the strokes of a Chinese character through simple body movements.

"The pupils enjoy the movements a lot," said Ms Sim, 49. "We have noticed improvements, especially in their tingxie (Chinese spelling)."

leepearl@sph.com.sg