Bolder changes in schools can help in holistic development of children

While I am heartened that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is taking concrete steps towards de-emphasising grades in schools, I believe that the measures can be bolder and more targeted to enable our children to discover the joy of learning and become a generation of people that will contribute to a more compassionate, gracious and inclusive society.

It is common knowledge that many parents are unable to assist their children in their schoolwork when they get to the upper primary levels and, therefore, outsource the task to private tutors. Teachers also struggle to cover the stipulated syllabus within curriculum time, which leaves them with little time to do revision and help the weaker children catch up.

The purpose of freeing up three weeks of curriculum time every two years is "to free up learning and teaching" (Fewer exams: Time freed up for other learning activities; Sept 29).

I applaud the intention. Three weeks in two years translates to 10½ days in a year, or about five days a semester. If MOE is serious about this intention, five days a semester is not going to achieve the purpose.

Instead, a curriculum overhaul is needed. This would mean reducing the subject content so that teachers will not have to rush to complete the syllabus. A revision of the curriculum is also needed to keep up with what is relevant in the world, in skills and knowledge.

In addition, if learning is not supposed to be a competition, a greater focus on values and character development can be built into curriculum time.

Time can be set aside to support and assist weaker students to catch up. Allow more opportunities for inter-learning and interaction between students of different abilities so that children learn to help one another and no one is left behind.

Let students take on a greater role in the upkeep of the school premises. This can be a shared responsibility of the whole class.

Bolder changes in schools can contribute to the holistic development of children, build a more inclusive environment and enable every school to become a good school.

Lim Shaw Hui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2018, with the headline 'Bolder changes in schools can help in holistic development of children'. Print Edition | Subscribe