Let students take the lead in learning current affairs

Mr Tay Kian Tiong has highlighted a pertinent need ("Poly students need lessons on current affairs"; last Friday).

But would talks and seminars be the best way to get the students engaged?

Passive learning tends to be dull and a killjoy. Students would quite likely end up clocking time just to meet requirements.

Interactions, discussions and self-directed learning would be more fun and stimulating.

This will also eliminate the need to organise and source experts for the talks and seminars.

What students need to do is to each submit a list of topics they are interested in exploring.

The faculty can then collate and rank the topics and provide students with a schedule; the students can then take it from there.

They can decide on the format but will have to exclude talks and one-way question-and-answer type of presentations.

They could organise debates, small discussion groups or use other formats, such as plays.

Taking what they have gathered from their presentations, each student will write a short essay that reflects his own take on the topic.

The students can then decide whether to have the material published on their schools' student webpages.

Every student's essay can be peer-graded based on clarity and cogency, with marking guidelines made up of objective criteria put together by students and faculty.

There is only one problem to this open-learning format.

Would those in authority take the risk of letting students express views that may be contrary to conventional wisdom?

Or will they focus, more appropriately, on clear and coherent thinking as reflected in a convincingly argued point?

I would say it is easier and more affirming to do the latter.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'Let students take the lead in learning current affairs'. Print Edition | Subscribe