Review project work syllabus in JCs

Having spoken to some junior college students who have almost completed their A-level project work requirements, I feel that there should be a paradigm shift in how the Ministry of Education (MOE) conducts the subject.

First, students this year were expected to address local issues.

Is MOE being too demanding on 17-year-olds in expecting them to solve issues, given their limited worldview?

When I was in JC, we had to suggest solutions for wastage.

We were graded on "generation of ideas", where not only did ideas have to be creative, but they also had to be feasible.

Even elected leaders find it difficult to alleviate certain problems, like recycling, or to develop refreshing solutions, let alone teenagers.

"Non-creative" measures, such as public education and legislation, are frowned upon in project work.

As a whole, the rigid system and fixation on grades have inhibited effective development of ideas...

As long as such rigid and outdated pedagogy remains with an unwillingness to explore in fear of failure, the full potential of project work will never be realised.

Yet, these are still heavily relied upon by the Government.

Hence, isn't it unrealistic to expect students to outdo the authorities?

Second, project work is a paper exercise without real-life implementation.

To what extent, then, is project work useful in addressing issues?

In contrast, polytechnic projects are more realistic as they come with practical application.

Third, I understand that the proposals by students are eventually disposed of due to examination confidentiality.

It is ironic to expect students to "address local issues" and, yet, not retain their reports for future reference in policymaking.

Isn't it wasteful for reports developed painstakingly to get thrown out? These project work reports should be treated with greater regard.

MOE should adopt a system similar to ScholarBank@NUS, where research papers are collected and made publicly accessible.

As a whole, the rigid system and fixation on grades have inhibited effective development of ideas.

In fact, some schools have even told their students to avoid long holidays in June and to work on their project work reports instead, and have implemented deadlines in June itself.

If left unchecked, this is an unhealthy practice because students are not allowed to utilise their school holidays to rest and rejuvenate.

As long as such rigid and outdated pedagogy remains with an unwillingness to explore in fear of failure, the full potential of project work will never be realised.

In the spirit of the recently announced measures to alleviate the overemphasis on grades, MOE should take the opportunity to review the project work syllabus too.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2018, with the headline 'Review project work syllabus in JCs'. Print Edition | Subscribe