Value in building school network of parents, alumni

Unity Primary School pupils at a game-filled extravaganza organised by the parent volunteers from the schools on Oct 2, 2014.
Unity Primary School pupils at a game-filled extravaganza organised by the parent volunteers from the schools on Oct 2, 2014. PHOTO: UNITY PARENT SUPPORT GROUP

Having a volunteer network of professionals to work with primary and secondary schools, and linking them to industries and communities to help students get a better idea of possible career options, is a constructive undertaking by the Ministry of Education (MOE) ("Volunteers sought to help students explore career options"; Sept 23).

Over time, individual institutions - especially secondary schools, before their graduating students decide on specialisations and courses in institutes of higher learning - should be empowered to build a more sustainable community of parents and alumni that will provide these connections.

The work of these school-based communities should also complement that of education and career guidance counsellors.

This new network is necessary.

Former education minister Heng Swee Keat noted that while some schools with longer histories can tap their alumni networks for the same purpose, not all schools have access to such people.

In the bigger picture, the "every school a good school" vision resonates.

Furthermore, the MOE is sending a message that pedagogies should shift from the acquisition of knowledge to the mastery of skills ("Learn for skills and life, not just grades: Heng Swee Keat"; March 7).

Besides helping students get a better idea of their career options, education and career guidance encourages students to immerse themselves in out-of-classroom undertakings, such as internship stints and community service.

A greater passion for learning is fostered if students can relate their school curriculum to real-life applications, and even their aspirations for potential jobs.

These principles are not only in line with the SkillsFuture national productivity movement, but also echo recommendations made by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review Committee last year ("More training and career pathways for ITE, poly grads"; Aug 26, 2014).

The main advantage of leveraging parents and alumni from the same school is their proximity to and, by extension, familiarity with the students.

Over time, it will be more challenging to cater to a wider variety of career options, so the sharing of resources and expertise between schools - perhaps facilitated by the MOE and the network - can be arranged, thereby allowing these benefits to be enjoyed by the students.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Value in building school network of parents, alumni'. Print Edition | Subscribe