Confucius still applicable in schools today

The classic Chinese civics compendium, the Di Zi Gui, provides guidelines on filial piety, respect for elders, personal responsibility, and communitarian spirit ("China's young return to Confucian roots"; Nov 21).

It would be fair to consider it an essential aspect of a holistic education, complementing the sciences and the humanities in shaping an all-rounded citizen.

That being said, the many social ills afflicting modern Singapore society give cause to question the effectiveness of the civics and moral education (CME) curriculum in local schools.

The current strategy of CME lessons in primary schools has seemingly failed to capture the imagination of pupils.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many pupils fail to pay attention during these classes, or harbour disdain for the turgid pedagogy.

Given current societal trends, it appears that some choose not to practise the manners and values espoused in the CME syllabus.

Part of the solution lies in reforming the ways in which we inculcate values in our children.

For one thing, rather than continue with the tired classroom format, schools could experiment with more hands-on activities as a means of exposing students to civics and morals in action. This could, for example, involve tie-ups with community organisations.

Moreover, curriculum planners can consider integrating aspects of traditional texts like the Di Zi Gui, to stimulate discussion and understanding of its precepts.

This could even be done in conjunction with mother tongue language classes, so as to foster awareness of cultural roots.

We also cannot understate the importance of parental guidance and home education.

To lay the foundation for and reinforce what is taught in school, parents should lead by example.

This is especially so when their children are at the sensitive age, where lifelong conceptions of right and wrong behaviour are shaped.

We must realise that Confucius still has value for us today, even though the principles were first uttered thousands of years ago.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi