Shortcuts to learning harmful in the long run

The process of thinking through and consolidating concepts is a crucial part of the learning process.

Ready-made cheat sheets allow students to bypass this ("Students get exam boost by buying cheat sheets"; Jan 22).

In the long run, this may do more harm than good, since the students may not have attained genuine mastery of the required skills and knowledge.

Furthermore, the use of cheat sheets prepared by others may also hamper the success of two initiatives recently announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Last month, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng challenged educators to give students the space to innovate and take risks ("Students 'need the space to innovate'"; Dec 30, 2015).

No matter how much effort educators put in, it may all go down the drain if students ultimately choose to rely on ready-made revision notes instead of doing their own thinking.

Separately, the MOE has also just reiterated the need to foster a love for learning ("More time and space for students' interests"; Jan 20).

If such an integral part of the learning process is skipped, how can such a love ever be fostered?

I'm sure most students who use ready-made revision notes understand these concerns, and would much rather take charge of their own learning.

However, the very nature of the education system - fast pace of teaching due to a packed curriculum, and high frequency of summative tests - often prevents them from having time to do so.

The dilemma is thus: Take the "moral high ground" and fail, or take the shortcut and do well.

If we want to prevent our students from developing the "shortcut" mentality, we need to give them time to undergo the full learning process.

Alternatively, assessment formats may need to be changed, such that the usefulness of ready-made cheat sheets may be reduced.

Ng Chia Wee