Schools urged to band together so they can offer more CCAs

Bukit Panjang Government High students practising their fencing, one of a wide variety of activities which Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said were once seen as being available only to wealthier students, but which are now offered as CCAs.
Bukit Panjang Government High students practising their fencing, one of a wide variety of activities which Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said were once seen as being available only to wealthier students, but which are now offered as CCAs.ST FILE PHOTO
MR LOUIS NG (NEE SOON GRC)
MR LOUIS NG (NEE SOON GRC)
NMP KOK HENG LEUN
NMP KOK HENG LEUN

Schools close to each other should band together to offer sports that they may not be able to provide on their own, whether due to lack of student interest or other reasons, suggested Nominated MP Ganesh Rajaram.

Describing sports as one of the best ways for children to build lasting friendships across socioeconomic divides, he questioned how some schools picked which co-curricular activities (CCA) to offer.

Limited places can lead to a first-come-first -serve system, and sometimes schools choose to drop a sport, even one as popular as football, because they fail to excel in it. That leads to children being sent off to a CCA they have no interest in, said Mr Rajaram.

"Parents are then told, 'Don't worry, you can engage your own coach and enlist your child in a programme to participate in the sport he or she enjoys and we as a school will recognise it as an official CCA,' " he said.

"What this means is that the more affluent parents will engage private coaches for their children, and the children from less affluent families make do with playing an alternative sport which they may not like or have any interest in."

Mr Rajaram also raised the issue about the emergence of sports coaches who specialise in helping children get a place in a secondary school through the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme.

These "DSA" coaches guarantee a place in the school of choice, even promising a refund otherwise.

"But what do these coaches actually teach?" asked Mr Rajaram.

ON ASSESSING TEACHERS

Teachers join teaching to make a difference to the lives of our youth. And yet the reality of the pressure from competition created by our own performance-based ranking and reward system can skew teachers' choices. We want teachers who teach for the love of teaching, not teachers who teach for tests... Perhaps, there should also be a de-emphasis of ranking and rewarding of teachers based on rankings.

MR LOUIS NG (NEE SOON GRC)

I would like to reassure Mr Ng and members that teacher performance is assessed holistically and is not dependent on their students' academic performance. Teachers are assessed on a wide range of criteria: Quality teaching and learning, character development of students, professional development of self and others, demonstration of desired personal attributes, professional values and ethics, content mastery and pedagogy of instruction.

SECOND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION INDRANEE RAJAH

ON PSLE

My problem with PSLE is more of it happening at the age of 12 and for children at that age going through that experience can be quite traumatic. I understand the need for national examinations... Is it possible that we consider, (like) in some Scandinavian countries, whereby our basic education should last more than six years, that it can start from six to 16 years?

NMP KOK HENG LEUN

On PSLE, there has been a lot of debate on that. I think we are all agreed that it is not a perfect system but it is something that has stood us in good stead.

We don't want to dismantle something which really helps us to channel the students to the further paths ahead, but I think the point that Mr Kok is really making is that prior to age 12 or leading up to age 12, you want them to enjoy their learning, you want them to have enough content that they have a solid foundation, you don't want them to have so much stress that not only do they not enjoy it, but it maybe becomes self-defeating in terms of the educational purpose. So, as I said earlier, on those broad objectives, we are aligned and we will find ways.

SECOND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION INDRANEE RAJAH


ON PARENTS AND TEACHERS

The most important school is our family. The most important teachers - our parents. Of course, it takes a village to raise a child but the home, the parents, is one of the most important education experience all of us will have.

So, you imagine if a family is a school and the parent is a teacher, it makes the job of MOE complicated because between the parent and the child it is a complex relationship, and all of us who are parents, we know that. There are expectations, love, respect, hopes, fears, worries... and MOE is in the middle of it.

EDUCATION MINISTER ONG YE KUNG, in response to Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who had asked MPs to ponder what was their most important school and who was their most important teacher.

He described how he heard of one coach instructing a child not to pass the ball to teammates during trials, so he could outshine them.

"Another child, who had no interest in any sport, was enrolled by his parents in a shooting class that guaranteed success in the DSA trials, and a place in a top school. Yes, the boy got into the school through DSA, but is now miserable as he doesn't enjoy the sport."

He also related his own experience as a parent who is a "football nut". He said he had enrolled his son in a football academy around the age of five, but observed that the child seemed to just "chase after the other children".

When pressed, his son admitted that he did not like football and was only playing it because his father loved the sport.

"I never bothered to ask him what he liked," said the NMP, who then let his son try various sports.

In his speech, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that schools are offering a wide variety of activities formerly seen to be only available to wealthier students. Tanglin Secondary School has fencing, for instance, while Kent Ridge Secondary School offers sailing.

There is also a Junior Sports Academy, which is a two-year free sports development programme for talented Primary 4 and 5 students.

Since last year, it has doubled its capacity to about 800 students a year, with some going on to land secondary school places through the DSA system.

The academy does not scout for high performing sportsmen and sportswomen, but looks for raw diamonds - students with good motor skills and hand-eye coordination abilities - and then helps them develop their sporting skills through professional coaching, said Mr Ong.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'Schools urged to band together so they can offer more CCAs'. Print Edition | Subscribe