A niche of their own: Farrer Park Primary

A little drama goes a long way

A teacher and her pupils role-playing during a process drama lesson at Farrer Park Primary School.
A teacher and her pupils role-playing during a process drama lesson at Farrer Park Primary School.PHOTO: FARRER PARK PRIMARY SCHOOL

Convincing another villager to hide his elderly mother may be Aarrya Anurag's most difficult task.

For two hours, the nine-year-old was immersed in an intense debate over whether a Japanese ruler who banished frail old folks into remote mountains was right to do so.

Anurag's adventure began in the classroom, with a Ministry of Education (MOE) storybook meant for lower primary pupils that has been adapted to become the centrepiece of a process drama lesson in Farrer Park Primary School.

Through the structured drama programme, Anurag, his classmates and the teacher take on various characters in the story and act out different situations.

"Through this, the pupils feel engaged in the story. It helps develop communication and critical thinking skills," said the school's English department head Faith Huang.

Using drama in education is part of Farrer Park Primary School's applied learning programme. The school-wide initiative, launched in 2013, encourages pupils to use drama to explore complex real-world issues such as bullying, forgiveness and reconciliation.

While lower primary pupils use process drama to explore text from storybooks, those in Primary 2 to 6 also incorporate drama as an aid in composition writing. The role-playing helps facilitate thinking and flush out misconceptions.

"There is a lot of experiential learning," said Ms Huang. "The writing process becomes more interesting and engaging for the pupils."

For Anurag, the values he learnt go beyond acting or English lessons. "I learnt about being in other people's shoes and thinking about how they would feel if they were sent to the mountains when they are 70 years old," he said.

Pupils are also introduced to regular drama performances during school assembly and theatre visits.

One graduating member of the school's drama club has applied for direct admission into Xinmin Secondary School to pursue drama as an O-level subject.

Primary 6 pupil Nguyen Van Lam, who was a founding member of the club, has even consolidated an acting portfolio with the help of his teachers.

"I like acting on stage and expressing myself," he said.

Supporting his decision to pursue drama, his father, Mr Heng Chee Kiang, a trade marketing executive, said: "Every kid has to do what he likes, rather than what his parents like. Only then can he excel in what he does."

Rahimah Rashith

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline 'A little drama goes a long way'. Print Edition | Subscribe