School principal says parents' mindsets have to shift along with streaming policy changes

Westwood Primary School principal Ng Yeow Ling, who has been an educator for 26 years, said education is about the future but some parents are still stuck in the past. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Streaming, as it is currently known in schools, may be on the way out but some parents still need to be persuaded that their children do not need to pick up every subject at the highest possible level.

Westwood Primary School principal Ng Yeow Ling, who has been an educator for 26 years, said education is about the future but some parents are still stuck in the past.

Commenting on how parents are reacting to the changes to the secondary school streaming system, Mr Ng said: "There's a period of lag... Our education is preparing for the future - say the next 20 years - but parents' views and experience of education are perhaps from 20 years prior."

In his time as an educator, Mr Ng has seen numerous changes.

When he was principal of North View Primary School in 2008, the practice of moving children into EM1, EM2 and EM3 streams was scrapped.

He said it always takes some time to change the mindset of parents.

"To be very realistic, there are some parents who may take a while to come on board (with such changes), based on their background and past experiences," he added.

Mr Ng was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a visit to the school by President Halimah Yacob.

The visit is part of her community engagement efforts.

MOE had announced changes to the streaming system earlier this month, during the debate on the Education Ministry's budget.

The Normal and Express streams in secondary schools will be replaced by 2024 with full subject-based banding, where students can take higher- or lower-level subjects based on their strengths.

Subjects will be offered at three levels - G1, G2 or G3, with G standing for "General".

G1 will roughly correspond to today's Normal (Technical) standard, G2 to Normal (Academic) and G3 to Express.

However, concerns have been raised over whether parents will still make a beeline for the G3 band, and push their children to take more subjects at that level.

Mr Ng acknowledged that things are changing and parents no longer view academics as the only route to success.

"With initiatives like SkillsFuture (the national lifelong learning movement), we see that learning is not just for accreditation or qualifications, nor for grades.

"It's really for the mastery of learning and working for life," he added.

During her visit, President Halimah visited the Makerspace @ Westwood - a room pupils can use during recess to build things like catapults or toy cars out of recycled materials provided.

They can also work on longer-term innovation projects that involve skills, such as micro:bit coding, which they pick up in the first term of Primary 4.

Each pupil is given a free micro:bit - a pocket-sized, codeable computer - and the school engages vendors and teachers to conduct six lessons, each running for about two hours, as part of a Project Work class.

It was through one such lesson that 10-year-old Jadia Poh discovered her interest in micro:bit coding.

She told ST: "I learnt how to code in school and when I went home, I decided to try more.

"I watched tutorials online by myself and practised, and I learnt how to do micro:bit games."

She said she will make use of the Makerspace room in the school to develop her projects further. Her co-curricular activity, Innovation Club, gives her more opportunities to do this.

"I enjoy going to the Makerspace room because I can let my imagination run wild," said Jadia, who is interested in trying her hand at robotics next.

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