SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) is reviewing its character and citizenship education (CCE) syllabus to put a greater emphasis on moral education at the lower-primary level.
Announcing the review at the annual National Kindness Awards 2019, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said the ministry wants children to develop a sense of their identity and values from a young age.
"These values will in turn guide the relationships that they have with their families, peers, teachers, and the community that they live in," he said.
"With solid grounding, they will be more ready to make life choices, such as their educational pathways, careers, the kind of person they want to be, and things they wish to achieve in life."
The curriculum is based on core values like respect, responsibility, resilience, integrity, care, and harmony, which Mr Ong said are the foundation for a kind society.
The current syllabus was implemented in 2014 under then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Mr Ong added that educators expend much effort to continuously improve and refine the curriculum and make it more engaging, relatable and effective.
But values are often "caught and not taught", said Mr Ong, adding that family members, especially parents, have a big role to play in imparting the right values to children.
About 1,800 students were recognised for various kindness initiatives at the awards ceremony on Friday (Nov 8). The event was hosted by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) and held in Downtown East.
Some of the initiatives included kindness campaigns organised by students within their schools, donation drives for the needy and creative projects like videos, storybooks and poetry produced by the students.
SKM general secretary William Wan said a review of the CCE syllabus was necessary from time to time to ensure it is relevant and effective.
He said he was on the original CCE curriculum development committee about 10 years ago and added that he would like to see more focus on the practical application of the values taught.
"The focus should not just be on the theory. I think everybody knows the theory: We should be good and kind. The focus should be on empowering our students to express the values they have learnt."
Recognising kind deeds, as the National Kindness Awards does, is a good start, but students must also have opportunities to internalise the values and make these part of their everyday lives, he said.
"We must ensure that there is no disconnect; it shouldn't be that students only return trays, or don't litter, or behave with courtesy and graciousness in schools, but the moment they leave, everything is left behind."
Xishan Primary School teacher Yvonne Lin, 28, who teaches English, physical education and CCE, said she teaches her pupils to be "others-centred" and to be considerate towards others in their community, including their peers, family members and neighbours.
She said that besides community-based issues, global issues are also increasingly important as children are becoming more exposed to and interested in what is happening around the world from a young age.
While global issues are already part of the current syllabus, Ms Lin said this aspect could be further enhanced.
As an example, she said pupils can be guided to discuss issues relating to global climate change and to think about what they can do to reduce pollution.
"Even at a primary school level, there are things that children can do to care for the environment.''