If you’re a parent, or perhaps an educator, you might have already chanced upon this post that’s circulating rather widely on Facebook. Published less than 24 hours ago, it has already seen over 1,000 shares. It’s a post that discusses Dr Chee Soon Juan‘s (of Singapore Democratic Party, SDP) policy suggestions on education in Singapore.
Penned by Mr John Jiayong Low, who is the founder and currently CEO of Edumatters, who has taken the time to read through the document and summarised his thoughts for us. We’ve gotten his permission to republish the Facebook post here; thanks, John!
Here are my thoughts to SDP’s Dr Chee’s ideas on education.
The policy suggestions are published here. 105 pages long, I managed only 70 pages.
The paper was well written….. to elicit responses into thinking that MOE is not doing a good job, over looking big issues that the SDP have spotted and supposedly, came up with good solutions.
Educators are not allowed to take a political stand and neither are they supposed to comment on education policies. Hence I land myself in quite a unique situation whereby I have some knowledge of the education sector, yet I am not currently bound by them.
Even as an ex-educator, at first read, it seems to make sense, but with deeper thought, it does not. Hence I felt the need to share my thoughts with those around me.
1. SDP: Elitist education system. The rich can afford tuition, the poor cannot.
This card has been played so many times and it shows how misinformed SDP is. CDCA offers subsidised tuition programmes for needy families. They pay only $12 per subject per month.
Of course SDP is right that elite tuition centres may not have similar programs for the needy, but the teachers at CDAC are good too. In fact, a class i visited, had very bright students that score above 250 during PSLE .
To dictate that all children have EQUAL opportunities in terms of tuition, can probably work if we are North Korea.
If everyone had exactly equal opportunities to the dot, whats there to strive for?
Income distribution is a problem for all developed countries. Lets not use an economical issue to churn out half baked national policies.
The rich can afford all kinds of insane private enrichment, but the government have also ensured there are resources made available and affordable for those from low income families.
If the government can ensure equal opportunities within a range, I think that is a responsible government.
Unless if the poor are deprived of an education because of financial factors, then I will vote for the SDP.
2. SDP: Remove PSLE and delay streaming.
I believe Mr Heng Swee Keat wished it was so simple. It isn’t. But since he came up with the idea of banding PSLE scores, all the initiative in sec schools have been preparing for such a change.
As a teacher in a classroom, I am able to tell the T-score different between my students in sec 1. There is a vast difference in student learning ability when their T-scores have a gap of 10 – 15 marks. If not for the current banding, resources will not be utilised suitably.
As parents, we have to be humble enough to recognise that our children are of different capabilities, and that sec schools are doing their best for their range of students.
2. SDP: Calls for all pri sch to be single session.
This is awkward to read. MOE announced earlier that their plan to turn all Pri schools to single session by 2016 will not materialise as a few schools are facing logistical issues. However 155 / 187 Pri schools are already Single Session and they will work towards 100% ASAP.
3. SDP: Calls to broaden curriculum to include arts and humanities and collaboration projects in Pri and Sec sch.
This is double awkward to read. It shows how out of touch the writers of this paper is.
Secondary already has project work, speech and drama, humanities and the arts. Primary school, have them, although in different depth. They might not be ready to understand geography, history and literature, without a basic foundation in English, Maths and Science.
4. SDP: Reduce class sizes to 1-20. Because studies show smaller ratio, better learning etc.
There is no need for such a blanket rule. Schools are already given the autonomy to allocate the school’s resources based on students’ needs. Schools that have extra teachers, can allocate extra teachers to classes that need them. On top of that, schools have Allied Educators and Adjunct teachers to help out.
The curriculum for weaker streams has also banded them into smaller groups. Although I use to teach an NT class of 40 students, when it came to course work, the classes were always split into two.
What problems would we have to tackle if SDP suggestion comes into play? MOE has to employ double the teachers. Since all schools are almost single session, it will also mean we need double the physical space. Either that of we double the height of all existing schools.
Is that realistic?
5. SDP: Introduce dedicated teachers. Same teachers from P1 – P3 and another from P4-P6.
Again this shows how out of touch SDP is with the education landscape. We all wish to do so. How does SDP propose we introduce such a system where there are manpower movement?
What happens when people resign, move house, transfer school, go on maternity leave, No Pay Leave etc?
Previously when I was doing time tabling for my school, each term, we have to spend a few weeks at it, sorting out a workable timetable if there are manpower movement. It is not as simple as employing another teacher to just fill in the slot. It is about finding the best combination of teachers to teach all 1,200 students in the school. If Teacher A is on maternity leave, who is the next best choice to take over her class?
6. SDP: Scrap School Ranking
Interesting! Again showing how much they (do not) know about the ground. MOE has already scrapped school ranking (and if you are really interested in gaining votes, try to find out why MOE started school ranking in the first place) but currently it is the public coming up with unofficial ranking lists in online education forums.
How shall we scrap it of the forums? Jail the parents that contribute to it?
This paper lacks depth, and understanding of the real issues in our education landscape. It seems to have singled out all the hot issues about education, and then supplemented by Google research on their “proposed” solutions.
Still I have to give credit that it is written in a very enticing manner, to cause readers to think that SDP is able to solve the education problems we face. Unfortunately, I don’t see any good viable solutions proposed in this paper.
If i missed it, please point it out to me. It is 1:25 am after all.
There are some very sensible comments within John’s post, so do check them out. Once again, John, for allowing us to republish your thoughts here.