Schooling in Singapore and abroad - a parent's view
I REFER to Tuesday's Forum Online letter by Mr Ee Teck Ee, 'A lesson all teachers should learn'. I share his sentiments.
My youngest son is 12 years old. He suffers slightly from dyslexia and learns differently from others. When he was in primary school in Singapore, he hated Mathematics because of the way it was taught. His teachers insisted he draw models and follow Education Ministry-prescribed methods or he would be marked wrong. This frustrated him. Regardless of the coaching and tuition we gave him, his marks were always barely a pass.
If he had remained in Singapore, he would have had to do his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) this year and his grade would probably have qualified him for the Normal stream at best.
Because of my job posting to China, my son is now happily settled in an international school environment. There, he is allowed to explore Mathematics and all other subjects.
Instead of mugging for his PSLE, he loves every moment of his new learning experience. He is now enrolled in the Gifted Programme for Youth conducted by Stanford University and is performing at a level above his grade in Maths and English. He came home from school the other day and was discussing the DNA of protein with me, which left me largely stumped because I did not understand it as well as he did.
I believe his transformation in the space of six to seven months is due to the learning environment created in school. In an international school environment, he is challenged to explore and learn in his own way. Teachers do not feel they are in any way superior to pupils. Many are not even specialists in the field they teach. Their role is to spark children's curiosity and interest, and guide them in their quest for knowledge. Pupils take responsibility for their own learning.
In Singapore, schools are factories mass-producing workers for multinational firms. Their job is to churn out as many well-qualified workers as possible. Learning is secondary. In an efficient factory environment, everything is driven by processes and methods. Deviation is not allowed.
Similarly, in Singapore, schools need all students to follow the same syllabus, and use the same methods to answer questions. Otherwise, it becomes highly inefficient.
The more prestigious brand-name schools even have a quality control programme to ensure that only top students graduate from their schools, so as not to tarnish their image or ranking. Any 'defective' students (those unlikely to score straight As) are rejected or discarded.