Friday, September 23, 2011

MOE to focus on values

I went over the minister's long speech in the ST today. Every new person on the job begins with making a speech that you cannot fault. With all the experience from my kids in the system, I have learnt not to set my expectations too high. At the same time as I understand competition and practical Economics better, I am more keenly aware of the limits of those goals.

Principals and teachers need to understand in working terms the thrust of his speech, which is mostly intangible. How do you translate from the abstract to the real? That would take time. In several quarters there would also be resistance to contend with.

Also if the kids continue to be tested, selected, streamed and allocated to schools the same exams based way, nothing material would have changed.

Sure, overall the system keeps improving and that's good, but for most families the changes come too late. We will always feel this way because all of us are seeking an edge for our children in the competition all the time. If you get what everyone is getting, there is no advantage. That is why the most competitive families fight tooth and nail to get to the elite schools. You also see this in the assessment books. They keep innovating and coming out with new titles and approaches. Parents, teachers and students go treasure hunting for them. Of course there are some who say they do not believe in competing. As every caring parent wants their children to do well, these folks mostly lack self confidence, and are just rationalizing their fear of failure. Yet there are those parents who don't have the time to guide their kids or the money to spend on these supplementary materials or help. The psychology is complex. Success is explained in one way, failure a thousand ways.

The quest to always gain an edge over others means whatever the MOE do, the angst and stress felt by families will never go away. The solution does not reside with MOE. The problem is our culture, which is continuously shaped by economic and social policies and structure.

If they do not reform the exams systems, as the MOE move on to focusing on values; parents, tutors and students will take more of the academic workload off school. Overall the stress level will go up instead of down. The minster ending his speech on lessening homework will turn out to be superfluous.

I think Heng Swee Keat could end up re-branding education than reforming it. If you keep the exam system as is, you will get the same old behavior.

Well, I hope I am wrong this time. I would be much happier.

1 comment:

  1. In addition, I feel confused over his strategy of promoting "values". I don't trust that there are straight forward "correct" values that are black and white. What if the Ministry prefers something like conformity over harmless defiance? I would certainly hope the kids don't get punished just because they don't fit into the arbitrary model values.

    No high hopes for this Minister certainly. He may be forever a greenhorn in this field.