Friday, May 12, 2006

How do you improve the Sg K-12 education system?

Gayle wrote a long piece (detailing her own experiences) on the stratification of Singapore's K-12 education. Sure, we can all list/point out the faults of the system. My past entries on this (and related) topic(s):

1. Ramblings on the educational divide
2. Ties that bind
3. Living your parents' dreams
4. Where is home; Elite Twats; Recruitment Weekend; Russia anyone?
5. JC/poly divide revisited; Asians dominate UC campuses' admissions

What then, are the possible solutions? (I bet if you can suggest reasonable answers to this 'elitist' divide, you will probably be invited to a tea session with the Education Minister.)

Should we remove all the different classifications (EM1, EM2, SAP, GEP, Express, N(A), N(T), through-train etc) and have all the schools put on the same level and be treated equally?

Actually, I think the classification started out with noble aims along the line of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". However, as you know we human beings are never perfect, the best ideas on paper usually turn out dud (or to unexpected/unwanted outcomes) when applied to the real world.

The key issue here is society's perception, not just from the POV of the students and parents, but most importantly also that of the employers.

For the former, take for example the euphemistic sounding "normal (academic/technical) stream". Everyone knows that the students in this stream are academically weaker than the others in the Special/Express routes. From anecdoctal accounts, many parents/teachers have given up on this group of students - labelling them as lazy, stupid, good-for-nothings. It's not surprising then that some would go on to lose their self-esteem and confidence. Remember I not stupid?

Read Swissmiss's interesting account of her teaching a N(T) class. Eye-opening, at least for me.

For the latter, this issue had actually been raised in the forum pages of the local tabloid. Will PSC, say for example consider a poly grad equally with his/her A level counterparts when it comes to the decision to award their prestigious scholarships? Or would distance-learning degree holders (presumably did not do as well in poly/A levels to qualify for a full-time course) be emplaced on the same career track as someone who did the university course on campus? How about the public sector's fast-tracking of scholars to positions of power in the civil service?

Want to start tackling the problem? Begin first with the recruitment tactics of the Sg Civil Service. After all, that's what the meritocracy (and the Singapore Dream) supposed to be right? Have many parallel paths to success, and embrace diversity.

Somewhat fitting (at the undergrad level, but you get the idea):

Degrees of difference

Why does America succeed where Europe fails? The most important factor is diversity. American higher education is not just more varied, but has less of the crippling snobbery and resentment that accompanies variety in, say, Britain. At the bottom of the pyramid are community colleges, offering inexpensive, flexible, job-focused courses for millions of Americans each year. They are pretty basic, and Britons sniff at them. But the difference in mentality, says Martin Trow, an observer of both the British and American education systems, is that in America “something is seen as better than nothing”.

Crucially, too, the different bits of the system fit together. As Mr Trow points out, a student can start in a California community college, earn some credits, move on to state university and finish up taking a degree at Berkeley. Such a path would be inconceivable in most countries in Europe. In France, for example, the division between the state-funded, mass-market universities and the grandes écoles is vast and jealously guarded. Britain's further-education colleges are the poorest relations of an already impoverished family.

Related: a. Ghost of education past (oikono)
b. The education system
c. Elitism in stratified education
d. A CLASS DIVIDED: Emerging Class Stratification In Singapore And Its Impact On Meritocracy

1 comment:

eileen said...

The problem is that teachers can be lazy too. To work on a class of 40 kids who need more attention than others is exhausting. And you need to win their interest which can be difficult. The teachers have to overcome the problem of mistrust. Most of these kids are street smart and if you don't read them properly, they can appeal to your trust and abuse it. That they know this trait well makes them think that others have the same sort of thinking. It is an uphill challenge. Having very little time and energy to devote themselves to these kids, the teachers and parents feel let down by their intentions and efforts. That's why they start to blame the kids.