What is our context?
Posted September 27, 2011on:
Here is one more reflection I had on last week’s MOE Work Plan Seminar 2011.
The image of this T-shirt was the closest thing I could find that matched what was on one of the Education Minister’s slides.
Whenever someone wants to show Singapore on the world map, you get the typical view of the Americas on your left, the Asian continent on your right and a little red dot where Singapore is.
I think that it was at around point #21 of our Education Minister’s speech that Mr Heng mentioned changes in Singapore’s context:
…education must suit our unique context. We must always be humble and we must always learn from the best in the world. But we must not simply copy what works elsewhere, or do what is fashionable, without bearing in mind our unique culture, context and circumstances, and what we have achieved. We should have the courage and confidence to do what we think is right, and evolve our system to what is best for us.
His point was that we must do what is best for our context. With the map on screen, visually and verbally I received the message that the context meant the red dot.
I read things further in between the lines (or dots in this case). In today’s world, the entire globe is our context. What happens far away elsewhere affects us locally. Take the haze and financial fallouts as examples. The waste products that we generate every day affect us not just in space but also in time.
Our context should be global and we need learners with complex, worldly and systemic views. So what might we do to prepare such learners?
Stop dumbing down schooling and start providing as realistic contexts as possible.
- Learning how to speak and write a new language? Learn it in context as an amateur news reporter or author.
- Exploring a scientific concept? Solve a problem in real life or interact in a believable simulation.
- Grappling with math? Again contextualize its use in life and emphasize the thinking over the drilling process.
I’m reminded of something funny I saw at 9gag. The math problem was: John has 20 donuts. He eats 13 donuts. What does John have? The answer: Diabetes. John has diabetes.
Let us not forget the wider context and to learn within realistic contexts instead of made-up ones.