Recently CNA reported how DPM Tharman noted that social mobility was in trouble as social gaps widen.
There is no point arguing about how our schooling and education systems are social levellers or creators of equal opportunities if social gaps (like access to opportunities) widen to the point that even the mobile cannot bridge that those gaps.
DPM Tharman mentioned one broad response to such a threat:
“One way to do this is by providing a pool of qualified teachers. There are also efforts to improve the education system, by changing the curriculum to suit a child’s learning abilities and reducing the emphasis on examinations, he added.”
On the surface this reads as reasonable action. Dig deeper with a critical thought shovel and you will hit rock.
Qualified teachers are not necessarily good teachers. They may have good results or grades, but do they have the qualities? One might argue that desirable qualities are part of qualifications, but how are the former measured and made part of the latter?
Curricula can never address different learning needs because by nature they are siloed and standardised. People forget that a root word of curriculum means “to race” and that is how content is taught. We cannot use the same words and to operate within the same practices of completing checklists as quickly as possible.
The shortest portion of the response was “reducing the emphasis on examinations”. Depending on how this is done, it could have the best and longest term consequences of creating better equity (not equality).
Changing the assessment system is strategically more sound from a systemic point of view. Assessment is a key leverage point: Change that and everything else — curricula and teaching practices included — will change.
DPM Tharman warned that there had been “no substantial improvements of interventions over the last 50 years”. I say that if we let old words and actions persist, there will be no change for the next 50 years.