Another dot in the blogosphere?

Swimming against the current

Posted on: August 5, 2016

My son is 12-years-old. Mention that anywhere else in the world and another parent might shrug or ask me what he likes doing. Mention that in Singapore and the immediate reaction is an exclamation: PSLE!

At the beginning of the year, my wife attended a special session at my son’s school. Parents met their kids’ new and get-them-ready-for-PSLE teachers. My son’s mathematics teacher wanted to know how many kids did not receive mathematics tuition, be it remedial or enrichment. Only my wife and three or four other parents’ hands went up.

That teacher assured us that tuition was not necessary and that was a good thing. The bad thing was that all the other parents did not believe him.

More recently, the same teacher asked my son’s class of 40+ students if they had experienced ill-structured problems. He did not use that term but explained it as questions that did not have fixed or clear answers — basically life problems.

Only my son put up his hand and was naturally asked to elaborate. He described how he had experienced interviews, focus groups, question generating activities, peer critique of independent work, and portfolios. If I was there, I would have reminded him of the way he solved problems when playing video games.

I was not surprised that the experience was not more common. I was surprised at some of his peer’s responses. They did not place much value in those activities. A few even sneered.

If kids that age mirror what their parents say and believe, then we have a problem if PSLE2021 is going to try to change parental mindsets. (See my six-parter on the new scoring format.)

My son’s different way of thinking probably stems from the fact that my wife and I are educators. However, I do not think that we do anything special. We teach when things emerge and with the seemingly mundane.

If we get cut off while in our car, there is life lesson. If we eat out, notice the uncleared tables, and clear our own, there is a life lesson.

When we eat in, we do so together and we talk as we watch YouTube videos. Maybe that is a bit special.

During the day, I watch and curate several videos that emerge from my YouTube subscription, RSS, and Twitter feeds. I put interesting ones in a Watch Later playlist. At dinner, we watch the videos via a Google Cast to a TV in the dining room. We have never had a quiet moment because we ask questions, model thinking, and dissect opinions.

I think of this as a different form of reading to a young child. When we used to read to him when he was much younger, we were preparing him for basic literacy. Now we prepare him with information, media, and critical literacy. Just like language development, exposure to and practice with these leads to fluency.

This is my anecdote and one story does not paint a complete picture. By listening to other contrary anecdotes, I realise that we are swimming against the current (the flow and the times). I do this because I can see the larger picture: The current leads to a waterfall.

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