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Posts Tagged ‘ictlt

… why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

This was one of the questions I asked myself after the seemingly endless ad-tweets for ICTLT.

ICTLT is a locally run and controlled edtech conference that happens every two years. You might say that it is by Singaporeans for Singaporeans to show off Singaporean efforts.

There are invited speakers from elsewhere, of course. No conference worth its salt would ignore the pull of A-list or even minor academic celebrities.

Events like ICTLT are meant to disseminate, inspire, and propagate. There is current or new information to share, people to energise, and propaganda to spread. There is also the overall Singapore brand to sell.

But I return to my original question: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

I am not saying that our natively born or locally nurtured professors and experts do not present at all. I am wondering why our reputation does not seem to be matched by our reach.

There are a few usual suspects — you can count them on one hand — who are invited to do keynotes or seminars internationally. But we are not known for our prolific sharing.

Might we be better at quietly implementing and not pronouncing these efforts on the highest stages? Why operate along this false dichotomy when we need to be doing both? After all, if we are rich with information and experience, we should be sharing more openly and frequently instead of keeping this to ourselves.

Are we going to keep hiding behind the excuse that our schools collectively hosts lots of visitors from lands near and far? Visitors from those very same countries do their share of hosting and they dominate the conference floors and stages.

So I still wonder: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

If you follow a recent hashtag, you might get the impression that the edu-world seems to be visiting Singapore for ICTLT 2016.

It is not, of course, but the biennial event does attract some truly Twitter famous, some wannabes, and zombies.

But this reflection is not about edu-celebrities or the undead. It is a hard look in the mirror.

Our friends from near and far are attracted to our shores because of the reputation Singapore has in schooling. This is in no small part due to our PISA scores and ranking [BBC] [OECD] [ST].

They come here wanting to know how we consistently get good test results. Even without ICTLT, delegates visit our schools and universities to gain insights from snapshots and showcases.

When I was a professor at the National Institute of Education, Singapore, I hosted visitors who wanted to learn about us. I would advise our visitors to get balanced views. One of the things I recommended was they did not just visit the usual suspects of schools.

I had no problem being part of a public relations machine and tooted our horn politely when it was deserved. But I had a moral obligation to make sure that the time, money, and effort our visitors spent was to get accurate snapshots, not severely photoshopped or Instagram-filtered ones.

There is true and there is too good to be true.

What does all this have to do with a cat’s belly?

Cats generally do not like you to touch their bellies because that is their most vulnerable spot. In a fight, damage there will incapacitate or be fatal.

It is a great sign of trust if a family cat or a very friendly stray presents its belly to you. The message it sends is: I trust you not to attack me at my most vulnerable.

ICTLT delegates should know that Singapore has a collective cat belly. Our schooling belly is a combination of exam focus and exam smarts. This stomach is fed by excessive tuition. Such tuition is so rampant that is has been described as the shadow schooling system here (see 2015 graphic, backup).

I have a Diigo collection of resources on the state of tuition in Singapore. Here is a small and more recent sample:

Other Diigo links on Singapore tuition are available here.

Do we trust our educator friends enough to show them our underbelly even as we show off all that is new and shiny? Will they be blind to what lurks in the shadows or might they choose not to see what lies beneath?

I say we be honest about all factors that contribute to our test-smart culture. Schooling has a role and home support in mostly affluent Singapore is another factor. The statistics and news articles about our reliance on tuition — we are the Tuition Nation — cannot be ignored.

Look at it this way. You cannot claim to have visited Singapore if you have only seen the Marina Bay Sands area. You also need to visit a kopitiam or hawker centre. You cannot assume that our architecture is only like the award-winning Interlace. You need to see how 80% of our population lives in HDB flats.

You will still find a few stray cats in HDB void decks (ground-level open spaces underneath the apartments). Will we present how the majority live and what the majority do? Will we expose our collective cat bellies?

Thanks to this photo by @Lydianhh, I learnt that George Couros shared this at ICTLT 2014.

I agree with the interpretation of how I Learn if the goal is to educate kids.

But it is worth repeating that people still limit themselves to schooling kids. When that happens, this is what kids do.

I listen.
I obey.
I stand.
I sit.
I queue.
I wait.
I repeat.

One might argue we need both schooling and education. I argue that there is too much emphasis on the former.

Schooling is about compliance and enculturation.

Some schools will attempt to engage, but I think even that is the wrong game to play. We should not be teaching merely to engage. We must design and manipulate environments, activities, and circumstances so that kids actually learn.

Ultimately, true education is freeing and empowering. It might be a weight to carry, but it is not burdensome.

When you look at Couros’ list, you realize that these are things kids want to do. When parents get past the grades, they realize that these are what kids should be doing and what employers require of them.

Teachers, You Teach. But do kids agree that I Learn?

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