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Posts Tagged ‘schooling

My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.

While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.

What MOE teachers will use in 2017...

It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.

The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.

I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.

The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.

The start of the school year is a mixed bag of emotions for parents. More so for the kids, but for just a bit let us focus on the people who bore them life.

While there are many parental emotions this week, there are two major ones that different types of parents might swing between. One is relief and the other is anxiety.

A working parent with kids might be relieved that the nanny that is school has resumed business. Cruel as it sounds, these parents are happy that their children are back in school and out of their vacation hair.

The anxious parent is typically a first-timer. Not a new parent, but one whose child is starting kindergarten or primary school or any new school for the first time. There is separation anxiety.

There is a spectrum, of course, not a dichotomy of either one or the other type.

I actually prefer to be with my son during vacations. I like observing how he grows up and revisiting life through his eyes. You might say that I have a Piagetian fascination (Piaget formulated his theories on cognitive development in children based on observations of his own kids.)

It is this same Piagetian fascination that reduces my parental anxiety. I know that one role of parents is to let go and create independent individuals, and hopefully nice, responsible, happy, and self-regulating ones at that.

My small anxiety was not that of separation, but one of travel.

When I was a university professor, my son attended kindergarten at an outfit on campus. When he was in primary school, it was in the neighbourhood and I taught him how to take the bus home.

Now that he has started secondary school, he has to travel about an hour on the train. He has to deal with the possible train breakdowns and the various travel alternatives. He has to think on his feet and grow up in the process.

This is about as authentic as learning can get. No amount of Xiao Ming travelling westward at 90km/h and northward at 80km/h in a textbook will come close to that sort of learning.

So I prepared him during the vacation by familiarising him with travel routes and possible alternatives. I was his guide at his side on the train.

Like a learning scaffold, I was literally at his side yesterday on his first day of travel. Like a proper scaffold, I gave him the choice of using it or not again depending on how confident he was.

He took the scaffold down today. I am happy and proud, and a little sad.

I question the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.

I know what it means, but today’s village also has its idiots and perverts. A few of them even become village chiefs or run for president.

That said, it does take a village to educate one child, particularly if we redefine the village. Today we are talking about the global village. Some teachers and parents worry that this village has more bad people in it. They conveniently forget that it also has a lot of good ones too.

It might take a village to educate a child. It only takes a school to reduce one into submission. To raise a child who is a creative and critical contributor, we need to kids to know and experience their village well, idiots and all.

Video source

This video should provoke thought.

Those who do not question the purpose of schooling will be the most disturbed. Those that do will likely nod in agreement.

But what are both parties doing about it?

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

This tweet might include one of the least offensive and slightly humorous uses of Joseph Schooling’s now famous name.

Here are a few descriptions of bittersweet uses and abuses of the newfound fame of Singapore’s first Olympic gold winner:

Those articles say it better than I can. They also hint at the importance of how Schooling might need to manage the marketing efforts so that his name is not dragged through the mud.

Some name dropping was tongue-in-cheek. Some was worthy of eye-rolls. Some wanted Schooling’s reflected glory or to put themselves in the spotlight for publicity.

The use or misuse of our names and identities can happen to anyone.

The non-Olympians and ordinary rest-of-us need to manage our identities as well. Why? Consider these questions:

  • If you Google yourself, what do you find?
  • If you do not find relevant information about yourself, how do you stay relevant today and tomorrow?
  • If you find information about yourself, does it represent you the way you wish?
  • If you find information that does not represent you or is harmful to you, why did that happen and what do you do?

School is not likely to help you find answers to these questions in meaningful ways because it operates in its own bubble. You will need to find out for yourself just as Schooling will need to school, no, make that educate himself, too.


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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