Posts Tagged ‘values’
I take my role of edtech watchdog seriously. I am not just a pedagogue; I am a peda-dog!
Sometimes I wonder if I am being too harsh with my critiques of the state of teaching and teachers in Singapore. After all, according to a 2013 study we had the most well-paid (see point 3) and one of the most well-respected teaching forces in the world. But these do not mean that all our teachers are educators.
My parents were teachers. I was a teacher. I am married to a teacher. Most of our friends and acquaintances are teachers. Should I bark at and even bite my own kind?
Every now and then I am reminded why I need to do this. Sometimes the reminders come from the seminars and workshops I conduct. Sometimes they are dialogues I have with teachers. Sometimes they are stories from sources I trust.
This is a story about my son who is sitting for his PSLE this year.
My son is bright and should not have problems with this high-stakes examination. However, we were not content to subject him to the mindless rat race, so we looked for a good fit via DSA. We concerned ourselves with getting him into a school that would bring back and nurture the joy of learning.
We had to ask my son’s form teacher for help to get some school records for the DSA application in May. We were thankful for his teacher’s help. However, I was surprised to hear what happened in my son’s class shortly after we made the request.
The teacher declared that in all her years of teaching none of her students got into their Secondary schools via DSA. It seemed like a source of pride that she was able to prepare her students for PSLE so that they could rely on scores alone.
Now there is nothing wrong with that especially if you have the perspective of most parents here. But we are not “most parents” and I would have been fine if things were left at that remark.
I was troubled by two additional comments from the teacher:
- If you do not get the marks for PSLE, you can try for DSA.
- What talents do you have that they want?
Those comments were sorely misplaced.
First, the DSA is not inferior to the PSLE. My son had to prepare an e-portfolio, sit for tests, participate in interviews (focus groups and individual), and take part in performance assessments over the span of a month. He also has to do well enough in the PSLE to keep his place in his next school.
Second, kids are more talented than we give them credit for. Their talents are often quieted and schooled out of them. If we watch, listen, and talk to kids, their passions and talents become clear. Such talents can grow and evolve to help them find their niche in life.
My son thinks that he was the only one in his class to apply for DSA. This made the comments even more cutting. Was there any need to throw shade at the DSA and kids with talents not accounted for by the PSLE?
This is like parents (still) saying that playing video games has absolutely no value. Those parents need to expand their scope of who they watch on YouTube, e.g., TheDiamondMinecart, Sky Does Minecraft, Stampy, Paul Soares Jr., PewDiePie, Markiplier, CaptainSparklez.
When it emerged that my son had taken the DSA route, some of his classmates gave him unsolicited feedback like, “SOTA is a shit school!” They could not understand why he even considered that option.
Kids are honest and open portals to the values of adults. I have said before that values are more caught than they are taught   . The words and actions of parents and teachers shape the thoughts and behaviours of kids. It is frightening to see what prevails.
I started this reflection by wondering if I was in denial about how teachers mindsets have changed. I have shared one anecdote of a classroom teacher possibly in denial about alternative paths to learning and success.
We are still thankful for the efforts of our son’s teachers because they invariably leave a mark. They might focus on delivering lessons in class, but sometimes they accidentally offer lessons in life.
This Teachers’ Day we will thank my son’s teachers — the ones that are still around because quite a few have left the school. We will also share some good news: We just found out that our son has been accepted into the literary arts programme in SOTA.
If my son’s teachers see themselves as learners first, they might also reflect on the lessons in this story.
I can almost hear a collective groan from some English teachers when a new word of the year (WOTY) is unveiled. Depending on where and when you look, the WOTY might be emoticon, YOLO, bae, vape, or selfie.
It is not just the young who are reinventing language. In Singapore, I have noticed service aunties and uncles at fast food joints creating one-word questions like: Member? Upsize? Chilli?
Some time ago, I stood behind a Caucasian patron, who on ordering his meal, was asked, “Member?” He responded, “I beg your pardon!”
The auntie meant, “Are you a member of this restaurant?” and “Could you please show me your membership card?” Member was a severe truncation of all that.
However, our word-smithing efficiency was not received the same way. “Member” is another word for “private parts” in other parts of the world. It would be a very unusual eatery to require that you present your genitalia when you order food.
Now “upsize” and “chilli” refer to whether you would like a larger side order and drink (and if so, what size) and what condiment packets (and how many) you prefer.
You have to be a local enough to learn such word-smithing. But do you have to accept or even use it? Some segments seem to think so.
I wish I had taken a photo of the sign along an expressway upgrading works that declared it was being “upsized”. That stretch of road now has more lanes. Those lanes eventually narrow to the same limited number of lanes elsewhere because the rest of the road system cannot accommodate it.
Outside local use, member, upsize, and chilli are not universally understood. This is fine if you choose to communicate only your own household. It is not if you wish to make the world your oyster.
Beyond language use and evolution, the lazy use and adoption of language is indicative of mindset. On one hand, it asks the question, “Are you willing and able to change?” On the other, it begs the question “Are you critical enough to prevent good values from slipping?”
A Yahoo! headline loudly declares “S’pore is now richest in the world” and shows these stats:
I can imagine some folks getting drunk with joy.
But I would put that table beside the words of John F. Kennedy:
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
It is a sobering truth. It was true then and it is true now.
So if you ask me to choose between a smart man and a good one, I would put my money on the good one.
It was written by a parent who thinks that values education begins at home and that it must be modelled first by parents.
But there was one thing I did not agree with and it was the end of this short paragraph:
A proper education should be synonymous with values. It is the current form of rat-race schooling that most do not associate with good values.
So here is my stand. If you wish your child to be academically challenged (read that either way), send him or her to a Singapore school. If you want your child to not turn out to be a monster, nurture him or her yourself first. Schools alone are not likely to provide a proper education.
No amount of incentives or academic programmes will nurture good values if the approach is old-school, one-size-fits-all, and predicated on extrinsic motivation.
You have to be good and do good not on the threat of cane or reward of carrot, but on the fact that it is simply the right thing to do. Only then have you been educated.
Last Friday, CNA reported that MOE will establish a Student Development Curriculum Division (SDCD). Its purpose as outlined by CNA:
The new division will give greater focus on areas such as character and citizenship, values education and co-curricular activities.
It will develop a character and citizenship framework by building on existing programmes in national education, co-curricular activities, and civics and moral education.
I am all for character development and values education. But I am not for holding new ideas in old wineskins (very old and Biblical reference intended).
I take issue with the word curriculum. I wonder if that is the right word and approach for something that includes values, character and citizenship education.
I can understand the rationale for having a prescribed and minimum list of things to cover (or better still, uncover). This one-size-fits-all approach aside, one could argue for some well reasoned and common fundamentals like civic-mindedness, social courtesies, filial piety, etc.
At its roots, curriculum means to run or to race. Teachers, students and parents already understand this when they use phrases like “keeping up with the curriculum” or needing to “complete the curriculum”.
It is hard to look down the road and see what the SDCD would design for implementation in schools. But I think we don’t need another race to run. This would impart the wrong values about values education.
Curricula tend to be tested because policymakers and teachers want answers to “What did you learn?” But the answers don’t lie in a test. More often that not, the real test of character happens when no one is looking.
There is at least one thing that MOE is planning on doing that I like. It wants schools to work more closely with parents. Values should begin at home and be reinforced in school, not the other way around.
So like some other parents, we are not waiting for schools to “infect” our son with positive values like integrity, confidence and thoughtfulness. We try to live those concepts and he gets tested every day. We are not waiting for a system to shift, particularly one that uses outdated language and practices to tackle fresh issues.
This is my final thought on last week’s MOE Work Plan Seminar (WPS) 2011. Honest!
I just started following @LeticiaBongnino on Twitter. This is a parody account of “a celebrity maid”.
Many of her tweets are hilarious and here are two that have accidental relevance to the main theme of the WPS:
Tongue-in-cheek the tweets may be, but there is truth behind the humour. They give us something to chew on as we attempt to better integrate values into schooling.