Thursday, 16 January 2014

Topic: Singapore's Education + A teacher of a kind

In view of the many talks and debates on schools, or how Singapore is killing creativity, here's what I have to say about one of my teacher. Before I start, I have to be very honest and agree that Singapore kills creativity to a certain extend. Nonetheless, not everyone is like that. My teacher for example was different. One that stood out from the rest. 

Note: I really admire Singapore's education system as I think it is very organised. I acknowledge that we have been doing very well in the varies test and competition held regionally. Nonetheless,I just feel that room for improvement is still needed. Like humans, not one system is all perfect. In this case, Singapore just needs to figure our how we can balance creativity, books and values all into the same equation. 

As such, I am going to touch on how this one teacher changed my life. I'm not being cliche here, but really, from the bottom of my heart, this was the teacher that changed my learning approach completely. I don't think many people that was taught by him would agree with me but here's what I feel.. 

This teacher, in my fondest memory, hardly taught. He would come into class, sit on his chair and then start a discussion. I remember him sitting down at his chair more than I do remember him standing up. Why? Does this mean that he ain't teaching and slacking his time away? No, of course not. But instead, over an entire year he was trying to drill a different teaching method from other Singapore teachers. I am not sure if he acquired this overseas or locally but one thing for sure was that, he didn't treat us like Secondary school kids. He treated us as University students. In other words, instead of him teaching us, he taught us how to teach ourselves and guided us along side, just in case we wondered too far off the original topic we were on. 

If so, what's the problem then? 

The problem is that, how many schools out there have teachers like that? Not many I suppose. How many teachers out there would be so daring or even willing to expose us teenagers to a University teaching method? Think about it, would you think spending 1 hour on a question worthwhile? Maybe to most teachers, that would be considered slow and unproductive. Right? 

Or maybe, how many parents or students themselves would be happy with that kind of teaching method? Using my personal experience as an example, many of my classmates felt so insecure. They felt that they still did not know how to answer the question, and worst even after my teacher had gone through them. 

Why? This is because there was not a set of fixed answers on how they could go about answering it. So you see, all this comes down to creativity, confidence & most importantly originality. It has come to a point where schools teach you the way to argue your Humanities subject to prove your point, but not how to use what you have or know to construct an argument for your answer. And that makes a lot of difference. 

After studying History for 3 years, I still can't really link event to event. Why? 
When people go through life, it isn't planned. Neither is it structured. However, schools in Singapore are using the approach of one question one answer. In other words, a lot of History students end up studying how to answer a certain question to obtain the highest score, but not History in itself. 

It was a pity that I realized this a little too late. When I got close to O's, my teacher made me see that History cannot be a stand alone. Every event played a significant role in History. As such, there wouldn't and shouldn't be a set of fixed answers on how you can argue your point. However, because of the rigid way we are taught in schools, or Secondary schools for that matter, not many students know how to make use of what isn't there but instead always trusting that whatever is there is whatever they would get and can use. Nothing more, nothing less.

I don't know how many of you agree with me, but I really think that we need to progressively offer more to the rising talents in Singapore. If we don't, more and more people would end up leaving the country, taking away their skills, and never coming back. And it's not just about losing talent, it is about losing where we belong. Why do you want a teenager to feel that she can't belong and live here because her country can't encourage her to do what she loves. It's so disappointing and I wouldn't want to see that happen to anyone, or even to myself.

 To conclude, I want to say that I do see Singapore making effort in promoting art. And for that, I'm tuly grateful and supportive. However, here's my message to you Singapore, don't stop now. Keep going. It's all about staying relevant and knowing what's best. And as for schools, I just hope the system over the years would change slighty to improve and widen the teaching methods and skills a student would learn in their years of education. Especially for languages. Because in years to come, I really don't want to see my kid reading an answer key or a model essay, so that he/she would know what to write.


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