Aug 15, 2008

Education - The Government Still Doesn't Get It

In April 2008, Ng Eng Hen became our new Education Minister. Yesterday he gave a speech.
ST Aug 15, 2008
Next step for schools
It's time now to go beyond grades: Education Minister
By Amelia Tan

SINGAPORE'S education system has been very successful at the nuts and bolts - it churns out top students, and is ranked highly worldwide - but it is now time for it to evolve.

Parents these days are more educated and demanding, while children are more questioning and learn in different ways, and the system needs to keep up with rising expectations.

It needs to do more than simply churn out students with good grades, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday in a speech at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

At the end of the day, he said, education in Singapore needs to 'nurture each child to believe in himself and be self-sufficient, to care for his fellow man, and to be able to contribute to the larger society around him'.

To turn out such students, several things are needed, Dr Ng said.

At the top of the list: Raising the number of teachers, and getting more with higher qualifications, so that more can be done to develop students.
I found the speech quite lacking in vision. It seems that Ng Eng Hen's only concrete plan was to "raise the number of teachers" and get "more with higher qualifications".

That does sound like a sensible idea. However, it is also an utterly obvious idea. Considering the size of Ng's salary (about two million dollars a year), surely one might have expected him to offer a more compelling, powerful or innovative blueprint for Singapore's education system.

It really doesn't take a genius to come up with a plan like "hire more people" and "hire better people". My grandmother could have thought of that.

I browsed several media reports on this event. My impression was that in fact, the most insightful observations did not come from Ng Eng Hen, but from members of the audience. For example, this is what one Mrs Angeline Soo had to say:

EXAMS, rankings and stress.

That is what some parents think Singapore's education system is all about.

Mrs Angeline Soo, 42, a part-time Master in Public Administration student at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, is one.

And at a question-and-answer session after Education Minister Ng Eng Hen delivered a speech there yesterday, she let him know it.

Mrs Soo complained that her 13-year-old daughter could not join her school's dance team as she was told she was 'not good enough'.

The school could lose its niche in dance if the team admitted less talented students, she said.

Her question: Would such intense focus on short-term 'key performance indicators' hinder the long-term development of students?

........ Speaking to The Straits Times later, Mrs Soo, who is also a manager at U21Global, an online graduate school, said she was satisfied that Dr Ng wanted the system to change.

However, she was concerned that his goals might be 'lost in translation'.

'When the top decides something and it starts filtering down and the next level interprets may become another numbers game, driven towards certain goals that they think the minister wants to see,' she said.

But she added that parents also had to be more involved in the holistic development of their children.

Mrs Soo said she tries not to pressure her kids as they are stressed out by the expectations of their teachers, schools and peers.

'Parents are too driven and focused on results. There is a need to look at the child in his or her entirety.

'We need to look at character and emotional development, and I don't see that happening with a lot of parents,' she added.
Maybe SHE should be the Education Minister, LOL. She certainly seems more in touch with the real issues.

To be fair, Ng Eng Hen did discuss the importance of values. However, he did it in an oh-so-typically-Singaporean wrong sort of way. This is what he said:
"We must maintain this academic rigour and continue our emphasis on maths and science ... But increasingly, we will have to create space and structure to infuse our education system to impart values and not just grades to students."

Let me tell you what I think is on Ng's mind. When he says "space", he means that we must get schools to re-jig their schedules, reorganise the school calendar, and make some time available in the class timetables, for teachers to talk about "values" to the students. Fit it in, like an extra subject.

And when Ng says "structure", he means that we must develop some kind of teaching plan, such as a syllabus or an MOE-approved textbook, so that a teacher has the necessary materials to stand up in a classroom and systematically teach "values" to 30 kids. And maybe give them some homework questions to do.

This would be the right way to teach maths. This would be the right way to teach science. This would be the right way to teach any subject of an academic nature. However, in my opinion, this would be a wrong way to teach values.

Values can be learned, but they cannot really be "taught". They are absorbed, naturally, as if by osmosis, through personal experience and observation.

For example, at home, you could "teach" love to your little children, by giving them lectures from a book and making them memorise their lecture notes. But if in fact you treat them unkindly and also quarrel with your spouse every week, then love is simply not going to be a value that your children understand.

On the other hand, if your family is a close, loving one, then the children do not need to be taught the value of "love". They wouldn't need a classroom lesson in it. Simply by watching how Mum and Dad treat each other, the kids learn about love everyday. It would be a value that naturally instils in them.

Currently, our students do acquire values, as a result of being in school. In fact, this is an inevitable process. But the values that they truly acquire are not the ones that the teachers deliberately teach, as part of a formal plan like National Education.

Instead the values that the students truly acquire are simply the result of their personal experiences in school. It is an automatic, ongoing and largely unconscious process.

For example, suppose I am a science teacher. Every day, I may encourage students to ask questions freely. Or I may ridicule those who waste my time by asking "stupid" questions.

I may encourage curiosity and exploration. Or I may insist on a rigid adherence to the exam syllabus, to maximise the students' chances of scoring well.

If a student does badly, I might scold him and say, "I think you'd better drop this subject. I don't want you to drag down the school's overall scores!". Or I might tell him that it's important to keep trying and not give up.

I may choose to lavish praise on the students who score the highest marks. Or I may choose to lavish praise on students who try hard and show improvement (even if they still aren't scoring A's).

I may tell students, "If your dream is to be a doctor and help sick people, you should definitely choose to study Biology." Or instead I may say, "If you want to be rich, you'd better study Biology and become a doctor one day."

Those are just a few examples. In each case, I create a different kind of experience for my students, and they absorb a different kind of value. The effect goes well beyond Science. The students' attitudes in life are being formed and shaped.

In other words, they're learning values - even though I was only teaching Science.

Now, here we should stop to ask ourselves - what kind of experiences are our students having in school? How are these experiences shaping their values? What values did YOU learn in school?


Anonymous said...

An excellent article, Mr Wang.

I think that Singapore's education system instils values like pragmatism, diligence, determination and how to be neat.

But it fails to instil values like creativity, passion, self-confidence and initiative.

Eaststopper said...

Hello Mr Wang,

That's a good piece.
Though I do feel that the education system has been taking a lot of flak from the Singaporeans for what it has evolved into. Isn't it about time that we take a good look at ourselves and see the kind of people we have evolved into? I find it hard to separate the 'System' from the 'People' since collectively, the 'People' make up the 'System'.

Best wishes for Team Singapore!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Personally I doubt the PAP policy on education is anything but a tool to generate workers. That said the problem with so-called education in Singapore is not just at the government policy level. Much of it may have to do with the way ordinary Singaporeans and business perceive education.

My feeling is that there is a cultural thing in Singapore where education is not about enriching oneself but also a social status. Coupled with a business community that has a lazy practice of equating "qualification" as "competence", is it any wonder that in Singapore education is seen in such perfunctory way.

When you listen to any coffee shop conversation you can often hear parents boasting about how their child got this and that degree. Look at the job ads in Singapore, you seldom seem clear cut description of what competence is needed. What you often see is "must have a degree in such and such thing". Or how entry pay scales are differentiated on the basis of qualification type.

james said...

your post n the 'Lord of the Flies' one seem to combine into one single message:-

to be the best human one can be, there should not be fear of any kind. whether it is kiasu or kiasi, once such fear exists as an energy to be exploited, life cannot be maximally enjoyed such as in the area of education i.e. the idea or perspective of life as a student, as a teacher, as an adult etc is totally corrupted and exploited to generate fear.

2 cts quickie..... by maximally enjoyed, I m thinking of peak performance .. not in grades or legalism or pragmatism etc, but in living a full life.

X said...

In school I learnt that people like to talk about how grades don't matter. Then I screwed up (not a deliberate experiment) and realised it did, and consequently, that people mostly like to talk...only.

Out of it, I learnt that there is much more I need to learn, so that my (future) kids will not have to cram in extra classes, just because "everyone else is doing it", and that they'll never have to believe that learning is a necessarily torturous process.

Anonymous said...

Remember the "study less, learn more" theme expounded by LHL a few National Years ago? What happened to it? Where's the follow-up on the results of this experimentation. Haven't we heard this before already? Thing is, are we really serious about all this in the first place, or its still the same-old same-old, ie I teach-you listen kind of thing. Would be interesting to hear from MOE.

At least I see a bright ray of hope in SMU, chaired by HKP. Indeed, a whole generation of teachers from NIE would need to unlearn what was taught and what was imprinted in them during their own schooling years.

Anonymous said...

I taught in a Primary school for 4 years and have migrated to Australia. I'm still learning about the education system here but I cannot imagine sending my kids to Singapore for their education.

It was stressful being a teacher there- endless remedials, tests, exams and more so for the students.

I think to myself now, to what ends does all that cramming lead to? At the end of the day, we finish Poly/Uni, get a job and life goes on. Why do we have to make things so difficult for our kids?

Onlooker said...

I agree they doesn't get it.
Pragmatism is overrated and coined too often that it lost it's meaning to the mobile generations.
With no real innovations and well thought out plans from Our "Div 1" leaders the "Mandate" is rapidly losing it's meaning.
Now how is "Div 1" defined at least by me?
Div 1 will never:-
1)let a suspect escape without accountability. a series of that too.
2)let in poorly compensated workers just because it solved a temporary problem caused by a ill conceived policy.
3)request it's people not to enjoy fruits in the garden while gorging themselves the fruits of the people's labour. Well too late, we got the message.
4)propose some solutions that actually does nothing to improve the situation.if not make the problems worse. "Stop at two." How many families is affected by this ill conceived policy?

That's also why I understand some of my friends who left for their children education sake.

PS copying Japan system also created the same education problems here as experienced in Japan now.

Anonymous said...

Your few examples clearly showed your profound knowledge on the subject of education. Sadly, in Singapore, in spite of so much talk on meritocracy, the appointment of our office bearers often showed otherwise. I think you will contribute so much more as education minister than our military man Teo Chee Hean. Dr Ng is still new in this portfolio. To be fair to him, we should give him some time. At least he is going in the right direction by understanding the importance of the teacher student ratio, unlike his predecessor who did not even believe in that.

james said...

u got to be kidding .... not to see that the entire cabinet is in disarray ..... well at least with a table tennis silver coming, there is something for them to cheer about tmrw.

Anonymous said...

well, what can i say. singapore's education system is very pragmatic. Emphasis on MATH and SCIENCE. no doubt these subjects are very important, but please do think about students who are taking humanities. They are totally losing out to those who are taking more "useful" science subjects.

Averal Lim said...

This is my take on the issue :

"Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday in a speech at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

At the end of the day, he said, education in Singapore needs to ‘nurture each child to believe in himself and be self-sufficient, to care for his fellow man, and to be able to contribute to the larger society around him."

What he is trying to say we currently have a bunch of insecure, pampered, selfish and narrow minded bunch of students who don’t give a dam about contributing to society but achieving the best grades in school and top positions in working life at the expense of everything else.

Makes alot of sense to me, majority of the people in my generation don’t really care what happens to “the society”, it does not matter to them, what matters is the fast cars, girls and brooze.

I am sure these people will leave Singapore anytime given the opportunity.

More brain drain hurray!

Extracted from

Anonymous said...

One can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Anonymous said...

I think all education systems has its pros and cons. While we do have academic rigour, this has to be balanced out by creating an environment where a child's natural instinct to learn and absorb is not drowned in piles of homework and tuitions.

Most western public schools adopt a lassez-faire approach to education. After 10 years of schooling, the natural attrition process takes place...those who can naturally study or priviliged with resources go on to tertiary while the rest drop out or go on to technical schools. Those who can afford it will choose private schools to provide the academic rigour. Hence there is space for personal development and choice without the kind of fear that haunts S'pore parents. Of course, one can argue this may be an elitist form of education where only the welloff will benefit. Thankfully, we have less of this.

However, we are a small country and we really have no choice but to adopt a "commando-style" of schooling cos we really are price takers in the world market. In the West, they have choices simply because they're bigger and well endowed with natural resources. But I believe there are still choices in S'pore if you firmly believe this is still home. Forget about the top schools or even the overly ambitious neighbourhood schools if your child is not academically inclined. Try mission schools or lower profile schools. But most important of all, spend time with the child to nurture them in values and confidence/character building. After all, there are only so many who can attain the top 10th percentile. Unless you're a scholar, do you really need to constantly remind eveyone how many Band 1s or As you achieved long time ago?

What counts is the ability to be creative, thinking out of the box, high emotional quotient in this new world order. I'm sure the majority in the working world will agree with me on this, especially those who work alongside Westerners. How come they hold themselves so well in discussions, meetings and public speaking? Check them out and see if all were straight A students.

Academic rigour builds a good foundation in various degree, no doubt. But don't forget the naturally powerful instinct to learn in each child. Go easy on teachers' KPIs, and you'll go easy on the kids. Happy kids make happy learners. And happy kids mean happy families, and home is that much more sweeter. Indeed, we need to evolve, and quickly evolve we must lest we continue to lose our greatest assets to others.

That's my 2 cents worth

Anonymous said...

George says:

Mr Wang,

We cal all 'credit' Teo CH with all those ranking in schools.

Principals are more interested keeping their eyes on what will help them 'score' with the MOE when they should be completely immersed in every level/cohort's needs and performance and helping their teachers achieve them.

From my children's school programmes it is easy to see that the school is more interested in touching all bases meaning being able to report up to MOE that it had done this, this and this, rather than ensuring and emphasising on the qualitative experience of the the students as they go through all those activities. Any gains by students are entirely the results of their own passion, often inspite of the lack/slack planning and organisation of the schools (teachers). Take it from me this is a fact, from actual experiences when as parents we have to intervene on our children's behalf when things are simply too lackadiasical or poorly planned. And very often, instead of getting any appreciation, you get the senior teachers/HOD and principal making excuses or implying that yours was a misapprehension. The P simple cannot say sorry, like the entire Singapore govt.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wang

You may be interested to know more about the Finnish education system. Some might think that it is crap as they dun screen for "gifted" students at 9. It is also not as "rigorous" as Singapore but it gave the world Nokia and Linux. And the average Finn actually enjoys school. And speaks "standard" English. Among other languages.

In most part of "western" europe, school is free. We are seriously under-investing. But you can understand rite? Singapore Inc is all about short-term ROI. You dun see MacDonald University having courses in quantum physics do you. Nope, they teach you how to serve customers as efficiently as possible. And MacDonald University will never even be close to "world-class".

The only real resource is human spirit/ingenuity . So it is therefore true that we are lacking. And btw, Biology is now optional for Medicine in NUS.


Anonymous said...

Which part of "Teach Less, Learn More" do you folks not understand?


If you dun understand the call for more tuition classes, you can hardly blame MOE.

As Mr Jimmy Mun discovered, top 10th percentile is not good enough. You aim for 1%.


Anonymous said...

It's the system. If the teachers are fighting over each other on CCAs to get their performance bonuses and promotion, what kind of values do you think will be imparted to the kids? I know of many teachers at top schools who will stop at nothing to get their students to drop a subject so that it will not affect the teachers' performance records.

Anonymous said...

It is the system. And the system churns out principals and teachers who are only mindful of how they look in their MOE reports.

I approached my son's primary school and volunteered to set up a chess club from scratch as he's a keen chess player. Reply was no - due to lack of teacher,"no one to take charge" ,lack of rooms for new CCAs, etc ! Typical civil servant reply of No, we must not change the status quo. So we carried on with private chess trainers and he never had the chance of competing for his primary school.

Schools here will not change. Unfortunately. Many are too entrenched in their mindset of students' grades and rote learning. Having more teachers is not going to help if they are not passionate about teaching.

And I totally agree with the last 2 paragraphs of Anon 9:57am.

Anonymous said...

"Values can be learned, but they cannot really be "taught". They are absorbed, naturally, as if by osmosis, through personal experience and observation." I don't totally agree with this statement.

While it is true that familial and societal influence may be an authoritative source of imparting values, values may also be imparted through teaching.

For example, in learning of the chinese language, one learns not only the "language" (how to write, how to use, how to speak the phrase), but the strong values that come with it. For example, when one learns "饮水思源", you actually do not learn the literal meaning of "thinking of the source as you drink the water"; you are learning the value of gratefulness and appreciation and the positive affirmation that is associated to it. So, a value is imparted.

So, values can be taught. In fact, I think values should be taught. However, whether the schools are the best place the learn values, and whether teachers are most well placed to teach values - ah that's the big question.

Mr Wang Says So said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Wang Says So said...

The way the Chinese language is taught in our schools, I think that when students encounter the phrase "饮水思源", they are likely to be concerned with:

(1) remembering how to write it, for the purposes of ting1 xie3;

(2) knowing the meaning of the proverb, so that they can use it for the purposes of zhao4 ju4; and

(3) using it in zuo4 wen2,because essays with proverbs always score better than essays without.

This is really what I mean by values not being teachable in a formal way.

In English language class, students may also learn words like "compassion"; or "courage"; or "prudence"; or write essays entitled "Honesty is the best policy".

Yes, the vocabulary is expanded, but this does not mean that the students become compassionate, courageous, prudent or honest.

Abdul Rahman said...

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Date: 23rd August 2008 (Saturday)
Time: 2.00pm to 5.00pm (Registration from 1.40pm)
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Level 2, School of Accountancy, Singapore Management University
Dress Code: Smart Casual

Register your name to

Check the website for details

Hope to see you there...

Thank You

James said...

Look for the YouTube video of The Last Lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch. He died recently but gave this lecture at Carnegie Mellon Uni.

After this video, you will realize how far off Singapore missed the boat when it comes to real education.

Lucian said...

Hey Mr Wang,

Disclaimer: I work for MOE, but this is my personal opinion yadda yadda...

I agree that the government has a large part to play in our societal evolution beyond pragmatism, but I'm not certain if you can pin it on formal education.

Your post states that these values aren't formally taught, but absorbed like osmosis, and yet your post title blames the government. These informal osmosis of values happens on a personal basis - human to human, and are often not the result of a government initiative.

I admit that the government has to take the lead by exemplifying values that transcend the first 3 tiers of Maslow, but we as parents, friends, sons and daughters need also to play our part.

If blaming the government is all we do, I think it is us who doesn't get it. That our character is in our hands, and the first step is to put aside the crutch that makes us blame the government for everything.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. The last thing I want is to be blinded by the day job.

Thanks for the discussion.

james said...


as long as 2 hands dun clap, there is no sound.

both hands must hv power to move. if one hand is lame, no use as the other hand will just slam; if both hands lame, it's totally lame.

Anonymous said...

This Ng Eng Hen fellow once said that he can earn much more and work less hard in his previous job as a surgeon. So he said Singaporeans got a good bargain even when he is paid millions as minister. Hence his nickname is "bargain Hen". So he thinks (and more important Lee Hsien loong agrees) he is worth his salary even if he does not talk more sense than ordinary folks on education matters. Not happy is it? Vote PAP out lah, said George Yeo, another one of the kind.

Anonymous said...

Lucian is correct!

Its not MOE's fault.And we cant blame scarcity mentality on the gahmen can we? Its not like we are reminded daily that scholars are the best or Singapore is a tiny nation with no resources.

If only the inferior lower class(and their unworthy offsprings) accepts their place in society...


Mr Wang Says So said...

Perhaps I should clarify and elaborate. On values, I had earlier written these words:

"Currently, our students do acquire values, as a result of being in school. In fact, this is an inevitable process. But the values that they truly acquire are not the ones that the teachers deliberately teach, as part of a formal plan like National Education."

If you had clicked on that link, you might have read something quite ironic. It leads to a scholarly piece analysing values education in Singapore. Among other things, it cites a study published in the Journal of Moral Education, which concludes that neither teachers nor students take National Education and Civics & Moral Education (CME) seriously, because they are non-examinable subjects.

What you may not see is that THIS itself is a reflection of values that ARE being imparted in our education system. In other words, academic grades and academic excellence have become a value in themselves. Or you may say that the value imparted is pragmatism, reflected in an attitude like "If the subject is not examinable, then it won't be needed for PSLE / O-level, so why the hell should I care about it?".

Now, in all likelihood, "pragmatism" as a value was never formally taught in schools, as part of an official teaching plan or school syllabus. Why and how did Singaporean students (and teachers) absorb this value then?

The point I'm making here is that values CAN be learned, but they cannot be TAUGHT the same way that you would teach the periodic table in Chemistry; or quadratic equations in Maths. Unfortunately, I don't believe that MOE will be able to grasp this point, and Eng Hen's speech doesn't give me any reason to believe otherwise.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Further elaboration.

Suppose I were a school principal. Further suppose that I have considerable autonomy & resources to run the school as I like.

Then imagine that I wish to instil certain values in my students. Let's say that the values I wish to instil are "leadership"; "creativity"; and "teamwork". (This is just for illustration - I could have picked any other values).

I think that there is very little use in "teaching" leadership by, say, requiring students to write an essay about leadership; or "teaching" creativity by asking teachers to give a lecture to the students on this topic; or by myself giving a speech about the value of teamwork twice a year.

This is what I mean by values not being formally teachable.

However, I do believe that I *can* create a system where such values may be imparted and absorbed by the students.

Just for example, I may have a system whereby students get to be a prefect or a class monitor /chairman on a rotating basis. Eg every term, there are new prefects; and every month, each class has a new class chairman, or something like that. In this way, more students get at least one chance to be in some kind of leadership position.

For instilling creativity, I may require teachers to develop more lessons, across a range of different subjects, such that students tend to be rewarded for original, interesting or innovative ideas, (rather than for good memory, or precision with formulae; or successful rote learning).

For teamwork, I may emphasise more participation in group sports (eg basketball, soccer, volleyball) and group school projects (eg all members of the same group always get the same group). Through these means, students will simply learn over time what teamwork is about. This, I believe, is much more effective than having them learn Chinese proverbs like fen1 gong1 he2 zuo4.

A said...

Singapore's education system has evolved greatly in the past few years to cater to the diverse needs of different children. However, one thing that they should really consider is their mentality of "students with better results rise higher". Singapore places too much emphasis on exam results. And yes, although we do produce good results, where are we on the world standard? Just look at Finland, they do not have exams, but they are ranked top 10 on some international exams and singapore in not even in the list. What an irony!

Lucian said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Thanks for the elaboration. You're right that systems can be engineered to encourage the instilling of certain values. I believe your ideas are already being carried out to varying degrees in schools, dependent on the Principal of course.

There's a greater issue here - that of competition and what it is turning us into. I think it is also ironic that the example of Finland was brought up - the comment, while commending Finland's lack of examinations, points to a ranking to validate its success.

I was never a star student by any definition. But do we have an implementable alternative?

Think it's time to reread Alfie Kohn's Case against Competition.

Thanks for the dialogue everyone.

Anonymous said...

I would like to clarify certain point, from a teacher's point of view.

"For example, suppose I am a science teacher. Every day, I may encourage students to ask questions freely. Or I may ridicule those who waste my time by asking "stupid" questions."

I agree with this, if students ask genuine question. However, you might not know, most of the time, pupils did not master the art of listening. They talk while the teachers are talking. And after the teachers finish giving the instruction, they will ask the same thing again. Waste of time, isn't it?

"If a student does badly, I might scold him and say, 'I think you'd better drop this subject. I don't want you to drag down the school's overall scores!' Or I might tell him that it's important to keep trying and not give up."

I agree with encouragement.
However, certain time, you will realise that a lot of pupils may be in the so-call good class because of their pride. They may had opted to study for eg,triple science when they don't really have the ability. In the end, they suffer a lot. The teacher may have advise him to drop, (not in the tone mentioned above), is not really because of pulling down the grade, but because it is important for him to put his focus on subjects that he can do well, to increase his level of confidence.

The eg you cited may just for illustration purpose, but I just hope you can see from another angle.

James said...

The Grand Illusion by Paul Krugman can be read in our nation blding press today.

Also saw (I tink in Life) a reference to Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to be rich, you'd better study Biology and become a doctor one day."
Hehe sorry hor Mr Wang, just a minor correction. If this child want to study Medicine at NUS, it is Chemistry not Biology which is the compulsory subject.

I just checked last week for my kid.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Anon August 17, 2008 11:38 PM:

Right. In the two counter-examples you have offered, the values demonstrated may be said to be "efficiency", and, in the 2nd case, "focus" or "pragmatism" or "humility".

As I said, values are being imparted all the time to the students in school. They are just not formally teachable, but are imparted through teachers' actual conduct.

Again my point, in this post, is not to say which values should or should not, or are or are not, being imparted in our system - but merely to say that values aren't formally teachable, but are transmitted in less-obvious ways.

I think it's a point which MOE will likely miss, therefore the point is worth making.

James said...

to use Randy Pausch's term: it's called the head fake. U teach one thing, but u r really getting them to learn another thing - the very thing that would be far more important in life or to the meaning of life.

Anonymous said...

I think the root of the problem has to do with the lack of intellectuals in our society.

They are usually perceived as fire brands so most ppl I think shy away from them i.e no action, talk only. So many of us dont feel the need to role model and emulate them. I notice this during my campus days whilst studying in the US.

There, students were generally graded into two groups.

The first were the conformist kwai kwai students, people like me who study and most of the time, we even get the best grades.

Then there were those who just turned up for registration and after that you do not see them till the exam date. Usually they scrap through and just make it, 90% of the time, they are either MIA or completely pissed drunk spending all their time chatting up girls in the college drink holes.

Guess what? Fast forward, 10 years, those laggards who once couldnt even hold down a decent job, started business in the mom and pop's garages and sold it off for millions.

Guess where I am? Trust me, you dont want to know. I spend most of my time wondering these days, where did I go so wrong?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Personally, I skipped most of law school. In my final year, I attended about three lectures in total. However (or should I say, consequently) I graduated on the Dean's List for Academic Excellence, LOL.

The said...

/// Mr Wang Says So said...
The way the Chinese language is taught in our schools, I think that when students encounter the phrase "饮水思源", ///

Ah, Mr WSS, this is my favourite Chinese idiom, and you can credit me with its new interpretation:

With the advent of NeWater, 饮水思源 takes on a whole new meaning. Yakkkks!!!

Eaststopper said...

"Again my point, in this post, is not to say which values should or should not, or are or are not, being imparted in our system - but merely to say that values aren't formally teachable, but are transmitted in less-obvious ways."

To Mr Wang, I think you are asking too much from the teachers - in the first place, can the parents impart those values themselves? Parents spend more time with their children that the teachers and will have a much more positive impact in the long term.

Mr Wang Says So said...

What did I ask from teachers?

I was merely commenting on Ng Eng Hen's new plans to impart values to students.

And yes of course, parents play a very important role as far as children are concerned. However, my post is primarily about Ng Eng Hen's speech.

matt said...

I don't think Ng Eng Hen is that stupid. MOE has the benefit of quite enlightened senior leadership, but the quality of its personnel is not uniform throughout the organisation, whcih is a massive one. Angeline Soo is right to point out that some of these grand ideas get lost in translation. The problem Ng Eng Hen identified is also the right one, even though you say your grandmother could've come up with it. Singapore has some phenomenally poor teachers. The best and brightest do not consider teaching as a career, because as a society we're encouraged value certain things, like the size of one's paycheck, prestige, etc. Of course you need a certain kind of person to be a good teacher, but that kind of people are just as common amongst the brightest as they are amongst the not-so-bright. But for the former, Teaching, like nursing and social work, is defined as a 'noble profession', which means its one whose appeal stops at one's conscience.

Anonymous said...

Btw, any1 knows what is in the moral education textbooks these days? I believe we are happy to count the burmese junta, Muguabe, unpopular nepalese prince, et al as friends/customers.


Ly said...

Raising the number of teachers will probably help to create small class size and benefit to student learning. This is positive but action seems to be slow. Unless the existing qualification of teachers is not able to deliver the subject that they teach, getting more with higher qualifications is less important to me. In my daughter’s sec school, I have seen, in several occasions, teacher drives against direction marked on the road in school compound, despite of shouting from students. My daughter’s Chinese teacher gets her classmate to coach her. During meet the parents session, she told me that she conducts remedial lesson for weaker students. In her first year, she had a temp history teacher who cannot deliver lesson. He was dismissed only after complaint from students and parents 3 months later. Each of these observations points to some different aspect of issues in school. The main one that I see is incompetent school management team who don’t pay enough attention to the qualities of their teachers or monitor the performance.

By the way, the performance art (CCA) trainers have already started training students for competition that usually take place in second quarter of next year. So, you can see where they place the priorities.

Anonymous said...

Education - The Government will never get it. Teaching is a passion.The way I look at it, many young teachers teach because they cannot find a job (from what i see at my daughter's school) and when i feedback on a teacher, I was told he is 'experienced' but this does not mean he can deliver the lessons effectively. My daugther could not do a particular module due to 'resource' issues. Perhaps all resources went to elite schools. We only want world class students. It is always about grades, grades and time to nurture unless you are somebody. For the record, she is in secondary and teachers do call them 'stupid'. Wonder what training they went in MOE

Anonymous said...

my wishlist:
1) MOE to walk the talk, teach less, learn more. Review the syllabus load, either teachers not efficient or too much to teach? Case of Lost in translation

2) MOE to stop churning initiatives after initiatives, acronyms after acronyms, which are usually swamps of technicalities and intricacies, just go back to good old days of learning interface.
(No, this does not mean forgo computer,or technology)

3) Principals have courage to see beyond the rat race and ranking, but develop values and characters, and enjoyable learning environment in school

4) Teachers less bogged by other activities but teach. Have a central Admin to handle every admin matters that is usually done by form teachers now.
Also, principals should not encourage environment of the more projects the teacher submit, the better. These teachers are the "chiong" and disliked ones, who pander to the principal, and get promotion

5) CCA to have non-competetion category, for non-medal material

6) Parents to get rid of their kiasu mentality, e.g. must compete to send to endless tution classes, enrichment etc. they don't make the kids cleverer, only exam smart. Kids become dull, no spontaneous creativity and lost childhood

7) reduce exam, and setting trick questions for the sake of it, memorisation etc. But Can have banding grades

8) education system to allow varied interest, and talents to develop, not talking about exceptional talents like sports school, arts school, but something even an average child can identify with

9) more adult education opportunities to upgrade, change career etc. And not dictated for life at 18 years old by choice of study. The current social/economic/edu system is too narrow minded to allow such transition later in life

How do we know the result of successful education:
when children go to school happy and enjoy what they do in school. When grow up, have the thirst for knowledge and learning, coupled with strong life values to live life.

Ly said...

To anon 12.44pm, I share your wish list. Our school syllabus is heavy and keeps on expanding. Last year rally, LHL said it is useful to learn Malay. Sure enough, my daughter’s school introduce Malay subject this year as a “third language” for appreciation. Fortunately, he didn’t mention a fourth language this year. I just wonder if our educators review how an average student copes with their studies in additional to CCA, project work, etc. It is no wonder that they will feel stress out. There is just so little time left after school to do revision in order to understand the subjects. I know of teachers rush through lesson in order to cover syllabus. I hope NEH’s speech about shaping student in the other aspect will not result in another squeeze to the teaching time or to the student limited time in coping with all the other subjects. Something really need to be done to look at how student managing their studies.

Anonymous said...

Ng Eng Hen will be a terrible Education Minister.... lets see what kind of mess he makes in the next few years...

In contrast, I think Tharman has done a great job.... we can see good policies trickle down the system subtly... and that is the hallmark of a GREAT job!

ok.. i'll just quote an exmaple to illustrate... Tharman abolished the exclusivity of GEP .. and when Ng takes his post, he wants GEP to sharpen the elitism in GEP ... that total reversal! (i think by now they could have made the policy softer)

what a waste of time and resource.