03 October 2006

More on Education

ST Oct 3, 2006
Poly courses at over 40 schools

MORE than 40 secondary schools will offer courses designed and taught by the five polytechnics to their students, some starting this month.

These 37 courses, for which separate fees are payable, range from design communication to microbiology and financial planning to electronic circuits.

Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam first announced this initiative during the Budget debate in March.

He said then that the aim of these courses was not just to expose students to applied subjects or gear them up for polytechnic studies.

These classes, called advanced elective modules, are aimed at developing inventive minds that are 'able to look for problems, invent solutions and make them happen', he said.

This is why even Integrated Programme schools like Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Raffles Institution are offering them.

Upper secondary students will take about 40 hours to complete each course, which can be run during school holidays or term time.

Classes will have 20 to 25 students and fees will be capped at $55 per student.

The grades that the students earn from these courses can be used to get advanced standing in some polytechnic courses, and may be considered by polytechnics during admission exercises.

Tanglin Secondary in West Coast Road, where about 60 per cent of students move on to the polytechnics, is offering tourism management and electronic-product design.

Secondary 2 student Nurul Adziemah Tawfiq Kamil, among the 100 students there eyeing the courses, said: 'It's a stepping stone towards my goal of becoming a business consultant in the tourism industry.'

Further product differentiation at the secondary school level. Not sure what to make of it. In principle, I guess it's a good idea to widen subject options so that everyone has a higher chance of studying subjects for which they they have a genuine interest. In practice, this may turn into another mad rush to score grades, because of this:
"The grades that the students earn from these courses can be used to get advanced standing in some polytechnic courses, and may be considered by polytechnics during admission exercises."

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X said...

I am not too sure, but the idea of being able to develop problem solving skills and inventing solutions sounds like quite a stretch for a module that, more likely than not, is only at a foundational level.

Anonymous said...

i don't think its a good idea at all. The fact that students are doing elective modules at secondary school for poly-level modules might just give students the impression that it would be just "fine to get into the polytechnic"

in my humble opinion, its better for the secondary schools to ensure that their students do their best in their olevel and then consider the options there after.

i always have this perception that if the school encourage their students to go to poly after olevels. chances are they will tend to slack off at the crucial period as they tend to think that poly is an "easier path" than jc.

however after 3 years of their education at poly, they will begin to realise that a diploma never enough.

a poly student's view btw.....

Anonymous said...

This is a very confusing policy.

Good students will love to participate in these modules but the advanced standing only applies for polytechnic admission. So if I'm hell bent on going for my A levels and subsequently to University, I will give these electives a miss to focus on my O levels.

So very likely these modules will be heavily subscribed by second tier students who want a seat in a poly ( Truth hurts so suck it ).

JCs should have a policy that favours students with good grades for these subjects. So a 10 pointer with no electives will be the same rank as a 12 point with 2 electives.

As it stands the students who are likely to really enjoy these subjects the most will be held back by game theory.


Anonymous said...

Not very optimistic.

If at least, there could be a range of tertiary courses.

Where is linguistics, language arts, various social sciences (some of which are available here), and so forth?

alchemist said...

Courses like Language Arts etc are already main curriculum at schools like ACS(I). AEMs are a way for schools without the resources to offer such subjects to their students.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the point of this. The Singaporean system is one of the most intense in the world. Doesn't this increase the pressure on even younger students? What happened to enjoying the outdoors, sports and trying to build up some hobbies?

Unless you're going for a professional qualification like med, accountancy or law, most universtity first degrees only hope to teach their students how to learn effectively and quickly. That's why philosophy and literature have a place in the curriculum.

I think the Singaporean system has swung too far in the wrong direction already. The solution doesn't lie in introducing sec 2 students to electronic circuits, retirement planning, or ad campaigns.

Anonymous said...

If you're sure you'd make it to a JC, then forget it.

Anonymous said...

Well, you see, schools will only try sports if they know their students will excel in it. No point in trying something new that will pull their ranking down, right? Then the MOE will jump on that school for pulling Singapore's international ranking down.

That's why other schools besides the current top ten are explicitly prohibited from launching their own IP lorh.

Mon bon alchemiste: Gosh you pop up way too much everywhere.

Precisely LA is a mainstream course (more like half of ACSI's cohrot, rather) ... should we then not offer supplementary courses that give neighbourhood schools a shot at what the larger schools are doing?

Why in the world are they offering only technical/training courses? I have a suspicion that microbiology doesn't go very far.

"are aimed at developing inventive minds that are 'able to look for problems, invent solutions and make them happen'"

I have a sentiment that this is being very euphemistic about the course.

Anonymous said...

*courses, pardon

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I think that the overall tone of the comments is a bit over-pessimistic. Some thoughts:

1. These are elective courses, not compulsory. You don't have to take them if you don't want to.

2. This can be a quick, good way to find out more about a particular subject (eg microbiology or financial planning) and see if you would be interested in pursuing it at the poly/uni level, or eventually as a career, after your O-levels.

3. For students who can't decide between poly & JC, this can also be a good way to find out whether they prefer the more "hands-on", practical style of education in the polys.

4. It's cheap! See where else you can do a decent course in anything for $55.

5. These subjects being electives, the student doesn;'t have to take them so seriously if he can't cope with his main schoolwork. He can think of the elective more as a CCA or enrichment course, a time to mess around with electronic circuits or whatever.

6. Full range of courses is quite wide: check it out here - http://app.sprinter.gov.sg/data/pr/20061002993.pdf. Many students would be able to find something they really like. There's "Gene Explorer"; "Creative Digital Animation"; "Creative Computer Games"; "Arts Appreciation"; "Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship"; "Intelligent Electronics" etc.

Anonymous said...

Well Stray, we may be pessimistic but I'm sure many would support these new changes. If anything, Tharman, being as good as he is should know that Singaporeans play a very extreme form of gamesmanship in the field of education, very often to the point where the student loses in the long term.

Having electives for Poly entry would be using tax payers money to create a wonderful system which will then be poorly subscribed by the student population.

If I were a student, I'd happily jump on these subjects, I always favoured the hardcore sciences as a kid and will possibly OD on programming and electronics courses. But I don't want to lose to that bastard who will just focus on his O level courses.

The top 5 JC should carve out a subset of these electives and officially recognize them for JC entry.

Then it becomes something to kill for.

Anonymous said...

A digression...

Sometimes I wonder which is worse.

a) RI boy comes home tells his folks he is gay.

b) RI boy comes home tells his folk he wants to enter a polytechnic.

My point is that the argument that people who are hands-on should get into a poly is flawed. Most of my succeessful poly friends get into a polytechnic to avoid focusing on language studies, wearing a school uniform or physical education.

Students enter a polytechnic because of optimization and gamesmanship and these are the same folks who own the industries in Singapore today.

Singapore is moving towards learning for a sake of passion but we're not ready for this yet. We need an intermediate stage where we coax Singaporeans to be passionate about knowledge without discarding their propensity for gamesmanship.

Do not forget that the industry plays a role too. If grades matter to the top firms, too bad we have to play to their tune.

. said...

i smell somthing weird going on in the development of singapore's education system. now that sec. sch students are gonna read certain basic/foundation modules from the polytechnics (which will then allow them advance placement in the respective poly courses in future), will jc students start reading university yr 1 or 2 courses in the coming years (knowing that the local univ. are already accommodating new batches of students from jc by exempting them from some univ. yr 1 courses which they had done well in so-called equivalent subjects at the 'a'-level)?

the trend seems to be pointing thus:
infant/toddler: learn things taught in k1-k2 or k3 (if applicable)
nursery/kindergarten: study lower pri stuff
lower pri (p1-3): study upper pri stuff
upper pri (p4-6): study lower sec stuff
lower sec (sec1-2): study upper sec stuff
upper sec (sec3-4): study certain poly courses

if student goes to jc: study univ. foundation or intermediate (if student had taken equiv. foundation poly subject in upp. sec) courses; then go univ. and get exemption - grad. in 1 (recall david banh from univ. of virginia?) to 2.5 yrs (instead of usual 4 yr).

if student goes to poly: can get diploma within 2 yrs or less (then get adv. dipl. studying univ.-level courses).

etc. you get the picture. then more & more teenagers will be joining the workforce soon.

Anonymous said...

Poly first year is already an overlap on Sec 3/4.

the trend seems to be pointing thus:
infant/toddler: learn things taught in k1-k2 or k3 (if applicable)
nursery/kindergarten: study lower pri stuff
lower pri (p1-3): study upper pri stuff
upper pri (p4-6): study lower sec stuff
lower sec (sec1-2): study upper sec stuff
upper sec (sec3-4): study certain poly courses

schizophrenic missed out:

foetus: learn mother tongue, and appreciate music.

. said...

ah. i noticed something else, after i’d posted my previous comment to this article. apparently, the kiasu-ism mentality has crept in silently somewhere along the line.

now, there are bound to be people who will feel that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with allowing kids with the intelligence and ability to store/cram (literally an endless stream) of data into their brains to learn more and faster then the rest – anyway, the major exams at the end of each stage (psle, ‘o’/‘a’ level, dip., etc) merely serves to open the gates to the next level. i would agree with that; if the kid can ace or obtain a respectable pass in the univ. exams for every single subject required for a course at the tender age of 4, why not just confer him a degree and let him/her go out and work as a professional? :)

however, in singapore, where every parent hold a strong belief that their son/daughter is a super-talent (or at least a talent), their eyes will turn green with jealousy if they obtain info. that somewhere out there, someone just stepped out of line. someone argued earlier on in this comments column that the availability of poly. subjects at sec. level will only entice the so-called “second tier students” while those who are bent on taking the jc-route will give these tertiary-level subjects a miss. i beg to differ. singaporeans generally have this herd mentality of ‘if you have something, then i must also have it’. hence, subsequent development of this m.o.e. episode will most likely point to parents pressurizing sch principals to sign memorandums of understanding with various tertiary institutions so that:
(a) all schs currently not on the list will eventually be included so as not to leave any singaporean behind;
(b) a wider variety of courses can be made available to the kids.

i wouldn’t be surprised if, in the not too distant future, students from sec. (or even pri.) level start turning up at the polytechnics/local univ. for lessons because point (b) made above is too difficult to attain economically, leading to ad-hoc admissions for those kids with ‘passion’ to the tertiary programmes.

Anonymous said...

Yo Schizo,

Singaporean parents are not stupid people. I would'nt accept at face value that they will accept anything just because someone else has it. I would say that they will want something if it gives them a substantial advantage, case in point, in education it would be long term return on human capital.

At it stands taking these poly modules does not improve one's chances of getting into a JC. While I agree that in some rare cases the knowledge accumulated may help in some O level subjects, the same effort could be invested in optimizing their entrance exam scores or even ECAs which grant bonus points these days.

Now I have proof that herd mentality does not work all the time. Look at ECAs, clearly ECAs are good way to develop life skills but are parents encouraging their kids to go after ECAs with the same fervour as their bread and butter grades ?

For people going to JCs these electives are nothing more than ECAs.

Of course, I still support the implementation of this program because it adds choices for everyone. But I firmly believe that it should be finetuned to stimulate demand from the student body.

It should not be vehicle for second tier students.


Anonymous said...

I hear the government lament that the Singaporean system stifles creativity. The nation's leaders worry that the system churns out too many cattle, and not enough leaders.

40+ years ago this country was a swamp, surrounded by economically stronger neighbours, and nobody thought it could survive. In the race to today, no doubt everyone had to knuckle down and do as LKY said. Your school system created the workers - the herd - because the leader, the alpha male, was already there.

That worked, and that's why you're where you are now. But today you are the economic powerhouse, and LKY is no longer there. How do you get the country to the next level, or at least defend it's competitiveness?

I think you need people to be trend setters. You need more Creatives - more visionaries, and another LKY.

The education system should mould the people who are our future. I worry they are not pushing in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Pffft. "Trend setters" is such a hackneyed phrase, it has a rather ironic use.

I also think cramming for the O-levels is a rather bad idea; I can't see how one is losing out when one is actively putting their knowledge to use, rather than poring meaninglessly over a textbook. (Seriously, in order to gain conceptual knowledge of anything, one only really has to read the textbook once, or hell, scrap that and go for Wikipedia.)

We do have technological advancement, and we do need to change the syllabus at the foundational level (ie. toddler) ... but it would be more of how to best maximise the use of resources like computers ...

My stance is actually that if children are taught three languages from young - from birth, rather than waiting till P1 to pick Mandarin up - it will help solidify command of all three languages. People struggle with two - but that's because two is rather unbalanced.

Anonymous said...

For example, if you teach a child French and English, they will likely not have grammar and spelling problems, whereas ironically you might be more prone to find a problem with a child speaking only one Indo-European language.