BEDA · Eternal Sights; Spotted Mind

BEDA 2013.2 #1: An Open Letter…

To the councils and policy departments,

While I subscribe to the belief that whatever happens to us is a result of our actions, coupled with the environment that has been set for us, I cannot help but raise this issue in the light of recent educational developments.

It has been reported a few days ago that Physical Education (PE) in our local schools will receive a revamp – engaging students in more physical activity, sports, and what not. While it’s all fine and dandy, almost applaud-worthy that the relevant departments are putting the issue to plan, there are a few kinks which I found rather excessive.

Firstly, the aim to have the students participate/ get involved in at least six different sports in their school life. While I believe there is some structure or plan to this in case a student just happens to not be adept in certain physical skills, it does feel like something that will be graded or assessed, despite each student’s different physical capability. And if I may, judging the intelligence of a fish by whether or not it can climb a tree will make the fish think it’s incapable (paraphrased from Albert Einstein).

Secondly, I will not deny the fact that many people have called for our education system to have a shift. Shifting away from paper academics and letting our students play or play to learn. However, when they say that, I believe the general environment they are looking for is probably one that cuts extra hours in school (e.g. extra lessons, enrichment classes etc…) or extra papers (e.g. enrichment worksheets that bear little importance to their current academic level but were made compulsory by the school etc…) and one which will allow students to learn soft skills like communication, presentation, social skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and decision making (to name a few) in their own way as much as possible.

How about providing an option? Hougang Primary School (where I was teaching for a while) does it relatively well. Weaving their Outdoor Adventure Education niche into the syllabus, it’s taught during their PE lessons, but never forced, graded, or made to reflect on the pupil. Pupils who were more competent in certain sports or physical activity were given more options but those who could not “make the cut” were encouraged to try other things they could be good at, not made to feel like they “did not belong.” Major activities are scheduled during school hours after exams (so they do not need to be in school longer than needed) and expeditions are open to pupil interest.

Thirdly, we probably need more options for our students, and not just for sports. Things like the arts, literature and critical thinking, entrepreneurship (actual business operation), practical financial literacy, communication skills etc… will be incredibly useful for our future generations. The only problem I’m seeing so far is that once these areas are graded with numbers, statistics, tests, and all that jazz, students lose interest if their grades are not “up to par.” And like the working adults who cringe at the thought of overtime, students will lose energy and brain steam if we keep pumping extra hours into them regardless.

It’s not about adding modules or applications to what’s already there, it’s about a paradigm shift which will benefit both teachers, students, people alike.

Of course, education is not about just academics and whatever looks good on paper. However, it’s also not about producing “all-rounders” who “excel in everything we deem important.” And until we can recognise that every student has a different strength, interest, and help them work towards achieving their potential in doing so without upsetting their future (especially one which society deems “acceptable”), we still have a long way to go.

Thank you.

Joelyn Alexandra

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