WHY I DISAGREE WITH THE EX-TEACHER WHO RIPPED SDP’S EDUCATION POLICY APART

My reply to this post, since I couldn’t comment somehow. I read the article, and boy, were there MANY things that I disagreed with this “ex teacher” on! So here it goes, my rebuttal to his/her argument: http://www.allsingaporestuff.com/article/ex-teacher-sdps-education-policy-enticing-flawed-lacks-good-viable-solutions

1)”To dictate that all children have EQUAL opportunities in terms of tuition, can probably work if we are North Korea.”

Equality is not Communism/Socialism! Frankly, as a history student, I have to say that if I had a dollar for everyone who’s said that, I’d be a millionaire by now. It’s sad that so many people are unable to tell the difference. The SDP leans towards liberal democracy, which is COMPLETELY different from Socialism, and is definitely NOT Communism! Please…know the difference, people.

2)”Income distribution is a problem for all developed countries. Lets not use an economical issue to churn out half baked national policies.”
Except that the problem here in Singapore is that this income distribution gap between the rich and the poor is an extreme case. Did you know that the gap between the rich and the poor in Singapore is the 2nd highest GLOBALLY? If this is not an urgent problem, I don’t know what is. I love how you just brushed that matter aside in such a blase manner in your essay, though.

3)”As a teacher in a classroom, I am able to tell the T-score different between my students in sec 1. There is a vast difference in student learning ability when their T-scores have a gap of 10 – 15 marks. If not for the current banding, resources will not be utilised suitably.”

There’s so many things that’s wrong with this, it’s painful.

First off, The banding system shifts the higher scoring students into elite schools and the lower scoring ones into neighborhood schools. This creates many problems, mainly:

a)Elitism: Students in the “better” schools are regarded as elites, while students who don’t do as well are regarded as “hopeless” and a main stereotype of them is that these neighbourhood school students are “hoodlums” and “degenerates”, even if these students aren’t actually like that and just need extra help in their studies. The elite students are given more resources (eg more school labs, larger campus), while neighbourhood schools struggle with what little they are given. As a result, these “poorer” students are at a disadvantage as compared to the “elite” students in O levels. This leads to the “elite” students getting arrogant, believing that the “poorer” students are below them. This elitist mindset has led to many…”interesting” events:

In my opinion, more resources should be given to the “poorer” students. Yes, they still have to work hard to get up to speed, but with that extra help, those who are willing to learn will definitely get the help they need in their studies, and they can catch up with the “elite” students. They say school is like family, or “ohana”. And family means that NO ONE is left behind, or is forgotten, even if they’re somehow “weaker”. So what if their learning ability is “weaker”? It doesn’t actually mean that they don’t want to learn! If more resources are given to the “elite” students, we are actually denying the chance for these “poorer”, but still hardworking students who need the resources more to catch up with these “elites” and to be better students. Isn’t the whole point of education to allow students to better themselves and become more knowledgeable? In that case, the system here has truly failed our students.

b) An overly competitive education system: SDP does have it’s reasons for getting rid of PSLE. It’s terrible for the children. Making 12 year old children have to step over each other and fight their way up in a national exam only serves to show the world that SG’s education system is too focused on examinations. Especially since…
The number of youths seeking psychiatric help increased by 16% from 2005, reaching 3,126 in 2010. More than half of these were primary school children, and
the number of children warded for “aggressive, suicidal or hallucination tendencies” at IMH jumped by 35% between 2005 to 2010. Mental health professionals attribute these problems to ACADEMIC stress.

And…

Psychiatrists found that 12.5% of primary school children show signs of emotional problems including anxiety and depression. Researchers say that this might be an underestimation of the prevalence of mental health problems among children.

http://smj.sma.org.sg/4812/4812a1.pdf

I don’t know how much this would probably disturb you. I really don’t. But it terrifies me greatly. A society where more kids are getting mental illnesses under the age of 12 is not ok. I suffer from frequent mood swings, bulimic tendencies and I have had suicidal thoughts multiple times before. I still have scars on my wrist from cutting. I don’t want to imagine the emotional pain those children are going through, and neither would I wish it on anyone. The fact that more and more kids are getting mental disorders, especially at such a young age, is alarming-And the worst part is that the exam related stress that is constantly being pushed on those kids has actually DRIVEN THEM TO SUICIDE. I am NOT making this up.

One student’s life lost is one too many, and the worst part is that these kids had so much potential to succeed. The SDP wants to prevent this. Hence, they’re getting rid of PSLE, and I must say that that is for the better of the children. They can wait until they’re 16 and better prepared mentally for a national exam. What in the world is this competition for anyway? We’re teaching children that exam results and winning are everything-Which is definitely untrue, and, in this case, this toxic mindset has harmed the morals and the mental development of our children. They are our future. What would happen to our country if they grow up either mentally unstable or if they grow up to be an arrogant, overly competitive, and selfish lot?

4)”SDP: Calls to broaden curriculum to include arts and humanities and collaboration projects in Pri and Sec sch.

This is double awkward to read. It shows how out of touch the writers of this paper is.

Secondary already has project work, speech and drama, humanities and the arts. Primary school, have them, although in different depth. They might not be ready to understand geography, history and literature, without a basic foundation in English, Maths and Science. ”

Did the SDP state anywhere that they were going to get rid of English, maths and science altogether? No. All they stated was that the curriculum should be broadened to expose children more to the arts and the humanities. This is a good thing, as studies find that those who are more exposed to the arts at an early age would be more likely than those who have not been exposed to the arts at a young age to be more successful in owning their own companies, developing their own patents, and going into and gaining more success in scientific fields of study like STEM cell research. Why is this important? Inventors are more likely to create higher growth and higher paying jobs, thus improving Singapore’s economy, and these new patents will also put our country in the spotlight for scientific advancements. Tell me how that’s “awkward” to you again?

5) “There is no need for such a blanket rule. Schools are already given the autonomy to allocate the school’s resources based on students’ needs. Schools that have extra teachers, can allocate extra teachers to classes that need them. On top of that, schools have Allied Educators and Adjunct teachers to help out.”

“What problems would we have to tackle if SDP suggestion comes into play? MOE has to employ double the teachers. Since all schools are almost single session, it will also mean we need double the physical space. Either that of we double the height of all existing schools.”

Oh really? First off, you say that schools has the teachers available to allocate two teachers to the classes that need them, but then you complain that more teachers will have to be hired due to the extra classes? From your statement, these schools clearly have extra teachers. So it’s not necessary that the number of teachers must be doubled per school per se. Second, isn’t that…actually a good thing? More jobs are available for local Singaporeans, especially those with teaching degrees, so why not?

Also, many teachers in Singapore are stressed and overworked, and one of the main reasons as to why Singaporean teachers are overworked is because they find it difficult to discipline their students, especially considering that class sizes are normally around 30-40 students. With a smaller class size, It will be easier for the teachers to supervise the students, as they can pay more attention to each student. In turn, the students will be more likely to behave in class, which will lead to a better learning/teaching experience for all and also better grades by the students.Even if it means renovating the classrooms (which will all be smaller due to the smaller class sizes) or even the school, I say that it’s 100% worth it, because it’s a win-win situation where both the teachers and the students can benefit.

5)”Previously when I was doing time tabling for my school, each term, we have to spend a few weeks at it, sorting out a workable timetable if there are manpower movement. It is not as simple as employing another teacher to just fill in the slot. It is about finding the best combination of teachers to teach all 1,200 students in the school. If Teacher A is on maternity leave, who is the next best choice to take over her class?”

I’m gobsmacked on how you think the introduction of good teachers that are dedicated is apparently a bad thing.

First off, there’s going to be more teachers that will be employed to fill the quota for teachers, with more jobs being created, which my previous point has already explained. Secondly, although more jobs are there, the MOE will have to screen teachers for the quality of their teaching in order to fulfill this goal. That is, only the best can go through. (eg, depending on the demand of teachers, only the top 20% or so of trainee teachers in the cohort will graduate) This ensures that the quality of the lessons that are being taught to the students are of good quality. Good lessons with dedicated teachers will equal to better students. Regardless of which teacher (teaching the relevant subject) takes over, if they’re all good and dedicated teachers, the students will be able to benefit.

6)”Interesting! Again showing how much they (do not) know about the ground. MOE has already scrapped school ranking (and if you are really interested in gaining votes, try to find out why MOE started school ranking in the first place) but currently it is the public coming up with unofficial ranking lists in online education forums.

How shall we scrap it of the forums? Jail the parents that contribute to it? ”

First off, THE RANKINGS STILL EXIST. Even if MOE says it doesn’t. How do the parents rank primary schools? Through the PSLE cut off points of each school! Again, the points I’ve made above already explain why PSLE is NOT beneficial to the students. I can understand if JCs are to be ranked, because the O levels should be the first national examination Singaporean students will take, and not PSLE. But I agree with the SDP that the ranking of primary schools is utter madness. One way the SDP can get rid of these rankings is to get rid of PSLE altogether. There’s no minimum cut off point for each secondary school, and all secondary schools are thus equal in ranking. Job done.

7) “Still I have to give credit that it is written in a very enticing manner, to cause readers to think that SDP is able to solve the education problems we face”

Ok. That’s a low blow here. What are you trying to imply here? That SDP supporters are “gullible” and “ignorant”? That SDP is incompetent? That is a classic case of ad hominiem, which means that you’ve attacked the person instead of the argument in itself. I think that you probably support the PAP and it’s policies, (that are, currently, not working at all, as previously explained) But I’m not calling you “ignorant” or “stupid” based on the fact that I think you’re probably a PAP supporter, nor am I insulting whoever in the PAP that came up with these policies, but rather the policies and the very system itself. And your argument.

Come to think of it, I can see where the SDP’s education policies are inspired from-None other than the Finnish education system. The classroom sizes in Finland are small, Most of the teachers there are professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education, The teachers focus more on getting the weaker students up to par, there are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or region, and reading is encouraged, something that the SDP also wants to encourage. (But you’ve left that out for some reason, why?)

http://yoursdp.org/publ/sdp_39_s_alternatives/education/26

And guess what? It works. Very well. I know, you’re probably paranoid that students won’t score well without being subjected to a barrage of exams and tests, but guess what? The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. Many regard this system of education to be one of the best, if not the best in the world.

There are arguments that Singapore should not be like Finland. However, my main beef with these arguments is that education merely means “doing well in exams” to the critics of these policies and that they normally believe that the best students should be treated better than the weaker students. This mindset creates a stressful, unconducive learning environment for the students, judging them by results alone without any consideration for their well being or the values that they learn. However, moral values and the mental health of a student is actually more important than doing well on an exam or test.

Let me show you an example: Jim is a straight “A” student, but he’s arrogant and is prone to breaking down when facing setbacks due to his perfectionist and result-oriented ideology. Even with his grades, he doesn’t go very far in life, because he gives up when facing a setback, tends to play a one man game when solving problems because he thinks he’s better than everyone else, and has strained relationships with his co-workers and family, who hate him for his arrogance. Is Jim the the kind of person that should be involved in Singapore’s future? That’s what our meritocratic approach to education does to our children.

Meanwhile, Finnish education adopts an egalitarian approach that encourages everyone to help each other, and to learn to work together. It prepares the children more for the real world. The obsession to do well in tests is taken away, but an adventurous spirit and creative thinking is instilled in children, causing them to learn more-and enjoy every moment of learning. If children see learning as enjoyable from a young age, they’ll be more likely to learn on their own, even outside of lesson time. This hence allows the kids to not just score well, but to also be better adjusted for adult life. This is why Finland’s education system is far better than ours, and their children are happier and more well adjusted than ours. We can stand to learn from their example. Sure, not all their policies have to be copied wholesale, but we could take several pointers from them, which is what the SDP wants to do.

Check Also

Denise Phua to Pritam Singh: PM Lee ‘graciously’ created a role for you

Yesterday, Denise Phua rebutted Pritam Singh in Parliament after he questioned the need for CDCs …