Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wants schools to go beyond equipping their students for examinations and prepare them for life ("Big push to nurture all-round students"; yesterday). Many schools have been proud to proclaim that their focus is on building character and, yes, preparing their students for life.
For this reason, schools make available a wide range of co-curricular activities and enrichment programmes to enable their students to learn beyond academic subjects.
And yet, the clamour for excellent grades continues year after year. Parents view their children's non-academic pursuits as distractions. And "branded" schools that build their reputations on their success in examinations remain a phenomenon in Singapore.
Mr Heng attributed such developments to the Singaporean mindset, which he believes must change or it will be difficult to transform our education system. A change in mindset is achievable only if we are made to realise what we stand to lose by not doing so.
In the real world, it is not uncommon to see a quick rise to the top by those with all-round skills. On the flip side, there are many instances of those with brilliant academic results failing to deliver.
By nurturing all-round students, we are levelling the playing field for them as they embark on their careers later in life.
The sooner we make students - and their parents - realise the pragmatism of this Learning for Life approach, the sooner they will embrace the proposed changes in our education system.
To ensure that it sticks, students' non-academic achievements must count in the appraisal of their educational attainment - and this means their overall grades. This way, we need not discourage the continued pursuit of good grades, as it will now mean recognition of all-round individuals who are prepared for life.
Yeoh Teng Kwong
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