Emphasis on understanding the how and why of things

Emphasis on understanding the how and why of things
Students at Nanyang Junior College's CCA Bazaar held to promote their co-curricular activites (CCAs), as part of the school's orientation programme for the new JC1 students on 3 February 2016.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The junior college syllabus has undergone its first revamp in a decade, affecting 9,900 or so students going into JC this year. The changes aim to help them apply what they learn in class to the real world and be exposed to more current content.

They will also be tested on skills such as drawing connections between different topics.

Inquiry skills are the new buzzwords for the study of the humanities at the junior college level.

Instead of just learning content, there is a bigger emphasis on getting students to probe and understand the hows and whys.

Geography will be taught over three main themes: tropical environment, globalisation and sustainable development. Before, it was divided into physical and human geography, each taught on its own,

There is also a fourth theme - geographical investigation. This requires students to craft research questions, and identify and explain how to collect the data needed to test their hypothesis.

Ms Sabrina Teo, subject head of geography at Serangoon Junior College, said these investigative skills will carry more weight now.

"The aim is to make connections between what they learn in school and the environment, especially in the local context," she said.

"It will be impossible to just stay in the classroom; we have to bring them out, for instance, to measure the infiltration rates at different locations like grassy areas or slopes."

Students also need to make links between physical and human geography in their essays, and those who are able to weave in a variety of issues will fare better.

"Besides the command of content, there's a shift in the way we mark, in the sense that examiners can credit skills shown if students can bring in relevant topics not covered in the syllabus. Instead of just fixed sets of readings, we will try to expose students to more topics in the news and allow them to do more research in assignments."

Meanwhile, about a third of content in H2 History has been cut. This includes topics such as conflict and co-operation and pre-World War II nationalism.

"Based on student feedback, it was hard to go in-depth for every topic," said Mr George Fu, a history teacher at Anderson JC.

Assessment has also been revised. Students will tackle two essay questions, down from three previously.

They will need to compare more sources, such as data and texts, in a question that tests their ability to assess the reliability of sources and form arguments.

In economics, students need to consider factors that influence the decisions of individuals, companies and governments, said Ms Tan Dai Hwee, a lead economics teacher at Anderson JC.

"We used to focus on decisions and consequences, but now we're looking at other considerations like constraints and multiple perspectives," she said, adding that more issues like income inequality and sustainable growth will be discussed.

"This gives students greater understanding of how policies are formulated and how firms strategise, as well as a better appreciation of the thinking behind the subject."


This article was first published on February 08, 2016.
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