Time to study the education system

Time to study the education system
The Ministry of Education.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Little tweaks to the education system are not good enough for Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), who wants it transformed for the future economy.

She highlighted "high-stake" examinations such as the Primary School Leaving Examination or the O levels; the Direct School Admission (DSA) system; and the "over-reliance on tuition". Tuition, she said, can end up producing students whose learning styles run counter to what is needed in the future economy - self-driven learners who can learn new skills quickly.

She suggested two ways, among others, to overcome this dependency. One, give quality learning materials so that tuition is not needed. Two, regulate the tuition industry to ensure quality and affordability.

Ms Phua was among 20 MPs who spoke on education issues during the debate on the ministry's budget.

There were calls to abolish streaming of pupils to normal and express classes, giving schools equal access to funding, preserving mother tongue as well as allowing more pupils from other schools to be admitted to mission schools.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) want less stress. Mr Lim asked if some schools were setting the bar too high for non-national examinations.

Dr Intan, calling for an end to streaming, said it pigeon-holes students and does not adequately reflect their intelligence or abilities. She asked for it to be replaced with subject-based banding.

Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) also raised the issue of equitable funding. He said that per capita funding for schools favours popular schools with high enrolment, leading to inequalities in the programmes offered by these schools compared with less popular schools.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) and Dr Intan also raised the issue of affiliated schools. They asked for these schools to open their doors wider for students with no affiliation.

The DSA system was also criticised. Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) noted that at least half of the students admitted to some popular schools were academically talented.

Today, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng and Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung will respond to the comments.

yuensin@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 7, 2017.
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