Sit through a trial? All part of the job for some pupils

Sit through a trial? All part of the job for some pupils
Ms Jesslyn Tan sharing her experience in helping the poor with a class of Primary 4 pupils at Meridian Primary last year. Such sessions are part of the school's move to expose children to different interests.

SINGAPORE - Some get visits from mystery guests. Others sit through court trials or even dress up as zookeepers to feed animals.

These are just some of the fun activities schools here organise to get children as young as seven to think about what kind of work they would love to do.

Indeed, career guidance is one of the things that the committee led by Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah to review polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education is looking at improving.

She had stressed earlier this month the importance of exposing students early to their interests and strengths so that parents know how to match their children's interests to career plans.

At Meridian Primary School in Pasir Ris, Ow Xiao We, 11, thought of her interest in animals, after listening to Ms Jesslyn Tan, a flexi adjunct teacher, talk about her experience of volunteering in Africa.

That was last year, when Xiao We, then in Primary 4, was having a "Mystery Lesson", started for all pupils and held twice a year. She was all fired up by the talk.

"Ms Tan's work reminded me to help all in need," she said. "I love animals and I would like to help animals which are injured or abused - I want to learn more and one day help them."

Madam Stefane Tan, Meridian's head of department for character and citizenship, said the lesson is part of a move to expose children to different interests, such as music or sports. "We want children to see people's passion."

Teachers are sent to classes they do not usually teach, which is why the school calls them "mystery" lessons. Other speakers like parents or school staff could also be invited to share their thoughts.

"We see a great need to do this because it's easier to motivate the children to learn, so that it's not just about their grades," said Madam Tan.

And aspects of job awareness are already being introduced into learning as early as Primary 1 in some schools, though the Ministry of Education's formal career guidance curriculum starts only two years later.

Besides talks, pupils also go out to observe the jobs that people do.

For example, when Primary 1 pupils at Meridian visit a supermarket, teachers prompt them to observe people they meet, from the security guards to cashiers.

"Back in class, we ask them to think about what these people do and why they're important," said Madam Tan.

At Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang, pupils also have a taste of the real world.

To make it feel like a job selection process, Primary 6 pupils submit an "application form" to choose workplaces they want to visit.

"We want them to tell us why they're interested in that area, what makes them think they're suitable," said Madam Lee Hwee Nah, a school counsellor involved in planning these activities.

They then go through a short interview and teachers give them feedback on their presentation skills.

Since 2011, the school has arranged visits to 20 organisations, including law firms, drama companies, clinics and culinary training schools. Pupils have done things such as clean animal enclosures at zoos, sit through court hearings or try their hand at manicures.

The school took a step further last year by getting pupils to think like entrepreneurs after visiting food and beverage companies like Pastamania and Canele.

"They came back and brainstormed ideas to set up booths. Teachers helped them to think about concepts like marketing, pricing and profits," said Madam Lee. "As far as possible, we try to let them feel what it's like to be in a profession."

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

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