We need kids to learn for life

SINGAPORE - The main challenge for the education system is to prepare children for the 21st-century job market, which is moving towards an intellectual economy.

This is according to Dr Francis Downey, vice-president and publisher of science-education magazine National Geographic Explorer, which has developed a science curriculum aimed at kids below Primary 3.

Dr Downey spoke to My Paper when he was in town recently for the launch of the programme here.

What are the challenges that the Singapore education system faces?

Our schools need to prepare students to become lifelong learners who can master changing technologies and professions.

No longer is it just good enough to memorise facts; students will have to know how to learn on their own for the rest of their lives.

Are children below Primary 3 too young to learn about science?

Science isn't a requirement between kindergarten and Primary 2, and it hasn't really been taught in a systematic manner.

(That period) is the perfect time to teach kids the necessary background (information) and vocabulary for future success.

It is also important for them to develop an understanding of the methods and processes of science at these levels.

How can schools here better incorporate environmental civic-mindedness?

We ask a lot of the Singapore education system, teachers and students. Teachers are doing more than before.

Instead of asking them to add (to the curriculum), we need to integrate environmental education into other areas.

For instance, it could be taught alongside languages and science. This would allow teachers to teach environmental education without further cluttering the curriculum.

How will the National Geographic Explorer curriculum teach science?

The science programme does this by combining hands-on activities with readings in science. It also uses videos to introduce students to scientists who are doing real science.

These inspiring scientists act as role models who can add depth (to the curriculum) and (provide) greater understanding. They can also give first-hand accounts of what it is like to do science.

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