Pupils join parents in meeting teachers

During her school's annual meeting for parents and teachers in May, 12-year-old Summer Walters had this to tell her mother:

"When I do my homework, please do not circle the questions that I got wrong as it shakes my confidence and doesn't really make me feel good."

The Primary 6 pupil attends Haig Girls' School, where instead of sitting quietly and listening during parent-teacher sessions, pupils take the lead and speak up - part of an initiative the school piloted in 2006.

Last year it was rolled out to all levels. Pupils come to meetings with learning goals they set for themselves, and give suggestions on how teachers and parents can support them.

Said principal Constance Loke: "The children now have a voice, a chance to share honestly what they feel. Teachers understand the child better. But it is also eye- opening for parents.

"Overall it facilitates better interaction between all parties."

Haig Girls' efforts to let pupils take ownership of their learning were praised on Wednesday by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This feedback process "engages students more actively", and they are "motivated and have clear information about the next steps they have to take", he said.

He was speaking to 2,200 principals, vice-principals and teachers at the opening of the first Primary School Education Seminar and Exhibition at Republic Polytechnic.

He said that since 2009's review of primary education, schools have been coming up with new ways to improve teaching.

He highlighted how teachers are moving away from evaluating pupils based solely on academic results, to providing more "holistic" assessment.

For instance, Punggol Primary mathematics teacher Lim Gek Wah said that instead of looking only for right answers, she also examines the wrong one to understand where a pupil erred.

This lets her give more targeted feedback.

This year, around 1,350 teachers from 72 primary schools formed Teacher Learning Communities, which discuss "holistic" and qualitative methods of assessment. According to a Ministry of Education spokesman, more schools have indicated their interest in forming such learning groups next year.

Wednesday's whole-day event, organised by the Ministry of Education, was to help primary school teachers learn from each other. The exhibition saw 28 primary schools, including Haig Girls, share their methods of teaching and assessment.

Summer's mum Amy Walters was glad that her school encouraged her to think about how she was progressing in her studies. Said Mrs Walters: "In the past, when we collected our report books, the teacher and parent conversed, but the child had no say."

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