S'pore needs independent thinkers for future challenges

Student Rachel Wong worries that her classmates and younger brothers resort too quickly to asking for help and copying the answers to their homework, instead of trying to solve their maths and science problems themselves.

Acknowledging that her cohort tends to be very dependent on those around them and are part of "the strawberry generation" - youth easily bruised by work and life's challenges - she asked at a dialogue if this will continue to be the case in the future, even for their children.

Responding yesterday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat encouraged the 16-year-old Secondary 4 student and her peers to be independent, self-directed learners, as the process of resolving and dealing with problems will equip them with the analytical abilities and other skills to help them in life - a point she agreed with.

Struggling with an issue builds important character traits like independence, which will take students and Singapore far, he added during his visit to the Bishan East division of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, whose MP is former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng.

Singapore needs such independent, adaptive thinkers so it can stay ahead of the curve and be ready for future challenges, he said at the Bishan Community Club dialogue with some 400 parents, students and residents.

Education issues cropped up the most, with several participants airing their views on issues such as competitive school environments, the teacher-student ratio and the "teach less, learn more" approach, which has trimmed syllabuses to give students more time for independent learning.

Mr Heng said there was an average of 15 or 16 students for each teacher, which allowed for a balance between assisting students who need help and giving independence to those quicker on the uptake.

This is how students can be taught less but still learn more, he said, adding that the approach was needed "because we cannot spoon feed our students".

Hosting the dialogue was grassroots leader and OUE Hospitality Trust chief executive Chong Kee Hiong, who has been identified as a potential People's Action Party candidate for the next General Election, which must be held by January 2017.


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