MOE: We are redesigning

In his article ("Learning for life, not grades", The New Paper, Oct 3), Mr Melvin Singh said education must prepare children for life. We agree.

Over the years, we have moved towards an education system that is centred on the student and driven by values.

Providing a good academic foundation remains necessary, for students have to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies that will equip them for productive careers later in life.

And this foundation must be complemented by developing their appreciation and talents in other areas such as sports, drama, music and art for a fulfilling life.

Continuing efforts to provide a holistic education

We recognise that education goes beyond academics. Schools must develop in our young strength of character, integrity, empathy and a heart for our fellow man. Schools must also help them develop the qualities of adaptability, resilience, resourcefulness and teamwork.

These qualities will enable our children to navigate the workplace and social spaces of the future in a globalised world, and help them find fulfilment as individuals.

We have been redesigning the curriculum and methods of teaching to achieve these objectives. We have taken steps to reduce an over-emphasis on grades.

We have reinforced character and citizenship education. We have done away with school ranking. The Sports School, SOTA and SUTD have been introduced to encourage the flowering of different varieties of talents beyond the tradition ally academic.

We no longer have Primary One yearend examinations. Greater emphasis is now placed on holistic learning. Report cards reflect all areas of a child's development, not just grades.

We are investing heavily in training so that our teachers are better able to bring out the best in their students. And all these are but just some of the measures we are taking. There are many more.

We recognise that our students have diverse strengths and talents.

Some are better at academic subjects, while others excel in more practical or applied fields. Each, however, should be given the chance to develop to the best of his or her own ability.

Thus, we have created multiple pathways - in the form of ITEs, polytechnic and universities - to provide the best opportunities for every child. We believe strongly that everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed, according to his or her own strength.

In the coming years, all secondary schools will offer two distinctive programmes: An Applied Learning Programme, as well as a Learning for Life Programme that will connect students to real-world experiences and help them acquire the soft skills useful for life and work.

The recent shifts announced by the Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech, as well as the new initiatives announced by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the recent Work Plan Seminar, are the latest steps in our continuing effort to provide a progressive education to our children. On Mother Tongue Language (MTL), Mr Singh acknowledges its importance, but feels it should not be an examinable subject.

There are different views on this issue.

While some feel that it should not be an examinable subject, many also believe strongly, even passionately, that we must give greater weight to the mother tongue in examinations to ensure students and parents take their mother tongues seriously.

MOE has to balance these different considerations.

Bilingualism anchors our students to their culture as well as prepares them for their future participation in a globalised world that will favour those who are bi- or even tri-lingual.

The mother tongue remains an examinable subject as a reflection of its importance. At the same time, we recognise that students have varying abilities in languages and students who do well in other subjects may not be as strong in their mother tongue.

We now allow students to offer the Foundation MTL at the primary level and MTL Syllabus B at the secondary level.

Those who are strong in their mother tongue can continue to take higher MTL. In this way, students with different aptitudes in the mother tongue can still do well in it as an examinable subject.

Improving continuously from a position of strength

We are heartened by the recent Varkey Gems global online survey ("Teachers held in high regard by parents", The Straits Times, Oct 4) that found our teachers are held in high regard (7th out of 21 countries) and that we were ranked third in terms of the confidence and trust Singaporeans have in their education system and in its quality.

As this and other global rankings suggest, our education system is fundamentally sound - indeed good.

This doesn't mean we cannot improve and do even better for our children. We will continue to strive to help our children enjoy learning and develop them to their fullest potential.

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