Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC)
Debate on Motion on Education for Our Future
I rise in support of the motion.
1 By most measures, we have an excellent education system, and our system has kept up with the times, and our nation’s needs.
2 To meet tomorrow’s needs, I would like to propose that we fine-tune the way we evaluate our students. Doing this will strengthen the critical thinking and relevance of our students learning the humanities and applied subjects, at the N, O, and A level.
3 At the same time, I would like to speak about encouraging better social mixing between students from different schools, so that we can shape a better future for Singapore.
Exam – The Link Between What We Teach and What We Learn
4 In any education system, the evaluation process – or exams – is the critical link between what should be taught, verses what ends up being taught.
5 An examination is where the rubber hits the road. The best intention of any curriculum developer can only be translated to effective learning if the examinations are properly designed, and evaluated correctly, by someone appropriately trained.
6 Today, our current systems work very well for mathematics and science subjects, because mathematics subjects are objective and theoretical.
7 Nevertheless, there is scope for fine-tuning in two areas:
Fine-tune How We Evaluate Humanities Subjects
8 From time to time, we sometimes hear that we can do more to promote critical thinking when our students learn humanities. But some humanities teachers teach the students to recognize patterns, and regurgitate pre-determined answers.
9 Why is critical thinking important? The humanities study the human condition, society, and culture. Or, in short, life.
10 Just like in life, there’s no right or wrong answer in the humanities. There’s only a way to think rationally and look at the big picture. If we do not teach this, we are doing a disservice to our students that will hold them back way beyond their school years.
11 Why then are some of our teachers still focused on encouraging students to regurgitate answers, rather than to thinking critically and independently?
12 If this is the issue, then the solution must be to try to provide as much clarity as possible to our teachers.
13 The benefits are clear.
Accrediting the Industry to Evaluate Applied Subjects
14 I am heartened by the recent moves to teach applied subjects, such as computing, mobile robotics, sports science, and retail operations in our schools at the N, O, and A levels.
15 We can do so in two ways:
16 Currently, even for applied subjects,
17 As we know, in some applied subjects, changes in technology happen quickly, and a 6-8 years curriculum cycle could be too long.
18 Of course, one can argue that at the N,O, and A level, our students can focus on the foundational knowledge for applied courses. Nevertheless, there could be scope for us to do better.
19 I do understand that this is a departure from the current way we evaluate, but I hope that we can explore incorporating elements of this approach even for our N,O, and A levels.
20 Related to this is to encourage more industry practitioners to join in as teachers or part time teachers for applied subjects.
21 Working with the industry to be accredited examiners, bringing more industry practitioners are teachers, these two will help our students learn current content for applied subjects, and to help us transit towards model that is closer to Germany’s apprenticeship model.
Forging Friendship Across Social Divides
22 Let me next speak about encouraging Singaporeans to forge friendship across social divides. Even though our social divide is nowhere as serious as many other countries, there is always scope for us to do better. Singaporeans expect us to try our best.
23 One powerful lever is our education system. MOE is already doing much, but more can be done.
24 Today, MOE already encourages students to due values-in-action (VIA) programs. MOE can provide bonus points to encourage collaborations between different schools. At the cluster level, the MOE cluster leaders should actively foster collaboration between elite and other schools, so as to give students from different educational background a chance to forge friendship from a young age.
25 MOE can also strengthen the collaboration with MCCY’s ActiveSG to encourage social mixing through sports. Today, MCCY is already encouraging students to interact with their peers doing sports outside of their school. MOE and MCCY can collaborate by growing ActiveSG’s Sports Academy and Clubs to absorb more students from all schools, and give them CCA points under the LEAD framework. At the same time, MOE can also invite Sports Academy to send teams to join various inter-school sports teams.
26 These are just two ideas where MOE can encourage our youth to come together to bridge the social divides. When our youth willingly come together to socialize, they will treasure the bonds that they build.
27 To sum up what I’ve suggested, education is not preparing students for exams. It’s preparing them for life. By strengthening the teaching of independent thinking, up-to-date practical skills and social skills, we can further fulfil this aim.
28 With that, Mr Speaker, I support the motion.
29 Thank you.