Transforming Early and Primary Education
Mr Chairman, more private preschools are increasingly incorporating nature and outdoor-based learning for children. Besides better physical development, it also helps children improve mental well-being and develop higher intuitive intelligence. This refers to the ability to think holistically, to think paradoxically, to listen and connect to oneself and others and the ability to lead by influence rather than design.
The role of nature is thus essential. Nature provides the best classroom for such learning and all schools should be enabled to harness nature-based learning so that all children can benefit and not just those whose parents can afford private preschools. I urge MOE to make outdoor and nature-based learning the main approach in early and primary education.
As the world evolves with new climate realities, we cannot be playing catch-up in preparing our young for future jobs in the Green Economy. It is imperative that we equip our young to be “nature natives” and not just “digital natives”.
Beyond occasional visits to farms and community gardens, children in preschool and kindergartens can be introduced to the sciences by playing in nature and be guided to observe how plants, animals and other elements in nature interact in symbiotic relationships. They can learn spelling by identifying plants and creatures, be taught teamwork collaboration through play-based lessons and fun projects in the outdoors.
In lower primary, students can learn conventional subjects like science, mathematics, commerce and communication through nature-based approaches such as tending to food gardens and harvesting produce to be sold in a school cooperatives or other enterprise or social projects. Upper primary students can be facilitated to learn organising skills, collaboration and leadership by leading these projects. Real world application-based learning from a young age will help an increasingly evolved and questioning generation to see relevance in their education. Incorporating more play also imbues joy and helps foster stronger desire to deepen their pursuit of knowledge as they mature into tertiary years.
We can begin by sending interested educators to receive training in naturalistic pedagogy and pioneer a detailed curriculum for pre- and primary school. This can segue into the International Baccalaureate (IB), General Certificate of Education (GCE) or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) options depending on the inclinations and aptitude of the youth.
To begin this transition, schools planned to be closed due to low demand can be re-designed to pilot this model. Parents can voluntarily sign up if they are keen to give their children an alternative approach to education.
Coupled with a longitudinal study of a cohort of children from age three to 16, the improvements to well-being and learning are observed along the way, MOE can scale the pilot to offer more spaces to willing parents progressively until it is accepted by most. This will ensure that the transformation of our education system is evidence-based and at a measured pace in partnership with parents.
Watch the speech here.