by Ng Jing Yng, Channel News Asia (June 13, 2013)
In line with the Singapore Ministry of Education’s efforts to implement a student-centred, values-based holistic education, it has put out a tender for vendors to develop an on-line tool to for students’ self-reporting of their socio-emotional competencies. The five areas of socio-emotional competencies to be measured are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management and responsible decision-making. Teachers who were interviewed said that in order for the tool to be useful, the questions needed to be well-researched in order for them to yield meaningful findings about the child.
For more information:
Social and Emotional Learning (MOE)
Sources in many countries over the past few weeks highlight issues ranging from educational access and funding, to quality curriculum and government corruption. Here is a quick glimpse of what we’ve seen on the issues of access and funding:
Pia Philip Michael and Bridget Nagomoro visited the UK to discuss the challenges to girls’ education in South Sudan. Photograph: Leapfrog Public Relations
Reports have shown that the United Arab Emirates is struggling with the issue of high tuition and long student wait lists, while Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Education has suggested that the government link educational subsidies with evidence of high quality. Australia and the Philippines seek to increase investment in educational research by launching a partnership that aims to raise the quality of education in the Philippines through investing in research to support K-12 education. Meanwhile, union leaders in Peru met to develop policies that would defend the right of indigenous peoples to public education. Sudan aims to keep young girls in primary school by involving officials in the effort to spread the national message on educating girls. India is about to launch the second round of the Right to Education Act admissions, which will include a reservation of 25% seats in private schools for disadvantaged groups; however, reports reveals that word has not yet reached parents who would benefit most from the new provision.
The most recent issue of Review of Education: An International Journal of Major Studies in Education, includes a study that explores how Singapore has been able to achieve a relatively high level of school success in recent years. In “Assessment and the logic of instructional practice in Secondary 3 English and mathematics classrooms in Singapore,” authors David Hogan, Melvin Chan, Ridzuan Rahim, Dennis Kwek, Khin Maung Aye, Siok Chen Loo, Yee Zher Sheng, and Wenshu Luo, draw on data collected in 2010 to analyze methods of instruction in secondary math and English classrooms that range from the more traditional models, which focus on memorization and tight control over student behavior, to the more student-centered models, which focus on comprehension and collaboration. The authors argue that teachers in Singapore draw from a variety of instructional practices, and that national high stakes testing has both shaped and constrained what teachers can do in the classroom.
Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Over the past month, a number of reports indicate a variety of concerns about testing around the world. For example, Israel’s new Education Minister, Shai Piron, has decided to introduce reforms that would de-emphasize testing in order to “promote learning.” Similarly, China is taking small steps towards allowing educators to have input in test design (as opposed to government only). In contrast, the British government is acting in opposition to educators and parents to fight off an unprecedented alliance of hundreds of students, schools, local councils, and teaching unions, who brought a legal challenge over last year’s GCSE English exam grades. UK teachers are also protesting primary literacy exams, which they say leave little time for art, music, and books, and make children feel like failures. Chile has announced sweeping changes to the country’s university entrance exam, which has received criticism for flaws and bias; however, the concern in this case was not raised by educators and parents, but by Pearson, a company that describes itself as a leading provider of test development, processing and scoring services to educational institutions, corporations and professional bodies around the world. Pearson’s analysis revealed significant flaws and bias in the design of the exam.
In Singapore, surveys recently revealed that many educators and parents feel that students experience too much testing and a report on a recent visit by Dr. Dennis Shirley highlighted his suggestion that the task of student assessment be handed over to the teachers, so that they can design their own modes of testing. While the Singapore government has proposed several initiatives aimed at strengthening efforts to help every student succeed, none yet include substantial modifications to testing. While it might seem that the decision made by five schools in the town of Alesund, Norway, to change the date of the midterm exams so that students could attend a Justin Bieber concert in Olso, was an effort to modify testing to meet the needs of the students, it was also one for which officials saw no alternative. As one principal explained, they expected Mr. Bieber’s show would lead to sparse classroom attendance. “We considered that this was a battle that we could not win this time,” he said.
New Model for Teachers’ Professional Development
Keat, H.S. Ministry of Education (31 May 2012)
Minister of Education Heng Swee Keat launched a new Teacher Growth Model (TGM), one which aims at encouraging Singaporean teachers to engage in continual learning and take ownership of their professional growth and personal well-being. The TGM recognizes that Singaporean teachers in the 21st century will pursue diverse modes of learning, similar to how they would design such opportunities for their own students. To reflect on the multifaceted nature of their work and their learning, the TGM presents a holistic portrait of the 21st century Singapore teacher with five desired outcomes: 1) creating ethical educators; 2) creating “competent professional who continues to develop new knowledge, skills and dispositions to lead, care, and inspire”; 3) creating “collaborative learner[s] who actively engages in professional conversations to learn from his peers and from experts”; 4) creating transformational leaders; and 5) creating “community builder who [understand] Singapore’s unique context and appreciates local and global issues.”
Five Days in a Learning Nation
Schleicher, A. Today
(25 May 2012)
Andreas Schleicher sums up and distills lessons arising from his visit to schools and educational institutions in Singapore as a Visiting Professor. According to Schleicher, “If I had to summarise what I learned in one sentence, this is a story about political coherence and leadership as well as alignment between policy and practice; about setting ambitious standards in everything you do; about focusing on building teacher and leadership capacity to deliver vision and strategy at the school level; and about a culture of continuous improvement and future orientation that benchmarks educational practices against the best in the world.” But, according to Schleicher, Singapore can learn much from the rest of the world as well. For example, Singapore could learn how to unleash greatness from Finland and overcome social disadvantage from Ontario, Canada.
Democracy at risk in education?
Merttens, R. Open Democracy (28 May 2012)
Debate around English educational policy makers plans to adopt aspects of policy from Singapore, mostly due to Singapore’s continued and consistent performance in testing (especially Mathematics), abound. Ruth Merttens, a professor of primary education and the Director of the Hamilton Trust, argues the importance of local and national context when looking to apply policy across borders and warns against the adoption of policy that undermine the strengths within the English approach to teaching and learning. Regarding memorization, for example, she writes, “I and many others in education enthusiastically advocate both a greater emphasis on memorisation and rote-learning within the mathematics curriculum, and also for more time in the school day to be given to mathematics. However, we are aware that this focus on memory runs counter to prevailing cultural mores, where the need to ‘learn things by heart’ is increasingly diminished by the ubiquitous presence of hand-held and ever-accessible technology. Control of these cultural behaviours is not, alas, within the remit of schools.”
Singapore – Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education
OECD (10 February 2012)
This official video from the OECD’s Directorate for Education provides an overview of Singapore’s educational system, highlighting some of the reasons why Singapore consistently scores well on PISA. If you don’t know much about education in Singapore, this provides an excellent introduction.