Our education system is outmoded and does not prepare our students for the future. It is in dire need of reform.
This case was made by the SDP at the launch of its education policy Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda For Transformation. SDP Chairman Paul Tambyah and Mr Ben Pwee, who joined the SDP earlier this year, presented the party's case.
Mr Pwee highlighted the system's dependence on exams and rote-learning. In this day and age, such an approach does not prepare our students for a world that emphasizes creativity and innovation.
Mr Pwee also pointed out that the current system contributed to the growing inequality in Singapore. Because of the intense syllabi, teachers are under pressure to complete the list of required topics regardless of whether the students understand the material or not.
Parents then seek private tuition, a billion-dollar industry, to help their children cope. Richer families can afford such expensive tutoring, leaving poorer families at a disadvantage. This exacerbates the growing divide in socio-economic class in our society.
To remedy these problems, Prof Tambyah listed a series of proposals to revamp the education system.
Among some of them are to foster students' independent and critical thinking. Dependence on memorisation is a thing of the past as information is readily available at one's fingertips. "We must teach our students how to think, not what to think," Prof Tambyah said.
The SDP also proposes to abolish the PSLE, and this should be complemented by broadening the curricula and reducing the workload. He added: “Such an approach will enrich our students’ educational experience and prepare them for a future that will require them to be well-rounded, intelligent individuals.”
He also said that class-size should be reduced to no more than 20 students per teacher. This will enhance teacher-pupil interaction.
On using education to reduce inequality, Prof Tambyah pointed out that school- and class-ranking be scrapped. Schools will not segregate pupils according to their examination results.
“This is because education is not about competition with one’s classmates but learning through collaboration and teamwork with one’s peers,” he noted. Competition for top-ranked schools is unhealthy and has inflicted serious psychological damage, according to mental health professionals, on our children.
The SDP believes that education must be the process where an individual learns to discover oneself and, in doing so, endeavour to improve the human condition. For the sake of our nation’s future, it is important that we teach our children that reading and learning can be enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding.
We must let our children be children. They should be encouraged to read, play, discover themselves and for themselves, and develop a love for books.
The goal should be to lead our students to learn, not push them to study. The former will open up their naturally enquiring minds; the latter will kill curiosity.
If we are able to achieve this goal, we will reap the benefits of not just a talented workforce but also, and more importantly, a thinking and caring people.
The full SDP's education policy paper, Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda For Transformation can be found here.