Stop ranking our schools and making our children suffer

December 19, 2014
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Today, parents of children who just took their PSLE will find out if their applications of their choice of secondary schools would have been successful. Many students will, once again, be rejected and told that they are not good enough.$CUT$

Students are admitted or rejected by school administrations based on their aggregate PSLE scores. The Ministry of Education allows students to apply up to six schools in order of preference.

Because secondary schools are ranked, parents scramble to get their children into the “better” ones. Can they be blamed? The top schools are given more resources and students are fast-tracked to university programmes where they stand a better chance of getting state scholarships and better careers. The tragedy is that the practice breeds an elitist society.

This is the nub of the woes and failings of our education system – the insistence that pitting our children against one another will lead to the best and the brightest being identified and groomed for future use.

Such an archaic outlook and practice harms our children (see here) and does little to prepare our people for a future that will be radically different from the past. It is a future where creativity, resilience, and resourcefulness will be at a premium – not the ability to memorise and regurgitate textbook material.

If we don’t change – and change soon – towards a more enlightened approach in educating our children, Singapore will have to, as the PAP is leading us towards, depend more and more on foreigners to prop us up.

In the meantime, the vast majority of students are constantly told that they are not good enough. Doing this at a young age and maintaining it throughout one’s life blunts the ability and desire for intellectual growth and personal development.

Singaporeans are constantly reminded that we don’t have natural resources. This is why it is such a travesty that our most important resource – the minds of our people – are so extravagantly wasted.

To arrest this problem and take our education system in a different direction, we highlight below a summary of some of the SDP’s initiatives. (The details can be read in our alternative policy paper, Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation.)

1. Scrap school ranking

Under the SDP education plan, students entering Secondary One will not be ranked according to their PSLE results (PSLE will be scrapped). All secondary schools will have equitable resources, facilities and quality teachers to provide first-rate education. The major consideration for secondary school entrance is geographical proximity of the school to the student’s residence.

2. Organise secondary schools according to strengths

Secondary schools will be grouped in clusters according to their geographical area. Each cluster will offer subjects that complement, rather than compete with, each other. These schools will be categorised based on teachers’ specialisation in the subjects they teach and their pedagogical approach. Students will be able to take subjects in other schools in their cluster. The schools will have greater autonomy in resource management and planning as well as the development of the curricula.

3. Reduce class size and upgrade teacher education

As with primary schools, the SDP advocates reduced class-sizes, from the present 40 to 20 students per class, for secondary schools. This will allow teachers to pay more attention to their pupils’ development. Teachers must also be well-versed in motivational skills and possess post-graduate degrees in education with a firm grounding in educational psychology.

These proposals, among others, will reform our education system and provide our children the type of education and quality of life they deserve.