Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our Journey of DSA

Thank God, today we come to the end of DSA journey for our daughter.  God has answered our prayer, especially, our daughter's.  It is another testimony of HIS faithfulness and grace.

We started to prepare DSA in the middle of May by attending open house from different schools.  This year, coincidentally (or planned) all the most-sought after schools' open house fell on the same day.  So on May 19, 2012, (I remembered clearly), DH and I , together with our daughter, ran through four schools in one day.  We managed to catch all the school talks and even had lunch at school canteen....By the time we finished the last stop, it was almost 5pm.

DD had clear idea of what she wants.  NYGH, But I am a bit Kiasu, I persuaded her to apply two more for  the safe side.  We applied RGS, NYGH and MGS.  All of them are good schools. But my prayer was May God lead us to way to choose the suitable school for her. .

DD is all-rounder, student leader, top 5% at her school and national finalist for her sport.  We were not certain whether to apply under academic  or under sports.  After hours checking information on Kisau parents forum, we decided to apply DSA for RGS and NYGH under sports, MGS under academic IP.

The application procedures were quite straightforward---online application, followed by GAT tests and interviews.  DD enjoyed the tests and interviews, though those were the very first interviews she ever had.  One of interviews was happened in the week when our table tennis team won first Bronze medal at London Olympic.  there were some questions during the interview:-

 "What news has she read?"
She replied "Feng Tian Wei won Bronze medal for Singapore."
"What is your goal for life?
She replied "To represent Singapore in Olympic."

I guess she was in Olympic fever then.

 The most trialing parts were waiting for DSA results.  Th whole August seemed passing slower ever.  Finally, today afternoon, one teacher from NYGH called me to inform that she is offered CO.

We are overjoyed and really thankful to GOD.

Proverb 3:5,6"  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Children Learn What They Live

By Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with fear,
they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity,
they learn to feel sorry for themselves;

If children live with ridicule,
they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy,
they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame,
they learn to feel guilty;

If children live with encouragement
they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
they learn patience.
If children live with praise,
they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance,
they learn to love;

If children live with approval
the learn to like themselves
If children live with recognition,
they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing,
they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty,
they learn truthfulness;

If children live with fairness,
they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration.
they learn respect.
If children live with security,
they learn to have faith in themselves.
If children live with friendliness,
they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Letter to Heng Swee Keat

by Monica Lim on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 11:53am

Dear Mr Heng

The recent polls have triggered many dramatic changes, the biggest of which is PM’s consistent refrain for transformation.

In this spirit, I’m writing to you to ask whole-heartedly for a transformation of our education system. If not a complete transformation, at least a holistic review of some of the basic tenets by which education policies in this country are made.
As a parent with one child in secondary school and another in primary school with contrasting abilities, I have, over the years, become increasingly frustrated and disturbed by many areas of our education system which I feel are not edifying to the development of children. At the risk of sounding like one of those domineering, opinionated mothers, let me try to persuade you, from the point of view of a concerned parent, why a change is due.

Education is not a business

Many have felt that Singapore in the past few years has been run like a business and this mindset has filtered down to education. These days, teachers are ranked against each other measured by KPIs. If their students don't perform up to par, then they drop in ranking. I assume this affects their appraisal and promotion prospects. Principals are also under pressure to keep up in school rankings (and not just in academics), hence they push their teachers to achieve better results.

Here's what happens when schools are run like businesses. Teachers become workers assessed and ranked according to quantifiable output. The principal is like the CEO, answerable to a higher authority based on numbers. Students become products, they are valued only according to the quantifiable output they can contribute, everything else is peripheral or redundant. Everything is reduced to numbers.

Therein lies the problem. When you run a business, the focus has to be on results, preferably quantifiable results. Don't get me wrong, I think it's well and good to try and assess the effectiveness of a school. But instead of seeing how we can better assess the effectiveness of schools, we run the schools to make them easier to assess.

Education administrators love this because it's so neat, structured and orderly. But the problem is education is about moulding of individuals. And neither individuals nor learning is neat, structured or orderly. The process of education is not and should be like that of manufacturing, taking place in a factory.

A friend of mine who volunteered to lead a character module at her son’s school was taken aback when she was asked for KPIs. I have other friends who are teachers have expressed frustration at being assessed purely by how well their students score. If we take this route, there is no "business" value in helping a student overcome his learning disability or giving special attention to a child from a difficult family background because the outcome is not quantifiable. We're leaving it to the assumed social conscience of the teacher and the school to step forward in such instances. But realistically, ensuring ‘A’ students continue to get top grades will likely get priority because it directly impacts on the teacher's KPIs.

Obsession with results

The inevitable outcome of an education system that is run by KPIs is the obsession with results and by this, of course I mean quantifiable results. What happens then is the focus is shifted from the process of education to the end result of scoring, because that is what is measured in the end.

For example, I find that the way many subjects are taught in schools are based on the marking template, understandably because if the objective is to maximise scores, then you teach to fulfil this objective. I’m a corporate writer and one of my biggest pet peeves is the way composition writing is taught in primary schools.
Many teachers today are told to mark the language of a composition based on how many "good phrases" are used. In my son’s school, a commercial book of good phrases is part of the syllabus and the kids are told to learn these phrases, even for spelling. These phrases are often so bombastic and pretentious that nobody in real life would actually use them. Yet the students are taught them because “ticks” are given for each “good phrase” and added to their vocabulary score.

I remember during a parent-teacher conference, I raised my concerns to my son's English teacher. To my utter surprise, she agreed with me. She said that once the school started imposing the memorising of good phrases for composition, she ended up with 44 scripts of almost identical introductions (mostly about the "fiery sun in the sapphire sky"). Unfortunately, her hands were tied.

I know why this is imposed - it's to make marking simpler. This way, schools don't have to depend on the arbitrary standards of each marker and the marker just has to follow a matrix. It's certainly more orderly but don't mistake it for creativity. I don't know any other education system which designs its curriculum around the grading. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

To me, attempting to come up with a template for creativity is simply oxymoronic. Ironically, we’ve managed to suck the creativity out of creative writing.
This obsession with results extends outside of the classroom. In my daughter’s school, the performing arts groups are given funding according to how well they perform in the SYF. Likewise, bigger budgets are given to sports that bring in medals. The list goes on. What this breeds in the race for medals and results is that schools often prioritise these over values like effort, sportsmanship and character building.

Even otherwise worthwhile activities, such as CCAs and community service, have lost their noble intent somewhat, as many students now perform these duties clinically for the sake of window dressing their resume.

Valuing people based on academic results
As a direct outcome of a school system that emphasises scores above all else and uses these scores to dictate the child's educational path at a very early age, Singaporeans have become obsessed with chasing grades. While I don’t deny grades are important, for many, they have become life-centric, meaning kids spend every waking hour performing tasks that will help them better their score.

The mindless pursuit of academic achievement has become so over-arching that many parents are now sending their kids for what I call indiscriminate tuition – tuition in every single examinable subject whether or not the child actually needs it. My daughter is in an SBGE (School-Based Gifted Education) class and her classmates were either from the GEP in primary school or top scorers in the PSLE. So I was startled when she told me that most of her classmates have tuition in 3 or 4 subjects. Tuition has become a crutch - even if the kids are doing well on their own, parents fear the consequences of doing without it.

The backlash is that our children’s self-worth and perception have become intrinsically linked to their academic grades. Teachers, peers and possibly parents judge the value of students according to their academic ability. I know children whose self-esteem is low simply because they don’t do as well in school as their classmates. In the “branded” schools, it also breeds elitism because these students deem others less academically-inclined as somehow inferior. When my daughter attended her first day of school in sec 1, many of her new classmates, meeting her for the first time, didn’t ask “what’s your name?” but “what’s your t-score?”
This treatment of academic prowess as a “superior” skill can be seen throughout our system. Although we profess to embrace all talents, it’s often lip service. Prefects and student leaders are usually chosen first on their academic ability before their leadership skills. In many DSAs for sports, schools still ask for academic results before they will even entertain the child for a trial. The message we seem to be sending is: we'll look at your other talents IF you have the academic ability.

Putting standards above learning
In my son’s recent p5 mid-year exams, in one class, every single child failed the math paper. This is a common scenario among some of the popular schools. Obviously, it’s not because the students are intellectually deficient. It’s because the papers are often set at a level designed for only the top 25% of kids. In fact, one question required a method that had not yet been taught to the students. It’s a mockery of the “teach less learn more” motto – does it mean the teachers teach less but the kids somehow have to learn more on their own? No wonder tuition centres are flourishing!

I’m tired of hearing the age-old excuse from schools that this will spur the children to work harder. Incidentally, this is not supported by fact. I suspect it's an urban legend spread by schools who wish to justify their "high" standards. I meet many parents and students who are more demoralised than "spurred" by their consistently bad results.

What is the point of this? The age gap between my two children is only three years and yet I can see that what my younger child has to learn at his age is markedly more difficult than what his sister had to know.

Perhaps this constant accelerating of the educational syllabus is a knee jerk reaction to the influx of brilliant foreign students, but this is no justification. We need to recognise that these kids have completely different motivations. They are here purely to study, to carve a better life for themselves, much as our students work harder when they study overseas. Do we then use these as benchmarks to whip Singaporeans into shape?

No education system is a one size fits all but we need to consider the best interest of the majority of students. If half your students fail in an exam, it doesn’t reflect badly on the student – it reflects badly on the teaching. I find that in setting the curriculum and exam papers, there seems to be some semi-sadistic streak in MOE and schools, to trip kids up and make them feel stupid. It's as if someone is saying, "Aha! I managed to set a question that no one could answer!" There will always be a small percentage of brainiacs who can ace any exam, no matter how difficult. That is not a logical benchmark by which to design curriculum or exam papers.

Plea for a more meaningful system
In the course of my work, I had the opportunity to interview the Vice Dean, Education of Duke-NUS. It was, in my mind, one of the most inspiring interviews I’d ever conducted. In his words, “We don’t just want the straight ‘A’ student. Does having one less ‘A’ make you less of a person? We know Singaporeans are already great at memorising facts – we’re looking for passion, dedication and the ability to see a problem through different angles.”
I feel we could use more of that mindset here. Singaporean educators are often proud of our high standards but let's be honest, we're good at ticking off checklists, exams and competitions. We laugh at the laissez faire American system for its laxity but in truth, they have churned out more innovators and thinkers from their messy system than we have (even after adjusting for size and population).

I will be the first to admit to occasionally suffering pangs of anxiety when my child doesn't do well in an exam because it's hard to stand firm in the onslaught of a tsunami of kiasu-ism. But at the end of the day, I try to keep reminding myself his character and happiness matter more. I want a kinder system, one that encourages my child to explore the world around him, not closes it up. One that shows him the richness of issues and topics out there, not limits him to four subjects.

I want a system where I can encourage my child to enjoy music, art, sports for their own sake, and not with the pre-requisite that he does well academically. I want him to want to help others, and not because it counts towards community service hours in his report book. I want to groom a child with integrity and respect towards others, and I hope others can appreciate him for these values.

I am doing as much as I can in these areas but I cannot fight against the education system. I'm writing this in the hope that as you now helm the Education Ministry, you can make the transformation happen.

Thank you very much for your time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Holistic Education

Many schools boast to provide holistic education. But what indeed is holistic?
Webster Learner dictionary defines "holistic"as :relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts ".

So here we see, what do we need to create a complete system needed to provide complete education for a child.
Sadly, it is easy said than done. Many schools, parents and students are still focusing academic instead of holistic per Se. The degree of holistic environment differs from one school to another. So it is very important for our parents to do some kind compensation, if we are not careful, we are easily being swept into "rat"race, and found in the end,there will be no winners.

In our family, the holistic education consists of the following :-

1. Spiritual aspect- that address soul. To bring children to know and be known by GOD is a very important part of education. "What could one benefit, if he wins whole world but lost his own soul." Beside regular attending church and Sunday school, parents' own example and conduct has profound influence on children. I only have to confess our own inadequacy and many failure on this part. We continue to seek Divine leading and providence of rich fulfilment to our children's spiritual beings.

2. Mind- that might be mainly of academic development. The peer pressure on this aspect is tremendous, in school, children are streamed as early as P2, then P4.But we recognize that each child has different talent, but we patiently and persistently strive to bring out best of each child. Love and encouragement often works wonder.

3. Body- That is part we neglected previously when we were homeschooling. Now, our children take up swimming, soccer, chess etc. They train hard, play well, also take part in various competition. Sports teach them very different lesson, to develop perseverance, to learn to be cooperative, to nurture sportsmanship,and foster long last friendship...I cannot emphasis enough the importance of this aspect education.

Monday, February 14, 2011

One of New Year Resolutions--Not to be Tiger Mum

We have been very busy since last year, Thank God, we survived the first ever, formidable PSLE for our eldest son. He did reasonable well and now settles down happily in a boy secondary school.

New year was a blissful break for me. I determined to have much deserved rest. As usual, at each of turning of New Year, I would make a list of New Year resolutions, a habit which my parents formed into me.

Well, They are nothing special, such as, more exercise; spending more time with hubby, more kinder to my kids....I thought among them I would like to share with you one of resolutions is Not be a tiger Mum.

My kids and I had long shared one particular joke. When they were naughty, or whining for something, I would say, "Don't let naughty "their name"coming down from moon (I forgot how that was started, anyway, naughty children and monster mums are staying in the moon), otherwise, the monster mum will come down too."

For most of time, that serves as a reminder to ask them to behave, but there were times, it turned out that Monster Mum did come down, and my kids knew that was nothing enjoyable or funny.

So, when I read Amy Chua's famous article "Why Chinese parents are superior" because of "Tiger Mum". I was seeing myself in that picture which gave me a vivid chill.

So, I pounded and decided, I rather not to be a one.

Why does Amy think Chinese parents are superior than others lies on the utmost value each one holds. For her, it might be personal success; for others it might be enjoyment of life....

But I don't want to be one of Tiger Mums is because I don't want my kids to strive for whatever I want them to be and to do and neglect what God wants them to be and to do.

It doesn't matter how successful one might be. He is still in most pityful state if he doesn't know God and known by God.

I confess I had done much damage in this regards, I pray for God's forgiveness and help to be a Godly mother to my children.

This is one of my New Year resolutions.