” WHAT IF ? “
What if, someday, the Singaporean government decides to change its primary school education system by removing the PSLE. How would we want our child to be assessed or measured by? What kind of developmental assessment will we use? Or shall we say, what determines the successful development of a holistic child? Are they measured by:
- Learning Ability
- Character Values
- Problem Solving Skills
- Out of The Box Thinking
What kind of values do you want them to have? What kind of future do we want for them?
As I am writing, our education minister is also raising the same issues for debate. Replacing the PSLE grading system and the DSA, which have been the cornerstones for our education for the longest time. Fundamentally, it has been a meritocratic way of resource allocation from a human capital perspective, sending “the best” to teach “the best” and to eventually manage “the rest”; and providing the rest an opportunity for livelihood and aspirations to be the best. There are a few rare individuals who did climb from “the rest” to “the best”, eventually becoming the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. But can this happen in a high managed and controlled system of education and business environment? It is good and timely for us to reconsider our educational system ﬁrst.
But what if, as parents, our desire is to send our children to the school that will appropriately help them to realise their passion and potential to beneﬁt themselves and the system they are in. What if we desire them to grow up as a child who is capable of making choices and decisions for themselves? What if we want them to have compassion for their neighbour? What if we want to help them to recover when they fall? What if we want to teach them how to dream?
Can we have a system that is objectively able to identify their interests, their strength and weakness, their learning style and behaviour? Can we have a system that does not use one examination to determine their future but a progressive assessment that could help them achieve their ultimate dreams? We must at this point resist any temptation to worry about who will then be “the rest” because such concerns are for economists and politicians and they will go against the philosophy of education.
That is why Agape aspires and works towards such a curriculum. We develop our very own inquiry based approach that is adapted from the IB framework. The Agape child will have a portfolio that documents their learning journey in the school, and provide a proﬁling diagnostics of their strengths and weaknesses. We will also highlight their interests, strengths and weaknesses. We want to equip them with basic life skills of choice and decision making that will be essential for them in the future, which will be very different from the one we are used to.
Agape will teach them not to give up, but to try harder. We want to give them a sense of wonder and hope. We want to guide them to become good communicators. We want to encourage them to dream. Most importantly, we want to teach them to learn what they love, and love what they learn.
In early years, agape’s curriculum was reﬂective and backward looking by means of character development in a story based approach. Even then, most of the other industries were adopting a thematic curriculum. But in Agape, we engage a child from a historical perspective to determine what is good or bad, right or wrong.
Social and technological developments have changed the educational landscape and shape the way we think, and education must adapt to teach our new generations.
To cultivate them to engage this new world, we need to encourage them to make decisions and choices. They have to determine their own learning to:
- To set their learning goals
- To decide the plan collectively
- To inquire the parameters
- To empathise the implication
- To choose the path of learning
- To face and overcome challenges
- To celebrate the successes
So let me conclude with 2 stories my mother told me as a child in order to illustrate the pitfall we must avoid.
1st, the story of a mother who hanged a chain of biscuits around her sons neck to provide food for him when she was going out of town, and her astonishment to ﬁnd him dead with the biscuit behind him untouched.
2nd, the story of another mother who had indulge in her son so much that he turned wayward and was bound to be hanged as punishment for a crime he committed. In his dying wish, he requested that he would be able to whisper in his mother’s ear, only to bite off her ear. The reason why he did that was because he blames his mother to be the cause of his failures and circumstances.
If we are to raise a new generation to succeed, we as parents must start early, take responsibility, impart values and engage our children to make decision and choices for their lives. We must help them to reach their ultimate dreams and to grow a sense of compassion towards their neighbours.