TL;DR – But she had other proposals that we hope will be adopted soon.
In her recent speech during the Budget Debate, NMP Chia Yong Yong suggested that all schools implement a full-day curriculum. She thinks that this will level the playing field for children from less advantaged backgrounds. She believes that such a system will allow students to complete their homework during school hours, and spend more time on things that train them to become more comfortable in tackling problems and to grow an appetite for risk-taking.
Ms Chia pointed out that in our current education system, those from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds who have access to these classes will outperform their peers. She stressed:
“Every school is a good school, but not every home is equal”
As a result, our system is abused such that inequality continues to be perpetuated and deepened. Her proposal essentially means that we keep students so busy in school that they don’t have time to go for any other enrichment classes, even if parents can afford it. All students will go through similar programmes of similar quality. Ms Chia believes that this will help to eliminate part of that inequity.
Such a system would provide children greater opportunity to level up and bond. It would also facilitate a move away from an environment in which “children cram or are hothoused for better grades”, to one in which they challenge one another by creating, and devising solutions to problems.
Watch her speech here,
Proposal is controversial, and probably won’t work
Ms Chia’s proposal is an interesting one. To some extent, it’s even controversial. It sounds like she’s saying that parents of low-income families aren’t capable enough to take care of their children, and it would be better for teachers to take over as surrogate parents.
While there might be some truth in that, do we really want teachers to play a bigger role in parenting children? Is that fair for teachers?
Also, even if students spend most of their time in school, parents with the financial means would likely still send their children for enrichment classes after school, or on weekends. That would reduce the time for parents to spend with their children. And children will end up being even more stressed out. So, ultimately, unless the mindsets of parents change, the educational arms race will still exist.
I am, therefore, not entirely convinced that Ms Chia’s proposal of implementing a full-day curriculum is necessarily a good idea.
But other proposal to review curriculum is good
Having said that, I do agree with Ms Chia that the curriculum of our education system needs to be reviewed and perhaps even overhauled. Ms Chia said:
“Despite living in Industrial 4.0, our schools continue to certify competencies relevant to models of the earlier industrial economies. While basic subjects remain important, I submit that we should review our curriculum make structural changes to our education landscape.”
Ms Chia provided the example of how students could be challenged to use their knowledge and skills across subjects to achieve certain outcomes and go through simulations of real-life scenarios that allow them to analyse, brainstorm, make judgment calls, and role-play. These, I think, are very sound suggestions. I would love to see the curriculum adopt these suggestions.
MOE should study Ms Chia’s proposal carefully during their next curriculum review. As the world changes, as technology advances, so must the way we teach our students.