TL;DR – But he did (sort of) say that they need to be more pliant.
There was an article floating around recently about something that some high level person from Singapore’s MOE said. Since MOE has rebuted the article, calling it fake news, the article has been removed.
You can still read parts of that offending particle here.
According to that article, either Minister Ng Chee Meng or the Director-General Education (DGE), Mr Wong Siew Hoong, said that we shouldn’t focus on doing well in sterling performance in the PISA standardised mathematics, science and reading tests.
Apparently, either Minister Ng Chee Meng or DGE Wong supposedly said:
“We’ve been winning the wrong race… we’re building compliant students just as jobs that value compliance are beginning to disappear”
These remarks were supposedly made at this year’s Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference (RDIC) organised by Singapore’s National Institute of Education (NIE).
It has now emerged that that article was spewing rubbish. For a start, Minister Ng Chee Meng wasn’t even in Singapore when the conference happened. And DGE Wong certainly didn’t say those things. How can we be so certain?
Because MOE has released the full video and transcript of the speech DGE Wong gave at the conference.
Could we have known that the article was fake news before MOE’s clarification?
Sure. Three ways.
First, as mentioned, a quick search of the internet and you would find that Minister Ng wasn’t in Singapore when the conference happened.
Second, the article claimed that some charts with data of how Singaporean students’ well-being compared with other OECD countries. Another quick search would reveal that there isn’t such data. Because in the report released by PISA that compared students’ well-being showed that there wasn’t sufficient data from Singapore to conclude that Singapore is in the lowest quartile.
Third, PISA doesn’t study whether students are innovative. But there is the Global Innovation Index (GII). In the GII 2017, Singapore is ranked first in Asia and seventh in the world. Definitely not the lowest quartile.
With all those dubious points raised in the article, one’s alarm bells should have blared out loud, warning that the article was making spurious claims.
So what did DGE Wong really say?
He highlighted that the world we live in has become increasingly uncertain. To be prepared for such a future, our students need the following:
- Stronger fundamentals of literacy, numeracy
- Be able to use language, or use languages much more competently.
- Higher level of numeracy
- Stronger fundamentals of values to be able to withstand the complexities round them.
- Socio-emotional competencies: Resilience, sense of responsibility, ability to respond in ways that we can never imagine it to be (i.e. pliant).
He also pointed out the three areas where pedagogy needs to change in order to better prepare our students for the future.
Firstly, we need to do better in raising the standards of our low progress learners. He said:
“They need different intervention, they need different approaches. They need different ways for us to reach them. So we need new innovative engaging pedagogies that can reach these students who require them so that they can also level up all their basic competencies. So for that, I believe strongly that we need to redesign our pedagogies in this very important and core work as we go forward.”
Secondly, we need to do more to help students develop higher order competencies. For instance, it is not just good enough to be able to read. We need our students to read with greater clarity. We need our students to read at greater depth. That article that contained the fake news about what DGE Wong said is a clear example of why our students need such higher order competencies. With such higher order competencies, perhaps netizens won’t be taken in as easily by fake news.
Lastly, we need to be better able to help our students develop 21st Century Competencies (21CC). These include soft skills of communication, of strong understanding across cultures, of teamwork with different types of people with different backgrounds, create critical and creative thinking of problems that they have never seen before, identifying them, solving them, developing ideas, developing solutions.
Yes, many changes needed
We may even need a drastic revolution of our education system, where sacred cows are slain. After all, good, is often the greatest obstacle to great. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
There are still many valuable things about our current system. And change is not easy. The steps need to be coordinated properly. Otherwise, we risk much chaos without significant benefits. Let’s give our comments, constructive comments, and, most importantly, our support to our educators as they work tirelessly to improve our education system.
Here’s a video of DGE Wong’s full speech at the RPIC: