Thursday, April 22, 2010

Changes in the education system

** "BIAS" is a special feature in my blog where I get to say whatever I want with scant regards for your feelings. I'm not politically correct in this feature, so go ahead, judge me."

I read with interest regarding the latest changes to our education system. Most of the time, the changes will relate to mother tongue - a misnomer for the second language we learn besides English. The bugbear had always been the teaching of chinese, which many found it extremely hard. Interestingly, scant little had been done for tamil and malay when compared to chinese, where many innovative and creative ways to teach are reported in the newspaper. I could be wrong, but if there's any changes, it is definitely not as 'reported' as those changes made in the chinese language. Maybe the advocates for changes in the malay and tamil languages are not as loud as those for the chinese language.

What's the problem with the current psle system? There are 4 subjects in the psle scoring system - english, 2nd language, maths and science - all of them had equal weighting in the final tally of the psle score. The new change is to correct the weighting of the 2nd language, so that it will count lower towards the final score.

I'm thinking aloud to myself :

1. From what I observed, most of the kids from the upper echelons of society speak English at home. I'm from the middle class, so of course I do not have the same opportunity to mix with those who are really in the top of the top. I would assume that, they too, will have kids who speak English at home, and not their mother tongue.

2. Again, from what I observed, those who do not speak the language naturally at home will not do very well in exams. If the kids do equally well, they must have spent a lot of effort and money to raise their proficiency in what must have been their 'weaker' language. Since effort and money is limited, the same amount could have been applied to their other subjects to achieve higher results.

3. I tend to teach the middle and lower classes more often that I do to the upper classes. Their main language at home is either their mother tongue or, for those from the chinese ethnic group, their individual dialects like teochew and hokkien. While I won't say that they will naturally do better in their second language, they certainly do not display the same agony when learning them. In fact, quite a few of the students I know actually rely on their second language to push up their grades in the exams. 

So, is it possible that the latest changes to the psle subject weightings can cause a change in the playing field among the different societal classes? Could the changes benefit some classes of society more than others?

If you throng the forums regarding the latest changes, you might have heard variation of conspiracy theories regarding some MPs with kids who are going to sit for the psle soon, and so they are pushing for the change. I couldn't help but nod understandably that such a situation might be true. Whether the rumors are unfounded or not, the fact they people are thinking like that suggest that more explanations and studies are needed to reassure Singaporeans that the changes are in fact for the benefit of the majority, not just for the powerful minority.

Do understand that while the upper echelons might suffer in their education because their weaker language is dragging their results down, at least they have an option to leave Singapore for better opportunities. The rest of us who do not have the means to leave Singapore are stuck with whatever changes and decisions that are made in the education system.

Life is never fair, it seems.


Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

I can't agree more on what u have said. Maybe we should just send this to the pm office.


Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

This is so true. Anyway its not just the language. True equality means that each and every student should have the right to downplay on their weaker subjects and to put a heavier weighting on their better subjects. So if I am weak in Math, but stronger in English, so can I discriminate on the former in favor of the latter?


Anonymous said...

Totally agree , consider sending to the forum?


Royston said...

Hey LP,

Agreed! Like it or not, there is a tendency for those in the higher "social class" to be purely english-speaking. And the current changes does seem to skew the system.

Derek said...

Hi LP,

I find it odd. It seems to favor students who are good in English at the expense of the mother tongue.

I think they have acknowledged that not every student can master two languages effectively. The latest changes do have its shortcomings but then again is there a better solution? Maybe the best solution is to remain as before.

One thing I'm certain is that my child will be brought up in a very different educational system as compared to what I went through.

la papillion said...

Hi HH and bolt,

Nah, I don't think I want to send it to anybody. It's my thoughts only. It's been playing on my mind ever since i read about the impending i need to get it out by blogging it.

I'm surprised anyone would agree with my views - I thought they are rather extreme.

la papillion said...

Hi finarati and derek,

Thorny issues isn't it? I do not have a better solution to solve the problem, but I sure know how to criticise about the new one.

Well, I'm not paid the million dollar salary like they have, so I really don't have to come up with solutions at all, haha :)

la papillion said...

Hi Royston,

You think so eh? Well, then I'm not the only one. Me thinks that the new system they are going to implement are going to upset the balance we had in the psle system.

Who knows what sort of outcome it'll bring 10-20 yrs later?

axt said...


Agreed with what you have written. I'm wondering what/who make the MOE to change their current system which I think so far is fair.

la papillion said...

Hi axt,

Nice photos :)

Well, I also do not know what prompts the MOE to review this policy. Not sure whether to believe that they are really out to make Singaporeans learn their 2nd language at an easier pace.