In his first major speech after being appointed Acting Minister for Education, Mr Ng Chee Meng said yesterday that as Singapore faces many challenges such as one of shrinking population and a turbulent world economy, it will need more “innovators, inventors, path-blazers, people who can push the envelope”. He encouraged schools to encourage students to “have the courage to try, fail, try again, fail again, and eventually succeed.” He had urged for students to be innovators for Singapore to succeed.
Writing on his blog about the Acting Minister’s first major Speech, Former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament and Worker’s Party member, Yee Jenn Jong, said that there was nothing new in the Minister’s call to schools and students.
“Every Education Minister since RADM Teo Chee Hean had been calling for greater innovation in students. Google search with the name of every minister since 1997, with keywords “innovation” and “students” and you will get many hits,” Mr Yee said.
Acknowledging that schools have since the late 1990s tried different ways to get students to be creative and innovative, he remarked that the difficulty would be in how to make it systematic and lasting.
“In the face of other more important KPIs that schools must achieve and which parents expect schools to achieve. Innovation is usually not one of the key things in the mind of parents for their children to get out of schools.
“They worry about how to make it through our tough national streaming examinations, getting into what they consider as “good” schools (which tend to differ from MOE’s wish for ‘every school to be a good school’), getting the grades to be good enough for scholarships, and so on”, Mr Yee opined.
Efforts at inculcating innovation has been one of the values in most Singapore for about 20 years now, but the the trouble with innovation or creativity is that it is difficult to quantify, is messy to encourage and is subjective, Mr Yee said. He feels that the teachers in Singapore who have come through our education system and our society’s way of thinking, will often find it hard to deal with this as a subject or something to do in the classroom.
Mr Yee believes that it would be very difficult to teach innovation because of our educational system which puts scores to different things that students do to ensure objectivity. He wonders how society, parents and students themselves will accept that students have to “try, fail, try again, many times over”.
“These measurements usually have important implications, like the secondary schools and academic streams students will go to. It might even affect qualification for scholarships and jobs later in life”, he adds.
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