Singapore—On July 13, Saturday, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) launched its education policy Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda For Transformation, with Paul Tambyah, the party’s chairman, and Benjamin Pwee, formerly the secretary-general of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and who is now with the SDP, discussing the main points of the policy.
SDP is calling for such sweeping reforms to the country’s educational system such as smaller class sizes and the nationalisation of pre-schools, as well as scrapping the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) and school rankings.
The party presented its position paper at its office in Ang Mo Kio.
Mr Pwee said that the current dependence on tests and rote learning fails to properly prepare today’s students for an atmosphere which requires innovation and creativity. He added that the present educational system is partially responsible for the country’s problem of growing inequality.
Wealthier families make use of tuition to aid their children in keeping up with overloaded curricula, whereas disadvantaged families are not able to afford this, he pointed out.
On his part, Professor Tambyah presented proposals that would update and reform the current educational system, among which are reforms that would encourage critical thinking skills.
According to the SDP chairman, “We must teach our students how to think, not what to think.”
Another reform is to abolish the PSLE, while at the same time widening the curricula and decreasing the workload. Professor Tambyah said, “Such an approach will enrich our students’ educational experience and prepare them for a future that will require them to be well-rounded, intelligent individuals.”
The class size that the SDP recommends is 20 pupils for every teacher, which would encourage interaction between teachers and their students.
To also lessen the inequality gap, the SDP recommends scrapping both school and class rankings, and for students to not be separated based on the results of tests taken.
Professor Tambyah said, “This is because education is not about competition with one’s classmates but learning through collaboration and teamwork with one’s peers.”
The statement from the SDP also mentioned how unhealthy competition for getting into highly ranked schools is, and how mental health experts have said that it has caused serious psychological damage to children.
The statement ends with the party’s beliefs about education.
“The SDP believes that education must be the process where an individual learns to discover oneself and, in doing so, endeavour to improve the human condition. For the sake of our nation’s future, it is important that we teach our children that reading and learning can be enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding.
We must let our children be children. They should be encouraged to read, play, discover themselves and for themselves, and develop a love for books.
The goal should be to lead our students to learn, not push them to study. The former will open up their naturally enquiring minds; the latter will kill curiosity.
If we are able to achieve this goal, we will reap the benefits of not just a talented workforce but also, and more importantly, a thinking and caring people.” /TISG
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