[lg policy] Singapore: Focus on developing each child's ability

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Feb 8 10:19:16 EST 2018


 Focus on developing each child's ability
Published
Feb 8, 2018, 5:00 am SGT
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The excerpt from Associate Professor Teo You Yenn's book (When kids say 'I
lazy what' <http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/when-kids-say-i-lazy-what>;
Feb 4), can be summarised as follows:

• Children from low-income families tend to underperform at school due to
lack of money to pay for tuition, low motivation caused by labelling, and
negative family influences.

• Our education system needs to change to give these children more
opportunities.

As a product of Singapore's education system, I am proud of it. My son just
entered a good secondary school, and that made me prouder. Nothing can
change a parent's behaviour of trying to provide the best education for his
child. I have lived abroad many years, and this behaviour is common
everywhere. It is engraved in our genes.

What we can do, however, are two things: Re-examine the two-language
policy, and encourage employment mobility.

Language ability should not correlate with competency.

In a world where Google Translate can bring down the language barrier, I
argue that mastering one language is sufficient for productivity.

*Teachers should be "talent scouts". They should reduce their time teaching
too many subjects and, instead, spend more time understanding a child's
ability and preferences, to increase his employment chances.*

A child who struggles with his mother tongue should be allowed to drop it.
Another child, due to his family and upbringing, may show promise in using
his mother tongue. In this case, perhaps he should go to a school where the
subjects are taught in the mother tongue.

Instead of creating racial rifts, we may be making our country stronger by
accepting and encouraging diversity. In fact, for those whose language is
art, music, or even computer code, they should be given more opportunities
to develop their ability.

This brings me to my second point.

Despite many changes, our education system is still run like a factory to
create generalist workers.

Instead, teachers should be "talent scouts". They should reduce their time
teaching too many subjects and, instead, spend more time understanding a
child's ability and preferences, to increase his employment chances.

They can also motivate children with overseas study programmes and
excursions to see adults in different job environments. Make them
understand that many employers look not at exam marks but character
attributes.

It is our duty to realise the potential of every child and embrace his
uniqueness.

*Foo Yong Tse*


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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