Thursday, June 30, 2011

Berita Harian/Pilot Pen/Ashaway badminton competition

During the June holidays, Andre participated in the Berita Harian/Pilot Pen/Ashaway Youth Badminton Championships. Yes, it's quite a mouthful - guess they have to give equal weightage to all sponsors!

It's amazing the number of kids who signed up. Did you know that badminton is the no.1 most popular sport among students in Singapore?

Here are snippets of a couple of the games Andre played. He's wearing red in both.

It was also the first time Andre signed up for doubles in a competition. He doesn't always practise doubles so he and his friend need to work on their coordination but I thought it was a great experience, something different.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Andre conquers Grade 5 theory

In March this year, Andre sat for his ABRSM Grade 5 theory exam. For most kids, this probably would just be a routine exercise but for Andre, it was a major milestone. Actually, milestone is a nice word, the more accurate word would be "hurdle".

The month leading up to the exam was seriously stressful. As the exam grew nearer, I became increasingly aware of how unprepared he was. Realising that there was no way he could memorise all the required French and German terms, I told him he just needed to remember some of the basic Italian terms (see my post on Andre's grade 2 theory exam). But when a week before the exam, he told me he thought "p" meant slow, I knew we were in deep trouble. (For those who don't know music, "p" means soft, it's the most basic musical expression there is.)

Andre's not dumb but I think Uncle Peter and I misjudged his readiness for the exam. It became even more nerve-wrecking when I found out later that the passing mark was not 50/100 but 66/100. "Please, please, just pass this exam and we don't ever have to do this again!!" I begged.

He drove the usually placid Uncle Peter damn near to heart failure. He told me during lessons, Uncle Peter would actually smack his forehead and mutter, "tian ah".

For the life of me, I couldn't remember why I'd let Uncle Peter sign him up for the exam (you know these things, they always seem like a good idea at the time!) The exam also coincided with the week of CA1, adding an additional level of stress. In desperation, I let him ponteng school on the Friday after the CA1 to study for his theory exam on Saturday morning.

That day, when Uncle Peter came for a much needed last minute extra lesson, he discovered that Andre suddenly decided there was a black key between E and F. "How can you not know what the keyboard looks like?" he asked in despair. It's an impossible question to answer. Sometimes, I think Andre lives in his own little planet.

It all came down to exam techniques, I'm sorry to say. We did the Singaporean thing. For composition where he had to compose a tune for a series of words, Uncle Peter basically taught him to write a C major scale up and down. Not the most interesting of tunes but you can't say it's wrong.

BUT... this story has a happy ending because Andre passed!! He scored 68/100, passing by 2 marks. I'm pretty sure it was the prayers that did it. Or maybe my sheer will power propelled him over the line.

It's a miracle. I need to frame this up because it probably aged both Uncle Peter and me by several years. The good news is, Andre never has to take another theory exam. Ever.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lesley-Anne explores paper cuttings

During the last week of school before the mid-year holidays, Lesley-Anne's school arranged for non-curriculum programmes for the students, which I thought was a nice way to end the term. Lesley-Anne was allocated the module, Chinese folk art, where she was introduced to the technique of paper cutting.

The students started out with your basic symmetrical cuttings and were provided with templates of the zodiac animals. Lesley-Anne chose these cos they represent our family (except for the horse, the teacher didn't have a template for the dragon, which is Andre's sign). Oops, I think I just revealed all our ages...

Following this exercise, the students moved on to more complex, non-symmetrical templates, requiring a sharp penknife and a deft hand.

The module sparked Lesley-Anne's interest in paper cutting and during the first two weeks of the holidays, she scoured the Internet to find patterns. She found the Chinese designs to be very complex and detailed, so she expanded her search to Western templates.

These were the first two she attempted: giraffe and wolf

Next, she did a dragon template cos she felt bad that Andre didn't have his zodiac cut-out earlier. It's now displayed on his wardrobe.

Finally, she decided to challenge herself and located this intricate design of Noah's Ark.

I thought it was a show-stopper and was very impressed by the results. I love her attention to detail and her patience. That's what holidays should be about! Not attending enrichment classes but taking the time to have fun and explore your creativity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Translation of Zaobao article

As promised, here's a translation of the Zaobao article in the previous post. It's pretty long so my friend only translated the left column portion which refers to the letter.

Parent’s letter to Heng Swee Keat on Facebook receives overwhelming response

On 24 May, following the swearing in of Ministers to the Cabinet, Ms Monica Lim posted a letter to Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on her Facebook page.

The 2000-word letter outlined the concerns of a parent regarding the current education system. The letter went viral, receiving more than 3,000 ‘likes’ and close to 600 comments on Facebook.

During an interview, Ms Monica Lim said, “What surprised me was that there are actually so many people out there who felt like me. Many young parents have communicated to me through Facebook and email, expressing concerns over the education their kids are receiving”.

Parents like Monica Lim feel that the Singapore education system is flawed. The system is currently too obsessed with results. There is a need for a total reform or we risk producing generations of “robots without souls”.

Monica Lim is a mother of two. Her daughter and son are in secondary 2 and primary 5 respectively. In her letter to Mr Heng Swee Keat, she said that over the years, through the learning experiences of her children, she has become increasingly frustrated by this education system that does not edify the development of children.

In her opinion, the problem lies with the fact that schools are increasingly run like businesses. Teachers are assessed and ranked according to quantifiable results (KPIs). Inevitably, parents and students too, become obsessed with getting good results in both school-based and national examinations, leading to indiscriminate tuition, favouring of branded schools, and schools raising their standard of examinations year after year. As such, students experience lower self-confidence and very high levels of stress.

Monica Lim said, “The backlash is that our children’s self-worth and perception have become intrinsically linked to their academic grades. They are judged according to their academic ability.
Because of this, students may fall prey to the “entitled mentality”, thinking that they are better than others simply because they are smarter”.

No progress if current view of success remains

According to a head of department at a secondary school, since the promotion of the “teach less learn more” philosophy by MOE in 2004, the education policy for local primary and secondary schools has seen some subtle changes. Despite the idea of a holistic education being widely accepted, not all teachers can, in this short period of time, stop their “spoon-feeding” method of teaching. The PERI report, which was released two years ago, is the best proof.

According to her, although currently, the main KPI for teachers is students’ examination results, other factors like how teachers impart character education, social emotional learning, 21st century analysis and creative thinking skills, and their communication skills are equally valued.

Schools are unable to adopt a more relaxed attitude towards results because they need to be answerable to parents. For example, even if students perform very well in CCAs but do badly in the examinations, most parents will still be dissatisfied and may blame the examination system. However, abolishing the national examination system will not solve the problem. Instead, people will lose confidence in Singapore’s education system. This will impede students’ chances when applying to further their studies at overseas universities in the future.

Do not make policies based on superficial thinking

Using the “teach less learn more” motto as an example, another teacher, who is the head of his school’s Chinese language department, further explained difficulties faced by schools. According to him, the underlying concept of “teach less learn more” is to encourage self-learning through different teaching methods, which is good. Some schools have increased depth in the Chinese language curriculum through the introduction of activities such as Chinese painting, Chinese opera, etc. But some parents have criticised that these activities will not help improve students’ grades in the short term. Instead, the “teach less” component will result in their spending more money on tuition.

This teacher further explained, “The crux lies with both parents’ and educators’ mentality. If they continue to embrace the view that academic qualification is utmost important, the current system will remain”.

Generally, teachers believe that the MOE’s education policy in recent years is basically sound. The problem lies with the fact that insufficient thought was put into the execution. They hope that in the coming months, other than “listening” to parent’s opinion, the ministry should communicate more with teachers to understand the actual problems on the ground.

A teacher said, “The MOE should maintain closer ties with teachers. Otherwise, policies will simply be crafted from the ivory tower. Many policy makers lack practical experience, thus they have one-sided understanding of educational issues”.

In addition, education is a long drawn-process. Effects of changes made will not show overnight. Thus, some teachers believe that as heads of schools, principals should not be rotated every 5 to 6 years. If the principals are allowed to serve in the same school for a longer period of time, there will be more stability. Teachers will not have to adapt to changes brought forth by new principals so frequently. More efforts can then be put into carrying out and assessing the benefits of educational plans implemented.

Monica Lim hopes that the MOE can be swift in its reform of the education system. Apart from reviewing teachers’ assessment, related issues such as the national examinations framework needs to be changed. She feels that the PSLE should be abolished as it is unfair to decide a child’s future simply on an examination taken at 12 years old.

This is not the first time that Monica Lim has written to the MOE. The difference is that this letter to the Minister was made public and she has received a reply from him. In his reply, the Minister thanked Monica Lim for her suggestions but being new, he indicated that he would need time to study the observations and suggestions he had received.

Although it is short, Monica Lim was heartened by the reply. She said, “He is a new Minister so it is natural that he cannot make any promises in the short term. But his response seems genuine and I hope to see changes in the education policies in the future”.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Letter to Heng Swee Keat in Zaobao

In yesterday's Zaobao page 12, there was an education feature which talked about my Letter to Heng Swee Keat.

The article delved extensively into responses from both parents and educators and examined some of the many facets of education. I'm very grateful for this article because I believe the Chinese-speaking population is one large and important group that my letter hadn't been able to reach. Hopefully, this can also encourage them to speak up and air their views.

It's a full page article, so I wasn't able to scan it in full. Instead, I'm reproducing the article here. For those who are bilingually-challenged like me, I've asked a friend to help me translate the article. Will post it here when it's ready.


● 潘星华 陈能端







  林慧平说:“我们越来越重视学术成绩,把成绩高低等同于学生好坏。但这样的风气很容易促使那些达标的学生产生‘理应获得的态度’(entitled mentality),让他们觉得自己比别人聪明就高人一等。”



  一名在中学担任科目主任的教师指出,自教育部2004年提倡“少教多学”开始,本地中小学教育大方针已经潜移默化地在转型。或许不是所有教师都能在短时间内改变填鸭式的教学方法,但以全人教育(holistic education)为本的意识已经获得广泛认同。两年前总结出的小学教育检讨与执行委员会(PERI)报告就是最好的证明。














Thong Kar Lai:


Steve Lin:

  “尊敬的部长,我希望你不仅会关注学生的需要也同时照顾教师。教师教学时间太长,过于繁重的工作已经促使许多人失去教学热忱。或许你应该从真人秀节目《卧底大老板》(Undercover Boss)获取灵感,亲身到学校体验真实的情况。”

Thian Beng Yap:


Dick Tay:


Michelle Wong:









"希望学校能把教育回归到以育人为本的性质,把学校当学校来经营,而不是一间机构。很多学校把家长学生当客户,把General Office 称为Customer Service Centre,把建立品牌做为终极目标。其实,学生无论读的是不是名校,都应该享有同等的教育和潜能发展的机会。”

国际评为“卓越” 国人却有微词

  自1995年新加坡中二学生参加国际学生趋势研究,无论科学或数学都名列世界第一后,新加坡式教育不断在国际上获得高度认可。经济合作与发展组织去年发布“国际学生能力评估”,新加坡5000名15岁学生的数学、科学和阅读表现,分别排名第二、第十和第五。国际顾问公司麦肯锡评估,新加坡教育体系已从 “优良”步入“卓越”的阶段。






除了提出“学习型组织learning organisation”的概念,张齐娥认为教育部应该协助推广“学习型家庭 learning family”的概念。









华中国际学校去年四名学生成绩名列全球第一,其中三人是在国际剑桥考试局举办的“国际中学教育普通证书考试(International General Certificate of Secondary Education, IGCSE)”的数学科和华文科,考获全球第一,另一名是今年参加国际剑桥考试局举办的企业创作赛取得全球第一。








Thursday, June 9, 2011

MyPaper reporter chimes in on creative writing

Article in today's MyPaper making reference to my letter to the Education Minister, specifically the portion on creative writing.

MyPaper 9jun11 education2_0001

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From social to mainstream media

A reporter from the Straits Times called me on Friday, asking if she could write an article about my letter to Mr Heng Swee Keat. It was to be a side bar to the main story on the Education Minister's comments about schools.

Interesting how one letter can garner so much publicity. Truly the power of social media! Anyway, I hope the Minister will heed the call of parents for real reforms and not just make cosmetic changes. If he truly wants honest feedback, he should speak to teachers and students not "pre-selected" by schools, and certainly not only parents who serve on school boards.

A friend of mine suggested that the Minister spring surprise visits to schools and attempt to sit for a PSLE maths paper. That would certainly make headlines!

Straits Times, 4 June 2011 page A6

ST 4jun2011 Education 1

ST 4jun2011 Education 2

Friday, June 3, 2011


Just a light-hearted post to end a hectic work week!

Over the years, Andre has been entertaining our household with his off-the-wall quips, often without meaning to. I sometimes post these "Andre-isms" on Facebook but I thought I would just compile some of them here, so I can remember them and refer back when I need a good laugh.


Andre: "That's the shop with all the fake women."
Lesley-Anne: "They're called mannequins."


Andre: "Is Labour Day when all the mothers remember how painful it was during labour?"


Andre trips and falls on his butt in front of his classmates.

Teacher: "Are you alright?"
Andre (dusting himself off): "It's ok, it runs in the family."


Me: "You ate fried food again?!"
Andre: "Popcorn chicken is not fried! All the sauce made it soggy."


Andre to me: "I'm lucky because you're quite clever and I have your genes."


Andre (after being berated by me for a sub-par assessment paper): "Even though you scold me, I still love you."

Ok, so this last one is not funny in the least, but I really think I have the sweetest son.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...