It has been a year since Crest Secondary School, Singapore's first specialised school for students eligible for the Normal (Technical) course, first opened its doors to some 200 students in 2013.
The pioneer batch of students has emerged more confident and enjoyed both the academic and vocational subjects that the school offers in its curriculum.
The vocational training programme offered by Crest Secondary School is closely integrated with the academic curriculum to enhance authentic learning for students.
"As a specialised school, we are constantly exploring innovative ways to provide a holistic learning culture for everyone. For example, science lessons focus more on hands-on learning. When the Secondary One students learn about water filtration, the lesson requires them to develop different filters for the most effective way to filter sediments to obtain clean water,' said Ms Khairin, a Science teacher in the school.
As concepts and theories are reinforced through practical training, students are more engaged and do not get bored so easily.
Integrating Academic and Vocational Learning
Aside from taking core subjects such as English Language, Mother Tongue Language, Mathematics and Science, students are exposed to vocational subjects as such hospitality services, retail services, facility services and mechanical servicing. Students get to pick up skills-based, practice oriented training applicable to their daily lives and as a basic foundation of technical skills useful in day-to-day situations.
Not only do students pick up practical skills on how to prepare different table settings, they also market set menus that they have prepared after attending lessons on Food & Nutrition.
The vocational training programme is closely integrated with the academic curriculum to enhance authentic learning for students.
"Students do not merely learn how to assemble and fix a bicycle; they explore the mechanism of how bicycles work. Learning can even be extended to how different muscle groups and energy systems work when they ride a bicycle. During Physical Education (PE) lessons, students will also learn how to prevent injuries during sports," said Mr Christopher Go, a PE teacher in the school.
The school has garnered the support of partners and the community to create authentic learning environments for students. For example, hypermart Giant and local Do-It-Yourself retail chain, Home-Fix, have set up retail training rooms within the school and hotel training rooms were set up by hotel chain, the Ritz-Carlton.
At Crest Secondary, school work assessment is not based solely on pen-and-paper work as there is strong emphasis on project-based learning. Students learn to become confident speakers as they prepare for group presentations, as part of their assessment.
"I used to be very shy in primary school. However, my experience in Crest Secondary School has made me more confident. After going through the lessons, I discovered that my passion lies in serving customers,' said Norelis Amirah Bte Kamarudin, who intends to specialise in Hospitality Services when she reaches the upper-secondary level.
Students get to pick up skills-based, practice oriented training applicable to their daily lives that are useful in day-to-day situations.
So far, teachers have relished the experience of developing innovative teaching strategies and customising their lessons to suit the students' learning needs. Project-based assessment and group work enable students to be self-directed in their learning, and teachers have witnessed the progress that students have made after being exposed to authentic learning environments.
Mr Jonathan Siah, a teacher in the Hospitality and Retail Department, shared that "the key to reaching out to the students is to be able to relate to them, and have faith in their ability to achieve in life.'
To know more about Crest Secondary School, click here.