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Re-balancing for a More Holistic Education in Primary Schools

26 Sep 2008

Bukit View Primary School

Pr 4 girls learn the finer skills of ball control

CCAs extended to P1 and P2 students to better develop leadership qualities and mould their characters. Innovative pedagogical approaches both in and out of the classroom to develop lifeskills and values in the young. Single-session primary schools that allow creative and flexible time-tabling within the curriculum, and schools possibly starting the day slightly later.

These were the broad directions of the review at MOE’s annual Work Plan Seminar on Thursday, 25 Sep 08 where Minister Ng Eng Hen said more could be done to inculcate lifeskills and values in the young, starting from primary education.

MOE’s review of primary education looks ahead to this vision of a school experience. The review highlighted two broad strategies for a more balanced primary education:

  • Enhancing academic and co-curricular programmes to nurture life skills and develop character in pupils from a young age; and
  • Moving towards single-session primary schools to create more space and time for holistic learning and family interaction.
Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education, will chair a committee to look into these strategies and explore others to enhance primary education. Detailed recommendations will be ready by March 2009.

Making time for CCAs

Bukit View Primary School

Pr 4 pupils pick up animation skills during mass CCA

Already, single-session schools like Bukit View Primary School are making full use of the added flexibility in space and time. “We can decide what time to begin and end each school day, as well as the range of activities we conduct during and after curriculum time,” says Principal Mdm Jenny Law. “School lessons start at 8 a.m. and finish at 1.30 p.m.” Mdm Law explains that a double-session school would find it difficult to fit in non-academic activities during school hours, or implement integrated teaching and learning sessions.

The half hour between 7.30 a.m. and 8 a.m. is spent on mass CCA and other activities, except for Wednesdays, when pupils start classes at 9 a.m. “Every level has a different CCA activity each term,” reveals Mdm Law, “so Pri 1 pupils may learn cultural dance, Pri 2, lion dance and Pri 3, rugby. The Pri 4s and 5s have the Trim & Fit programme.”

Mdm Law sees clear benefits in giving the pupils opportunities to try out brand new activities. “It’s a chance to build their confidence and self-esteem,” she notes, adding that outstanding pupils are picked to perform on special occasions like Children’s Day or Teachers’ Day. She notes that the range of programmes exposes students to a variety of skills and interests, possibly allowing them to unearth hidden talents.

Time for teaching life skills

For teachers, the common after-school hours are a boon for brainstorming and sharing ideas and best practices. Besides exploring ways to improve their classes’ academic abilities, these sessions have resulted in innovative programmes to develop pupils’ life skills.

Bukit View Primary School

Teachers from different departments at Bukit View Primary School recently collaborated on a Young Reporters programme to the Beijing Olympics.

For instance, the PE and Chinese Language departments teamed up this August to organise a Young Reporters programme where pupils visited Beijing to cover the Olympics. Through this project that integrates two different subject areas, pupils learnt lifeskills such as independence, caring for others and mutual tolerance. The possibilities of such multi-disciplinary projects are now enhanced as teachers have more common time to interact and exchange notes in a single-session school.

Currently, 72 primary schools implement a single-session structure. Given the clear advantages of this arrangement, all primary schools will be progressively converted to single-session schools.

Bukit View Primary School

Pr 3 pupils make music from common household items

More funds for Edusave

To ensure that students have both the time as well as the financial resources to take part in more CCAs and enrichment programmes, MOE is increasing its contributions to pupils’ Edusave Accounts starting January 2009. The changes are:

  • Primary school: $200 per year (up from $180 per year)
  • Secondary school: $240 per year (up from $220 per year); removal of age cap of 16 years
Apart from this boost to the Edusave kitty, MOE is lifting the age cap for Edusave contributions (presently 16 years) and extending it to all Singaporean students at the secondary level, regardless of age. This gives access to additional financial support for students who had to delay the start of their studies, or who require a longer time to complete their secondary school education.

More resources, more time, more flexibility - all the better for parents and pupils as they advance to the next level of their education.