The next phase for Singapore’s education system will be one that is student-centric and focused on values. Speaking at the Ministry of Education’s work plan seminar on Thursday morning, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said while the overall foundation of the system is strong, the ministry wants to sharpen its efforts in holistic education to better prepare Singaporeans for the 21st century.
This follows feedback Mr Heng and his team gathered over the past three months. He said educators and parents have asked for greater emphasis to be placed on character and values. Others welcome new options and flexibilities in the education system but also asked for more help and support for their children to find the best pathways for themselves. There were also some who were concerned about excessive competition and stress in schools. Mr Heng said: “We need personal values to enable each of us to have the confidence, self awareness, grit and determination to succeed. We need moral values, such as respect, responsibility, care and appreciation towards others to guide each of us to be a socially responsible person.
“We need values of citizenship. As a young nation with a short history of independence, we must have informed, rugged and resilient citizens who can stay united to overcome crisis and adversities which we must expect to happen from time to time.” He said the ministry will do this in three broad areas. One way is to introduce a new Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) module by 2013 which will focus on values and character development.
The new CCE curriculum will bring together Civics and Moral Education, National Education, Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) among others. The CCE is expected to be infused into lessons, such as Mother Tongue and literature. MOE will set up to 60 per cent of the CCE programme, with schools designing the rest. Mr Heng said: “Between academic achievements and values, it must not be ‘either/or’, and we should strive to achieve both. So the first thing we must do is to re-affirm the central place of values and character development in our education system. “Our school leaders and teachers must demonstrate commitment to this. For instance, periods set aside for Civics and Moral Education, National Education and so on must not make way for remedial lessons for examinable subjects.”
Educators Channel NewsAsia spoke to responded positively to Mr Heng’s speech. Haig Girls’ School principal Mrs Constance Loke said: “Schools have always focused on values, but I think what the minister has done is to explicitly talk about the need to really be values-driven and values-based in our education. “So I don’t think it’s something that we haven’t done before, but it’s something we want to pay more attention to.” To place greater emphasis on holistic and balanced participation in CCA rather than just achievement, the ministry will also review LEAPS (Leadership, Enrichment, Achievement, Participation and Service), a grading scheme for CCA. Mr Heng added a good school is not just one that produces straight As, but caters to the needs of its students as well. He said given the diversity of students, there cannot be a single ruler to measure success.