RECENTLY, my son’s school received a lot of media publicity regarding heavy schoolbags, bully cases, caning for late payment of parent-teacher association (PTA) fees, incessant collection of donations, contributions and fees, and the last straw was a poison pen letter that was allegedly linked to the PTA chairman and headmistress.

All these issues raised are common in a number of other schools, but at least, some of these issues have been dealt with following complaints raised with the Education Ministry which were taken seriously after they were brought to the media.

However, one common factor that triggered the media publicity was the way the school administration handled issues.

Instead of addressing the mistakes, they went on the defensive, and innocent children and parents were victimised and instigated against the complainants.

A mother showed us that her Year Five daughter has a total of 29 workbooks, and I counted my son’s textbooks and workbooks taken out of his bag on July 24. No wonder the bag of a Year Three boy was so heavy with 21 books!

For his Mandarin subject, he had one textbook, one given workbook and another five additional workbooks that he was required to bring along. A teaching plan could have solved part of the weight problem, but children were being asked to bring all the books for each subject despite complaints from parents.

Despite the circular in September 2014, which stated that the ministry only allowed one additional workbook per subject for Years Four to Six and zero for Years One to Three, the school has not taken cognisance of the problem.

Using the school resources, it came out with a survey recently, with the question: “Do you agree that the school should be entrusted to decide the quality and quantity of extra workbooks for our children?”

The headmistress should not have used or allowed the PTA to conduct a survey skewed towards a certain agenda, and be seen as attempting to defy the directives issued by the ministry.

To compound matters, I heard from a parent that her daughter had been asked by her teacher to tick “agree” on the form.

I have no doubt that workbooks have their place, but when they become crutches, contact hours between teachers and children are reduced. Apart from the school textbooks, children were also asked to attempt a couple of pages of the workbooks on their own, and the second half of the class session is used to go through each answer.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of teaching, and I do that myself at home with my children, but the classroom is supposed to emphasise interactive learning, and for the teachers to make their lessons interesting by using proven teaching aids and techniques that can help children develop their faculty for critical thinking and self-learning.

What most parents, including myself, fail to see is that education is about developing human capital assets to bring the country to the next level, not just about excelling in examinations, especially at primary school level.

This is why our education system has not produced young people who are confident, independent thinkers and self-learners compared with their counterparts in the more developed nations.

Therefore, for the ministry or the schools to draft policies based on popular feedback from parents in the urban schools, we will only be returning to the status quo.

Source: NST Online

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