Is the Education Ministry really listening to parents’ feedback?

Update 7 June: The Today newspaper has published this letter under the title “MOE has role in ‘arms race'”

I have sent this letter to the Today Voices page. I wrote it despite being tired out from a long day at work and also while teaching Isaac how to improve his English composition.

I refer to the story “A call to relearn how we teach our children” (Today, 5 June 2012) where Education Minister Heng Swee Keat offered his take on the primary school education today.

He said that parents should not compare the education methods of today with those of the past, since children will be growing up in a different world from today. Yet at the same time, he asked for parents to continue giving feedback to engage the educators.

Herein lies the contradiction that frustrates parents to no end.

It is clear that many parents have been giving repeated feedback that the education system has been overloading our children with a curriculum of unrealistic standards.

This has resulted in an “arms race” between tuition centers, school principals and assessment book authors to pose the most ludicrous types of test questions for our bewildered children. Their only goal  appears to be earning bragging rights about who can set the toughest standards.

Many well-educated parents struggle with long working hours in a society stressed by rising costs, yet are asked to learn new teaching methods for PSLE questions. It begs the question why we went to university in the first place if we now struggle to teach elementary mathematics.

Nevertheless, the Education Ministry keeps insisting that it is trying to do the right thing for our children and in the process ignores the very feedback it has requested. It has also not stepped in to moderate the educational “arms race” in any way.

The obvious beneficiaries of this whole situation are elitist tuition centers who now have the impunity to pick and choose only the brightest students, thus ensuring the “effectiveness” of their expensive classes. There was a recent newspaper ad taken out by a tuition center that boasted having taught 8 out of 17 of the top PSLE scorers.

The Minister also said that teachers are trying their best to prepare students for the unknowns in the future.

Let me pose this question – how do you prepare for the unknown? Do you know what you don’t know? Is it better then, to prepare students for the known, for the things that are within our control?

From what I have observed, the education system today does a dismal job of instilling the basics of good language and mathematics in our students. It prefers to rush them into using unnecessary, stilted vocabulary and mathematical modeling methods that they will never use in their secondary school days or adult life.

In a world where technology is changing the way we live faster than ever before, it is even more critical  for students to have a strong grasp of the fundamentals so they do not get lost in the deluge of information and ideas.

I would ask that the Education Ministry learn to take feedback in its stride, and not assure us with words we parents do not agree with.

Published by

Ian Tan

Ian worked in the media industry for a decade, focusing on communications, photography and technology. He now works in the IT industry, permanently plugged into his PC and Facebook.

8 thoughts on “Is the Education Ministry really listening to parents’ feedback?”

  1. I totally agree with you. To prepare for the unknown, kids need to have the desire and curiosity to continually learn and explore as adults. Overloading them kills that , and it is doing them a disservice. MOE looks like a clear example of that lack of desire and passion to explore alternative solutions. Education is not a means to an end, its a continuous journey throughout one’s life.

  2. How much of it though is due to kiasu parents who are desperate to get their highly intelligent (but by no means gifted) child into GEP or their clever but less independent (hence less suited) child into IP? What if parents just let their children enjoy learning and have a happy childhood, and leave the truly gifted (and not tutored) children to get into GEP, and the true independent learner to get into IP?

    In my opinion, the one big flaw in our education system is perhaps that it fails to take into consideration the implication of kiasu parents’ effort to game the process. To get their less than gifted child into the revered GEP, and to get their child into the independent-learning IP when their children may well benefit better from the more structured learning in the O’level program. To me, it is the kiasu parents that is feeding the “monster” and adding to the pressures of ‘modern’ childhood.

  3. Well argued and pointed post. Please repost this piece on Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat’s facebook. I have another suggestion for Swee Kiat. It would be greatly beneficial for Swee Kiat to sit in some exit interviews of teachers leaving MOE. Have a first hand view on what are the current ills in our education system! Why is the turn over rate of teachers so high? If not for the 3 year bond, I suspect the attrition rate of new teachers will be much, much higher. World class education system? The proof is in the pudding!

  4. but what you you have the MOE do to differentiate the standards between RI / RGS and the rest? Or should the govt do aways with such branded elitist school?

  5. Hear hear!! You have hit the nail directly on the head. They sing the same song – keep giving us feedback that we actually don’t want. You can’t change these people by telling them nicely. You need to exercise your right every 5 years in the correct way. That’s the ONLY way they will listen. Haven’t you realised that by now?

  6. It puzzles me that if our education system is so good, and our universities are rising in the world ranking (isn’t top ranking all that what we are obsessed with, individually, as a school, as a university, as a country?), why are our ministers and top civil servants, all sending their children for overseas education??
    Is there a plot I’m missing?

  7. I think all parents out there should cool it and take it easy on their kids… I mean I will still push my kids to get good exam scores, but everyone else, please chill… that will really make my day…

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