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Reading the Forum… April 18, 2006

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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I was reading the Forum today when i came across this letter written by two JC students. Apparently it's got to deal with the curriculum in schools today and the way they're taught. Actually, it's been like that for a great many years already, what with this thing about rote teaching and all.

Apparently today's gripe is about Science Practical Assessment (SPA: whatever will they think up of next? Maybe there'll be MASSAGE next time. Haw.) We were supposed to be the guinea pig batch for them (like, we still took the good ol' 'A' Levels, of course, but we were supposed to take a dummy paper. I wonder what happened to it.) Anyhoo, the complaint is that there is still too much rote learning in JCs and schools overall.

They mentioned the following in their arguments:

  1. Many assessments demand of the students a fixed format of phrasing their answers.
  2. Regurgitation is rampant.
  3. 'Playing it safe' for the sake of their grades…(i mean, come on, who doesn't?!)
  4. The rote learning of 'case studies' or experiments so that even if they miss out something in the practical, they just write it down anyway.
  5. All the wayang-ing drama mamas (and papas, if you want equality of the sexes)

Well, to all these questions above, let me tell you ladies that it was already preached in the past that we should remember properly all this shit. I remember Biology practicals when we were basically told to copy microscope slides and submit them. I can still remember xylem and phloem. HAHAHA. Yes and it was like…'children, remember these (you maggots) because if they come out you will be identify the type of plant, dicot/monocot, yadda yadda.

Which meant, indirectly, 'Just remember those fucking diagrams so you can reproduce them.'

Unfortunately, this is another good-natured attempt by MOE at trying to give the students analytical skills/useful tips, tricks and techniques, planning, evaluation, et cetera, only to have it thwarted at school level by something which i have long believed to be plaguing the system here and in almost every other East-meets-West culture: the (evil and corrupting) obsession with results.

You see, it's awfully simple. Because the examiners normally are looking for certain points (especially in the sciences – Arts students in JC, if you ever read this, feel free to correct me) so schools tend to over-emphasise on them, drilling it into the students that 'if you want to get good grades, then you all should bloodyplease use the following points.' and shit like that. And yes, students, being the happy automatons they are, just whip out their foolscap pads (i think i finally figured it out – it's for fools) and absorb everything like sponges.

In fact, they wrote that they're happier with practical lessons aimed at experimenting and deepening knowledge gained during theory lessons. And well, to answer your questions, yes, that's what learning should be all about. Unfortunately, we're not going to see that many changes very soon. You see, JC is not just about imparting knowledge, it's also about how to score well. Thus, teachers attempt to teach you how to spot trends, and how to think flexible. Sadly, not all of us can apply this and there is a lot (read: A FUCKING LOT) of rote learning going on in the background.

If you don't believe me, you can go ask my ex-classmates. There were those who did well without working hard, and those who did well through pure hard work. It's the most effective method. You don't even have to understand what's going on – which is what some do. It's conversely correct (not to sound atas but) if you understand, you don't have to put in so much work into mugging. If you'd rather overload yourself with information, then go right ahead.

What's sad is that in my old JC, this rote learning bullshit went a bit too far, even for subjects in which we were taught to write essays and stuff based on our individual grey matter. Thank goodness that for Deutsch, although schraudolph was really going crazy in year 2, but she was open enough to accept everything we wrote (content-wise, that is – she still corrected us on grammar, but hey, grammar are RULES aren't they?) but you should go and ask kelvin (or zente, the Son of the Lightbringer, to use a more florid name for him) or reuben or ween and they'll tell you that for (the now de-funct) General Paper they had to write exactly as their teacher demanded it.

That is SO FUCKED UP. I mean, come on. You'd expect those who teach subjects like GP or whatever which includes many viewpoints to have a much more open mind.

But yes. Not to flame MOE much longer (considering that i am considering their offer) but they really have a difficult uphill task against this…results chase. You see, it's about convincing the schools that while results and the school's reputation are important, but the development of the students are too. And rote learning is not going to be very effective here, unless you're talking about maybe the following:

  • Grammatical structures of foreign languages
  • Mathematical formulae (this includes physics, chemistry and biology)
  • Terminology
  • Historical facts (note here that i'm not saying history per se)
  • Basic chemical reactions (so you can apply them in the lab)
  • Basic understandings of the subject
  • Methodologies

What one shouldn't teach is how to score well, how to write what the examiners want, and all that shit. It's all a load of bull, and they know it. But i guess teachers do it because well…you do want your students to do well, don't you? (Because deep down, it affects your ricebowl.) I guess i'll see more and know more when my time is ripe. The focus should shift to application and independant learning, not force-feeding the maggots with a shovel. Man.

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