berthahenson

Examine the stone

In News Reports, Politics, Society on September 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

This phrase is going to be very popular : Leave no stone unturned. Some stone turning is already being done. I’m referring to the scrapping of the banding exercise for schools or what used to be called the Schools Ranking exercise. I am all for lifting stones but I’d suggest we look at the original reasons for the stone being there in the first place.
So what was the rationale for the ranking exercise way back in 1992? If I recall correctly, it was to help parents pick a school for their children and to spur schools to do better. The template I believe was the British ranking of schools done by a British newspaper. In fact, the literature at that time was all for ranking of schools, so that teachers would be aware of what else needed to be done in class to raise the school rankings. I suppose in the typical Singaporean way, it became ultra competitive and new stuff was added along the way, like bands instead of ranks, various versions of “value-added’’ schools and then awards. Some of it made sense. I mean, some schools pipped others by such insignificant percentage points that ranking became meaningless.
Then top schools started skipping O levels because of the through train programme and the list got shorter….
I think we should give ourselves some credit for having school rankings instead of now moaning and groaning about how it has led to such stressful lives for everyone. I am quite sure, for example, that the exercise DID push all schools to do better academically. So knowledge is acquired, and tested.
I am for scrapping of ranking and banding, because my view is that we have achieved what we set out to do. That’s my layman’s point of view anyway.
My hope is that in this national conversation we are supposed to be having, we won’t just go hooooo-ha because some sacred cow has been slaughtered. Let’s be clear about WHY it is a sacred cow in the first place and whether those reasons still hold

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  1. Correction, not the typical Singaporean way but the typical Scholars-driven civil service ways. How many times have you not heard of the musical chair antics of these star-stamped on the head, short stint policy administrators that are eager to change something for the sake of change so that they are recognized to have made a contribution before they breeze off to create disaster at the next pit stop? Now, how are they going to assess the teachers and principles? Behind the assessment methodology, I suspect is the bell-shape curve fitting sacred cow, let’s see if they will slaughter that too.

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