berthahenson

Educating Ah Boy

In News Reports, Society, Writing on December 12, 2012 at 2:53 am

I have never thought Today as being very good on the graphics front, but I thought its display on how our students did in the international assessment tests was useful. It was nothing to shout about. But at least it was on Page 1, not tucked inside its bowels. And the statistics allowed a reader to absorb the information without the commentary that goes along with it as would invariably happen when there’s intervening test. TNP had a graphic too – a rather kiddy one.

The reason I am so hot on graphics is that for the big stuff, readers want the whole picture unembellished. And this being education-related, I’d bet that many would want to look at the details.

So I suppose we should give our education system a cheer that our students did so well vis-à-vis other children. But methinks ST was too quick to give the MOE the credit.

The fourth par said : The results validate the approach adopted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) more than a decade ago to trim syllabuses and allow more time for teachers to develop critical thinking skills in their students.

Who is saying this? ST? Besides verification, there is this thing called attribution. And the statement was not attributed. It is this sort of reporting and writing that does ST a disservice. It puts the newspaper too clearly on the G side, even if the statement is true.

It doesn’t matter if the attribution came much further down the story. Two-thirds of the way, the story said: MOE attributed the development of higher-order thinking skills to the syllabus cuts and the shift towards more inquiry-based teaching and learning in schools

Too late in the story, babe.

I looked at what Today said: While Mr Lim (Biow Chuan – the MP) felt that factors such as the rising education levels of parents and tuition classes could have contributed to the overall academic improvement, the Ministry of Education said that among other things, the results affirmed its effort to create room for self-inquiry skills over the years.

Practically the same thing, but put in the MOE’s mouth. It has the added value of having an “outsider’’ commenting on other non-MOE factors, instead of just having the officials and teachers patting themselves on the back.

By the way, I wonder if we should be worried about the children “knowing’’ less, even if they are “reasoning’’ and “applying’’ more as the assessment tests showed. Some things have to give, I suppose, when the school syllabus was cut down. Maybe we should send our students to a “knowledge’’ test as well to see how they fare.

I am glad that TNP highlighted one point on literacy from the survey. We are not quite fourth as the literacy survey showed, but actually No. 1 when you realise that it was literacy in the language of the assessment system. For a moment, I was taken aback that the Hong Kong and Russian students beat ours in literacy. But no, the Singapore students led the pack on the English language, ahead of Northern Ireland and the Americans.

Thank you TNP for pointing this out.

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