[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, August 26, 2006

[Committee on National Education]
Devan Nair, S. Rajaratnam and Lim Kim San. Three great leaders. But yet young Singaporeans do not know of them. Lack of National Education (NE)? Purely bo chup (apathetic)?

Perhaps. After these three old guards passed away we have heard comments that many do not know who they were, what they did and how they contributed to the growth of modern Singapore. Not many know that S. Rajaratnam penned our pledge. Me included. I only know who penned out national anthem - Zubir Said, isn't that good enough?

Just recently after the Prime Minister's National Day Rally, the Ministry of Education (MOE) is reviewing the National Education programmes. I guess that they found out that national identity is important for Singapore to move forward just as important as our progress packages (but I shall not discuss that because I am not Mr Brown). So the MOE wants to address this problem and sets up a committee to seek feedback - from teachers, parents and students.

Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam likened the NE story to be a live story "written by each new generation of Singaporeans, not a collection of past facts".

Meaning to say that there would not be much emphasis placed on learning about Singapore's history but how to get Singaporeans involved in writing The Singapore Story. Get the students involved. Get them to do interesting projects. Make them want to do it. Don't force them to.

But the part that I found most interesting was the segment titled 'citizenship education matters everywhere'.

Here's an excerpt from Minister Tharman's speech extracted from SPRINTER:

We are not alone in wanting to do NE. Societies much older than ours have been implementing their own forms of NE or ‘citizenship education’ in their schools. They are in fact taking it even more seriously now.

In the US, every student has to complete Social Studies in order to graduate from high school. Schools place much emphasis on teaching American history, and on bringing up students to cherish American political and social values and ideals. But even so, they face challenges. According to National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC), there is a growing need to nurture students with the values and skills to participate as active citizens. A national survey in 2003 showed that the “DotNet generation”, young Americans between 15 and 26 years of age, were less likely than older generations to understand the ideals of citizenship and were more disengaged from the political process.

In England, an even older society, the Government found it necessary as recently as 2002 to introduce Citizenship as a new subject in the National Curriculum for all students aged 11 to 16. Now, in response to last year’s London bombings and the continuing threat of home-grown terrorism, the government is reviewing whether to introduce a core curriculum emphasing British values and the British identity.

In Australia, the Sydney riots last year has prompted a refocus on the teaching of Australian history, and the values and lessons it holds. Just last week, a summit of government and academic experts agreed to make Australian history a compulsory, standalone subject for all students in Years 9 and 10. PM John Howard also announced a new $100,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History (for a substantial written work or documentary or film) In New South Wales, the Department of Education and Training has developed several units on “Australian values” to be taught in State schools, and will also be issuing them with CD recordings of the national anthem to be played at school assemblies.

The Japanese have long used their schools to nurture good citizenship and to instil a common identity among their young. But they too face challenges now. They are looking at how to evolve a model of education that was suited for a monocultural society to one which addresses the increasing numbers of minorities in their schools. They are also being challenged to overcome the limits of a traditional model that restricts divergent thinking.

In China, the challenge is different. Educationists see a burgeoning middle class and the single child policy as giving rise to increasing individualism and materialism. Schools are having to work harder to develop moral character and social responsibility.

So Singapore is not unique in wanting to instil in our young a sense of common identity, and commitment to country. Others are doing the same through their schools, and are trying out new methods to make their schools more effective in developing good citizenry. There is no reason for us to be shy about National Education, or whatever we wish to call it.

He summed up the Ministry of Education's NE forum with a quote from one of the videos by students featured in the rally speech, every grain of sand matters, just as every Singaporean matters.

How true.


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