Friday, May 19, 2006

Teach Less, Learn More

I keep having to go for these meetings where we try and discuss strategies to Teach Less, Learn More- an initative borne from an off the cuff statement the newly sworn in Prime Minister of Singapore made with regards to education in 2004. That's the problem with how things work in this part of the world- when someone important and high up and power-that-may-be enough, all the little minions and lackeys jump and scurry around, trying to do what they think they are supposed to do.

There've been many attempts at institutionalising TLLM, but we're always held hostage by the reality of exams. I know for a fact I could run more interesting lessons if I didn't need to teach them how to go get that distinction on the exam that is looming in the distance. So perhaps, a logical assumption would be that the younger the child is, the easier it might be to teach less while the child learns more.

But that, I suspect does not happen, even at a young age. If anything else, many people are of the idea that young children should be drilled and taught as much as possible because their minds are like sponges. Yes they are, so, it would be a great time to teach them how to think, thereby acquiring knowledge using those thinking skills we are so fond of imparting. The problem with that mode of learning is that there is no guarantee that the child will learn what the child is supposed to learn.

And that is the greatest fear here. I occasionally get emails asking me if I would like to tutor students. The two that stuck in my head were these.

1. Subject(s): K1 (eng + maths) or K1 (chinese)
***parent does not want the teacher to teach both languages at the same time, thus please indicate which subject(s) you are able to teach***

Weekly Frequency: once or twice a week
Days available: Mon - Thurs
Time available: Night

A five year old, subjected to tuition twice a week, once for English and Math and another time for Chinese. At night. I don't know about you, but I slept quite early when I was five. How is the poor child supposed to learn anything when he's tired, it's late and all he wants to do is play?

And even worse,

Tutor NEEDED to teach Art to a little boy (this was indeed the real title of the email)
Subject(s): Art for a 5.5 years old boy

Weekly Frequency: 3 times a week, 1.5 - 2 hours per session
Days available: not stated
Tutor Requirement: Someone with qualifications in Art, or a NAFA Arts Students/Graduate

Why would a 5 1/2 year old boy need art tuition 3 times a week from a graduate art teacher? Aren't 5 1/2 year olds quite happy to scrawl on paper and finger paint? Are the parents preparing their little Van Gogh for the Arts School? And if they're doing it this way, they should really be prepared for little Vincent to chop off his ear.

It really bugs me, the intense amount of pressure parents put on their kids to learn. And not experiential learning, but the connect-the-dots type of learning that does nothing to breed creativity or all those other wonderful things we desire for our children.

I would like to teach my child how to play "one-leg", hop scotch, trade stickers and stamps. I would like my child to be able to tell me that a leaf can be drawn in various shades of green, yellow and orange because he had noticed their different colours with the different seasons. I would like my child to be out in the open, running, cycling, playing catching. I would like my child to be like reading and create great imaginary worlds from books. And none of these things can be tutored. Maybe home schooled by Packrat and I, but definitely not taught in a structured, twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour a time type of way.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 21:10

3 thoughts...

3 thoughts...

At 9:37 am Blogger Olie said...

My friend's kid scored 19/20 for her Math test and the dad screamed his lungs out at her 'incompetence'. She's been through only half a year of P1 but the mom's made her complete 4 assessment books.

I pity the kids and I pity the teachers in school. Because every parent seemed to expect their darling to be a genius. Hey, maybe that's why so many are down with depression like you mentioned in an earlier post. Good grief.

At 2:13 pm Blogger daddylonglegs said...

parents are crazy these days. like you i don't remember growing up with tuition. i grew up playing catching and hantam bola. i spend my days running around with the neighbourhood kids below and i learn so much about life through these interaction.

my grades aren't that bad. the fact that i can still make it to a sap school doesn't show that i'm smart or anything but it is just that there more life out there than in the books itself.

the changing education landscape is a dangerous weapon indeed... :(

At 12:41 am Blogger restlessly said...

My parents couldn't afford tuition for us when I was a kid. They were forced to get help for me when I failed Maths at PSLE. Tuition was more like 'intervention' when it was clear I really couldn't cope with something. And that's the way it should be.

Parents get so caught up in the rat race and stuff they don't stop and think at the ridiculousness of what they're doing. Is a C in 'Art' for a K1 kid gonna haunt him forever?!


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