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School Librarians Push for More 'Maker Spaces' - Education Week

Librarians are showing growing interest in the "maker movement" as their roles shift from collectors of information to facilitators of project-based learning.

Special needs children

Response

Various agencies are involved in supporting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and their parents or care-givers. For children below the age of seven, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) works with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and other partners to equip pre-school educators with basic skills to identify children with special needs and learning difficulties, and to raise their awareness of early intervention strategies to assist such children.

Pre-school children identified as having special needs can be enrolled in support programmes overseen by MSF such as the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) or the Development Support Programme which are delivered by trained therapists and Learning Support Educators.

To support special needs students with emotional, social and/or behavioural issues, there are trained personnel in mainstream schools such as Allied Educators for Learning and Behavioural Support, Teachers trained in Special Needs and School Counsellors, to provide case consultation and intervention. In addition, MOE collaborates with the Institute of Mental Health to make available REACH (Response, Early intervention and Assessment in Community mental Health) services at mainstream and Special Education schools. Students may be referred to the Child Guidance Clinic after assessment by the REACH team for further psychiatric evaluation and intervention such as psychotherapy, group or family work and advice for parents and other caregivers.

To create public awareness and support parents with special needs children, mainstream schools and SPED schools have parent support groups (PSGs). Resources and information on special needs are also provided at MOE’s Parents-in-Education website.

MOE also works with relevant departments in restructured hospitals, such as the Department of Child Development in KKH, and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to support students with SEN and their families. Such collaborations include enhancing transition support for these students at point of entry into Primary One, making available consultation services for school personnel by VWOs, and various awareness talks and presentations to parents, teachers and allied educators on SEN. These measures aim to enhance support for the psychological and emotional well-being of the students.

For parents whose child is in a mainstream primary school and who requires a higher level of support, MOE has engaged the services of VWOs to provide Post-Diagnosis Educational Guidance. The service aims to provide parents with:

  • emotional support and guidance in the journey towards acceptance of their child’s SEN diagnosis
  • accurate and reliable information on the educational pathways for their child and the SPED school options available; and
  • information and guidance on the admissions processes of SPED schools.

AUs' expenditures to support the learning of their students

Response

In FY2006, expenditure on manpower was $1.1B, and other operating expenditure was $0.8B. The corresponding figures in FY2013 were $2.0B, and $1.5B respectively. These figures are for the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU), which were the only three universities that turned autonomous in FY2006.

Funding for the AUs

Response

In FY2006, Government funding (including operating and research grants) was $1.9B, and investment income (including income from endowment) was $0.3B. The corresponding figures in FY2013 were $2.8B, and $0.5B respectively. These figures are for the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU), which were the only three universities that turned autonomous in FY2006.

Student-to-lecturer ratio at AUs

Response

For the three Autonomous Universities, i.e. NUS, NTU and SMU, the ratios of average student-to-faculty for full-time faculty, average student-to-faculty for full-time and part-time faculty, and average student-to-non-teaching staff are 17.8, 16.7 and 5.6 respectively in 2013. This is an improvement over the corresponding ratio of 19.3, 18.5, and 8.0 in 20061.

Data for SUTD and SIT have been excluded as they have only attained the status of Autonomous Universities in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

Footnote
  1. 2006 is the first year when all three Universities were Autonomous Universities.

Addressing intercultural issues and online communications

Response

In schools, students are taught about intercultural issues primarily through Character and Citizenship Education but it is also found in a variety of other subjects like English and Social Studies. Younger students learn through stories of our daily interactions with different people in school and the community. As students mature, they discuss and reflect on current and relevant case studies from newspapers and social media, where they are encouraged to consider various perspectives and clarify their values.

Every year, Racial Harmony Day is specially commemorated in all education institutions to focus on social cohesion and racial harmony. Learning experiences through Values in Action, Learning Journeys and Co-curricular activities (CCA) further provide our students of all ages with opportunities to engage and interact with people of different backgrounds.

Through classroom discussion and school organised activities, students understand and appreciate our major religions, how to share and maintain common spaces, and the consequences of prejudice and stereotyping others. Dialogues with community leaders and interactive drama are also programmes for older students to strengthen their understanding for social cohesion and community engagement.

Such exposure deepens as our students progress to the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). Within the classroom, our students participate in scenario discussions, projects and deep structured reflection. Outside the classroom, students are exposed through experiential activities, such as community service projects, field trips, and dialogues with community leaders. Through these experiences, our students come to appreciate the importance of respecting diversity and maintaining racial and religious harmony, and to develop empathy and the skills to achieve effective intercultural communication. The importance of respect and cultural sensitivities are also instilled through student code of conduct which prohibits inflammatory content and emphasise mutual respect in all social interactions and online exchanges.

For online communication, students learn how to use digital technologies safely and responsibly in Cyber Wellness lessons. These are designed based on the principles of “Respect for Self and Others” and “Safe and Responsible Use”. Through discussions on authentic case scenarios and reflection, students practise responsible decision making in the context of online interactions.

At a younger age, the students are taught basic netiquette and how to safeguard themselves in cyberspace. Older students are taught to take on a more active role to promote positive online relationship management. They learn about responsible online behaviour, the consequences of one’s online expressions and greater social and cultural awareness in online interactions. In addition, students are educated on the concerns relating to the use of social media such as mob mentality, and the far reaching consequences of online expressions and impact on lives. They also learn the laws, regulations and ethics related to online communications.

As students move on to the IHLs, expectations regarding appropriate online etiquette are discussed via a mixture of compulsory modules, elective modules and school-wide programmes. As students discuss the benefits of social media, they are also acquainted with how it can be misused for seditious or malicious acts. Students also learn about the social impact and potential legal implications of their online actions.

Timing to hold sports competitions

Response

The Ministry of Education promotes sports as it is an important platform for the holistic development of students. Specific to the inter-school sports competitions, organisers have to safeguard the safety and well-being of students, while bearing in mind the needs of parents, staff and stakeholders.

Inclement weather will invariably affect sports in our schools, given Singapore’s tropical climate. MOE has built more indoor sports facilities to allow more physical activities and sports competitions to be weather-proofed. However, for sports like football, hockey, rugby, softball and those that cannot be played indoors, schools will postpone the games to another day when there is inclement weather.

Scheduling games in the evening will result in competition for use of the already heavily utilized public sports facilities in the evening. This will result in inconveniences to public users. Holding competitions in the evening will also increase students’ school hours and lengthen working hours of teachers.

The Ministry of Education has no immediate plans to host the games in the evenings. We will continue to explore how parental involvement and support for the competitions can be further strengthened while balancing the needs of different parties involved.

Resources and support available for private candidates and home-schoolers

Response

The profile of Singaporean private ‘O’ Level candidates is quite varied, but they may be broadly grouped as: (i) those for whom enrolment in a mainstream school would not be educationally meaningful or age-appropriate; and (ii) those who voluntarily opt out of our mainstream school system.

The first group of private ‘O’ level candidates includes adult learners studying one or two subjects on a part-time basis. It also includes students who had completed their secondary school education, are more than four years above secondary school age, or are already eligible for progression to a post-secondary educational institution to further their education but nevertheless had chosen to repeat specific “O” Level subjects as private candidates.

Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are part of the school curriculum and the holistic education of students in mainstream schools, tailored to the students’ age profiles and conducted under the supervision of their teachers who exercise a duty of care towards them. For private candidates who are much older than the secondary school age, interaction with secondary school age students and participation in our schools’ CCAs would not be age-appropriate. It is also not easy to accommodate their other work or post-secondary education commitments. Instead, there are many community groups that these private candidates can join to interact with their community and to learn life skills, such as those in the community clubs.

Similarly, science laboratories contain potentially hazardous equipment and materials and are not suitable for unsupervised use. Students who take their ‘O’ Levels at the Institute of Technical Education under the General Education Programme will have supervised access to science laboratories in selected schools, if they offer Science subjects.

Sports facilities in schools, which are more suitable for unsupervised shared use, are already shared with the community outside school hours under a partnership between MOE, Sports Singapore and People’s Association.

The second group of private ‘O’ level candidates include students in private schools. For this small number of students in private schools, their schools are expected to provide appropriate facilities and educational programmes for them.

As for primary school children who are home-schooled, these students have specifically applied to be exempted from enrolment in mainstream schools. If they wish to benefit from the facilities and programmes in our mainstream schools, the Ministry will facilitate their entry as a student into our mainstream schools. It remains the Government’s preference that all Singaporean children attend mainstream schools so that they grow up together with a common educational experience.

Should 3rd Grade Be the Pivot Point for Early Reading? - Education Week

New research calls into question the widespread practice of retaining students in 3rd grade based on their reading proficiency.

Reading Fluency Viewed as Neglected Skill - Education Week

Fifteen years after the National Reading Panel identified it as a pillar of reading instruction, fluency remains a neglected and somewhat misunderstood skill, according to experts.

New Read-Aloud Strategies Transform Story Time - Education Week

Under the common core, teachers use new questioning techniques to help the youngest students learn to draw evidence from what they read.

Editors Note: Building Literacy Skills - Education Week

This Education Week special report takes a wide-ranging look at new efforts to address the challenges of early-grades reading instruction, particularly in light of the waning influence of the federal Reading First program.

Push for Grade-Level Reading Takes Many Forms - Education Week

A school attendance program in Connecticut, a free preschool in Kansas, and summer learning programs in Illinois and Iowa are all part of an effort to ensure students read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.

Under Common Core, Students Learn Words by Learning About the World - Education Week

Under the common core, teachers are building students' vocabulary skills by teaching words in context, rather than through word lists.

New Read-Aloud Strategies Transform Story Time - Education Week

Under the common core, teachers use new questioning techniques to help the youngest students learn to draw evidence from what they read.

Start of the 2015 Direct Admission Exercises

Students interested in applying for direct admission to secondary schools, junior colleges (JC) and polytechnics may start to do so from this month.

The Direct Admission Exercises1 promote holistic education by recognising a more diverse range of talents, achievements and personal qualities. Schools and polytechnics are given the flexibility to admit students based on these qualities, using a transparent and meritocratic process.

Direct School Admission-Secondary (DSA-Sec) Exercise

This year, 126 schools will participate in the 2015 DSA-Sec Exercise for admission to Secondary One in 2016. All participating schools and the schools’ distinctive programmes2 are listed in Annex A and Annex B respectively.

Interested students should go to the relevant school’s website to obtain more information on the school’s application period (which will vary from school to school) and corresponding procedures. All students participating in the DSA-Sec Exercise are still required to take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Those who take up DSA Confirmed Offers are guaranteed a place in the school provided that their PSLE results meet the minimum requirement for a course [Express/ Normal (Academic)/ Normal (Technical)] offered by the school.

Students who accept a DSA Confirmed Offer and are successfully allocated to a school via the DSA-Sec Exercise will not be able to participate in the Secondary One Posting Exercise. They will also not be allowed to transfer to another school after the release of PSLE results. They are expected to honour the commitment to the posted DSA school for the duration of the programme admitted to. Details of the exercise are listed in Annex C.

Direct School Admission-Junior College (DSA-JC) and Direct Polytechnic Admission (DPA) Exercise

The 21 institutions participating in the DSA-JC Exercise this year are listed in Annex D.

The DPA Exercise allows students who are interested in and have the aptitude for applied learning to seek admission to the polytechnics. The polytechnics will take into account students’ abilities, talents and interests in the specific courses that they have applied for. For example, a student’s passion and talent in digital media could be considered when he/she applies for a place in a Diploma in Digital Media Design through the DPA. All five polytechnics are participating in the DPA Exercise and they are listed in Annex E.

Successful applicants under the DSA-JC and DPA Exercises will be offered a place before taking their GCE O-Level examination. However, they must still meet the baseline GCE O-Level examination criteria for admission to their specific school or polytechnic. Details of the DSA-JC and DPA Exercises can be found in Annex F.

Students who have been successfully allocated a place via the DSA-JC Exercise or DPA Exercise will not be able to participate in the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) or the Joint Polytechnic Special Admissions Exercise (JPSAE). They will also not be allowed to transfer to another school or another course after the release of the GCE O-Level examination results. They are expected to honour the commitment to the respective schools or polytechnic courses.

Further Information

Students interested in participating in the DSA-Sec, DSA-JC or DPA Exercises should visit the websites of the participating institutions for more details. They are advised to do so before the start of the respective exercises.

Students can also visit the following MOE websites for information:

DSA-Sec Exercise website

http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/dsa-sec/

DSA-JC Exercise website

http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/dsa-jc/

DPA Exercise website

http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/dpa/

For any queries on the Direct Admission Exercise, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions online at:

DSA-Sec Exercise

http://ifaq.gov.sg/MOE/apps/fcdfaqmain.aspx#TOPIC8351

DSA-JC Exercise

http://ifaq.gov.sg/MOE/apps/fcdfaqmain.aspx#TOPIC8227

DPA Exercise

http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/admissions/dpa/faqs/

Footnote
  1. These include the Direct School Admission-Secondary (DSA-Sec) Exercise, Direct School Admission-Junior College (DSA-JC) Exercise and the Direct Polytechnic Admission (DPA) Exercise.
  2. ‘Distinctive programmes’ include the Applied Learning Programme (ALP) and Learning for Life Programme (LLP), which were announced at the MOE Workplan Seminar in September 2013.

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat at Playeum’s Gala Dinner Event

Play is very important to our growth, development, and well-being. Especially for younger children, in fact, we can see how children are very engaged in play. An engaged mind is really the first step to a motivated mind. When we are not engaged, we cannot be motivated to do what we want to do.

Outdoor and physical play has been found to have a great deal of benefit, in ways which science is just beginning to discover.

Play with other children helps young children develop their language abilities, and learn more about themselves and others. They learn to manage their own behaviour and emotions, and to develop empathy.

In some types of play, children become young explorers and experimenters, trying to figure out for themselves what they want to do and how they can do it. Pretend-play, for instance, which all of us indulge in with our kids, involves make-believe, and provides opportunities for children to develop their imagination. This process of open-ended exploration, experimentation and imagination helps children develop, without us knowing it, a core range of critical skills that are important in life, in their own growth and in the joy of being a child.

In this respect, I am very intrigued to learn that Playeum has an Advisory Board with members who are kids, the youngest being six years old and the oldest about twelve! I am looking forward to meeting them this evening. I believe they must be the youngest board advisors ever!

Every time I meet parents, they say that our schools are so stressful. Let me assure you that MOE is trying very hard to incorporate elements of play in the curriculum.

I mentioned how we started MOE Kindergartens. I visited them on quite a few occasions and I interacted with the kids. Our main way of helping them to learn is to learn through play. Even a simple game, like the tag game, helps them to learn motor skills such as running and sliding, in a game setting. At the same time, they learn how to work as a team and learn how to make friends.

Some parents say yes, that is good in the kindergarten but when you go to primary school, that’s when it becomes stressful. But we are bringing play into lower primary too. If your kids are in the lower primary, you know that we now have this Programme for Active Learning (PAL), where, through sports and games, and a whole range of activities, our children experience a range of very creative and fun ways to learn.

As our children get older, the form that play takes will be different. Through our whole range of CCA activities, in sports, in arts, in music or the uniformed groups, they learn in many interesting and diverse ways.

Many of you in this room who are of my age will remember our school days. My school was such a poor school and all that we had was one big field. But what is fascinating is what you can do with one big field and not even a ball.

What we did was divide ourselves into two groups of good cops and bad robbers and designed all sorts of rules to play ‘cop and robber’. We had great fun just running around the field. Some kids would save up enough money to buy a small little rubber ball. I find it amazing till today, how a small little rubber ball can provide such great amount of fun to so many kids. We had a whole class of thirty to forty kids chasing after one small rubber ball.

In my school, what we did was we started devising many different ways that we can use one small rubber ball to play with one another. A simple game involved throwing the ball as high as you could, but whoever caught it earned the right to ‘hantam’ somebody - to aim it at somebody.

Today’s parents would think that we were so cruel and that it was such a bad game. But I found that you actually learn a lot of things through that game. Nobody in my school ever got hurt being hit by a rubber ball. I got hit many times by boys many times my size. And I am still okay! It helped us developed courage, and we devised our own rules. Like, you cannot hit somebody if he is too near you. You don’t hit him at close range, you count to three, and you let him run as fast as he can. In that way, you learn how to be merciful as well. The games got more complicated as we got older.

My message is that actually, when we look back, what really matters and what we remember of school are moments like these that make us remember that school was enjoyable. I do believe that play has very important effects on us. For instance, for the first twelve years of my career, I was a cop. As a police officer, you have to be prepared that someone might hit you. Because I went through that game involving people hitting you hard with a ball, it made me feel a lot more confident that it’s alright.

I can understand why parents feel the need to send their children to enrichment class after enrichment class, and at a younger and younger age. But I encourage parents to remember that unstructured play provides valuable learning opportunities that cannot be gained any other way. Do provide for unstructured time in the day for children to play with others, rather than fill their days to the brim with structured activities. I urge parents too to spend some time to play with your children, so that you will get to know them and understand them as individuals.

While our children are playing, resist the urge to step in to tell them what to do. One of my colleagues at MOE, Mrs Jenny Yeo, is a retired principal with many years of experience. She writes articles for the MOE website Schoolbag.sg. In a recent article, she told a few stories about “saviour mums” and “saviour dads”, well-meaning parents who try to protect their children but inadvertently deprive their children of opportunities to learn by making decisions, making mistakes, and understanding the consequences. So, we should all resist the urge to be saviour mums and dads unless there is danger! Let our children benefit from play by sorting things out among themselves.

Finally, remember that play is important even for older children and adults. Some parents may appreciate the value of play when their children are very young, but think that, once school starts, play ends and children ought to study harder. This could not be further from the truth. Prime Minister just opened our fourth autonomous university SUTD. With technology and design, we hope to create a very different university education. Whether it’s in academic subjects or otherwise, I think that playful attitude is important in all our lives.

On that note, I hope that all of you have fun, both as parents and as individuals, and I hope that we have a playful evening. Let me congratulate Sumitra and Jennifer once again and I hope that you will have plenty of fun and play as you take Playeum forward. Congratulations!

Survey: Impact of So-Called 'High Stakes' Tests Actually Low - Education Week

A Hechinger Report examination found that, despite the controversy, few students or teachers will be much affected by the result of this spring’s common-core-aligned tests.
Topic: Teachers

Survey: Impact of So-Called 'High Stakes' Tests Actually Low - Education Week

A Hechinger Report examination found that, despite the controversy, few students or teachers will be much affected by the result of this spring’s common-core-aligned tests.
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