Niche programmes in schools to be expanded

SINGAPORE: All secondary schools will develop two distinctive programmes by 2017 with the aim to help students connect academic knowledge to the real world and to develop their identity and values.

At the Education Ministry’s annual Work Plan Seminar, Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Applied Learning programme and Learning for Life programme will eventually make each secondary school distinctive.

Mr Heng said: “With each secondary school having a signature Learning for Life programme and an Applied Learning programme to complement its strong core of academic and student development programmes, every secondary school can provide for our students an education that is broad and deep and that prepares them for life. Every school will be distinctive.”

This is part of the Education Ministry’s vision to deliver a student-centric, values-driven education.

From journalism to business to beatboxing, all secondary school students will get to take part in at least two such programmes by 2017.

Mr Heng said: “First, they will be for every student. Second, they will involve partners who will bring expertise and real world issues for students to grapple with. Third, the areas may transcend subject boundaries.”

And to do so, schools will either build on current niche programmes or develop new ones.

The Applied Learning programme will connect academic subjects to real-life applications.

One example is the robotics niche at Hai Sing Catholic School, which the school will extend to all Secondary 2 students in 2014.

It is planning to use programming and robotics to strengthen the student’s understanding of mathematics and science.

The Learning for Life programme is aimed at developing students’ identity and values through activities such as arts, sports and outdoor adventures.

In another effort to provide a more coherent educational experience for students, each school will now have a Year Head from Primary 1 to Secondary 4 or 5.

For example, the Year Head of Secondary 1 would oversee the transition of students from primary school.

These changes could eventually point to a different way of posting students to secondary school, especially since the government intends to remove the aggregate score for the Primary School Leaving Examination.

Mr Heng said: “Any change will need to be carefully considered and communicated. We will therefore allow enough time, over a few years, for our stakeholders to get used to the changes in our education system and the direction that we’re moving towards.”

At the annual work plan seminar, Mr Heng outlined his vision for the first 10 years of basic education.

He illustrated this in terms of breadth, depth and length, which means giving students a broad education with multiple pathways, and one with deep values and a deep foundation for their lifelong journeys.