Singapore is well-known for its education system, especially for Mathematics and Science. Nonetheless, you may have read about critics on lack of creativity at the same time.
During schooling, I memorized English words, Mathematics formula, etc. I thought that was normal. As a student, you do whatever the teacher tells you to do. The teachers nowadays have more tools to help them in teaching, but there is a troubling issue behind. Let’s look at three different aspects below:
1. Composition （作文）
In English language, we have a term called “creative writing”. But for Chinese language, my students have feedback to me that their teachers (from different schools) have a favour towards “happy ending”. If you have a sad ending for your composition, too bad, no matter how well you write, you will not score high.
I always encourage my students to let their imagination runs wild. The students nowadays are exposed to worldwide news and information, why limit their imagination to only “good things”? Writing a composition with a happy ending may help to cultivate an optimistic environment. Nonetheless, when the students grow up, they will find out that this world is realistic, not everything will end happily.
2. Oral （口试）
For Primary school oral, the student is given a picture and he / she needs to say what is in the picture, where is the place and describe the people inside the picture. There is a template, it is good to help the weaker students to memorize and excel in oral. But the whole Singapore is using the same template! Okay, saying the whole Singapore is exaggerating, but different students from different schools have shown me the same template.
If the limitation in composition writing is to cultivate an optimistic environment, what about oral? What type of adults are you looking for? A batch of like-minded students?
3. Mathematics （数学）
I love Mathematics because it is fun. But many students face a problem: The school Mathematics teacher teaches you method A and all other methods are not allowed. This may confuse the students when other methods are introduced to them. Because of limitation on the use of certain method, the “stubborn” student may face problem when they see a different type of question.
To solve a Mathematics problem, the most important part is to understand the question, not to draw a beautiful model. Maybe the emphasis on the model method has been misunderstood by students. Two of my students from different schools, again, can draw beautiful model according to what the teachers have taught. The problem is, they do not understand the question and ask me how to solve. What is the point of drawing a model when you cannot solve the problem?
Furthermore, a different method is helpful in checking the answer. I believe the method introduced at the school is suitable for most students from proven record of the best Mathematics teaching. The question to ask is, how about the minor group who cannot grasp the idea? Shouldn’t the teacher allow some flexibility?
The post is written based on my experience with my students, not from a single student, but from different students from different schools. I am not sure how many people out there realize the underlying problem. I will follow the school template, while at the same time, encourage my students to have some creativity whenever it is possible.