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Free Learning 2

Last week I recommend Duolingo for learning a new language. What if you not only want to learn languages? There is a website for you to take free courses from the world’s best universities.

Let me introduce: edX. It is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider. There are different courses to choose from. Either you want to upgrade yourself for work advancement or for personal satisfaction, explore the courses offered. You might find one or two courses that interest you.

Similarly to Duolingo, edX also has an application version that you can download from your smart phone. But I prefer the website version on a laptop as the courses are taught in videos. Watching the videos from the laptop is much easier than watching them on the tiny screen of smart phone.

If you are looking for work advancement and would like a certificate of achievement, feel free to upgrade at a cost.

Thus far, I have taken two courses and am quite satisfied. The third course is on the way. As the courses offered are for university level, the depth that they cover might be difficult for some people. Do read the reviews and course details before you enrol for the course.

The website is https://www.edx.org/

 

* * ### Thanks for reading! ### * *

She Made a Decision

I can still remember the reactions of my classmates when I told them I am going to complete my test quickly and go to meet my idol. I was in my early 20s, when meeting my idol was more important than my university test. Anyway, I did complete the test, I just left early. Also, I made sure that I did well in other assignments and final examination so that the final mark of the subject was not affected badly.

That was the decision I made. After so many years, no one remember which subject or what mark did I get. But I remember the experience of the long queue and the warm smile from my idol.

Thus, when my student told me, she “sacrificed” the Chinese language CA2 examination to try to complete for an arts project that she cares a lot; I was not shocked at all.

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Will you scold your child for getting this result?

Nonetheless, I would like her to understand some important points in making a decision:

1. One must be ready to take the consequences

She failed her Chinese language CA2 examination. Even if she got 100 marks for her Chinese language SA2 examination, she would still need to face the music as overall she still fails the subject.

2. One must consider the priority

Her other classmates were focusing on the examination rather than the arts project. Different people have different priorities. I will not say that she made a wrong decision, but I want her to consider the following:

(a) What is the percentage of the marks of the arts project go to the final mark of the subject?

(b) Likewise, what is the percentage of the marks of the Chinese language SA2 examination go to the final mark of the subject?

(c) Which subject do you put in more effort? The one that you are weak at or the one that you are good at?

The answers are obvious. We put in priority for higher percentage of the marks that go to the final mark of the subject and put in more effort in the subject that we are weak at. You may have different point of view, which leads us to the third point.

3. Worth it?

In the end, she failed her Chinese language CA2 examination and did not complete the arts project. Also, the arts teacher has decided to extend the due date to one month later. What has she gained?

For my case, I gained the experience that I cherish for the rest of my life, it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I won’t regret it and I can show my children and grandchildren of my idol’s signature. Most important of all, I did not fail the subject.

For her case, I do think that it is too big a sacrifice. Things have happened, I hope she learn from this incident and make better decision next time.

Creativity for Sales

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?

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Sales!

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.

Learning Attitude

No matter how old you are, you are always learning. When we are babies, we learn to crawl, walk and run. At school, we learn all the subjects taught by the teachers. At work, we learn to do our jobs better. Even when we are retired, we learn how to use our time wisely.

Thus, the learning attitude is important for you to learn effectively. Below are the learning attitudes that help you to reach a new height:

  1. Start from zero — Whatever you learn, keep an open mind. You know how to ride a bicycle, but when you learn how to drive a car, do not assume that the bicycle and the car are “the same”. Start from zero is easier because you assume nothing.
  2. Positive thinking — Why do we need positive thinking? Positive thinking keeps you motivated, you believe that you will eventually learn and learn well.
  3. Can-do attitude — Other than positive thinking, we need the can-do attitude. Yes, I can do it!
  4. Find the root cause of the problem and correct it — Along the way, we face obstacles. Why I can’t just learn how to dance? Is it because I do not how to count beat? Is it because I am not interested in slow dance? When you have found the root cause, correct it and keep going.
  5. Understand — Understand the concepts, understand that things need time, understand what motivates you, understand that you are who you are, understand …
  6. Implement / Practice — Practice makes perfect. When you have learnt a language, you will soon forget about it if you do not use it in daily lives.
  7. Enjoy — Enjoy the journey. Learning journey is fun and exciting.

Have a positive learning attitude and you will be a better person.

A Story After PSLE 2013

Now that PSLE is over, what is the first thing that you, the P6 students, want to do? What is your next plan?

For some students, the first thing that they want to do is to take out the calculator and calculate what is the T-score that they can get. They are sad if the score is under their expectation, even by one mark.

Stop right there!

The T-score that you calculate is only an estimated mark. It is highly dependent on overall P6 students’ performance for the year. Thus, keep the calculator, relax, and read the story below. The story is on parenting, but it gives you a thought on why you should keep the calculator now.

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A boy got 0 marks in the exam. He took the exam paper back to his mum and asked for signature. The exam paper was empty with only the boy’s name on top of the first page. The mum, though shocked by the result, asked whether the boy understood the questions.

The boy said he understood the questions and he would be able to answer all the questions. But, during the exam, the teacher said if they handed in the exam paper, they were allowed to play at the school field. It was a fine day during the exam and the boy did not want to waste the time on answering exam questions. So, he wrote his name on the top of the first page of the exam paper, handed in the exam paper to the teacher and went to play at the school field.

The mum did not ask further questions. She smiled and happily signed the exam paper.

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I do not remember whether it is a true story. If you are a parent, you would say: What was the boy trying to do?! Was the mum out of her mind? She did not even scold the boy for playing instead of answering the exam questions.

Isn’t it obvious that the reason for not answering the exam questions is to play on a fine day? So, there is no need for scolding or beating.

On the other hand, if you are a student, you would say: I wish I have a mum like the boy’s mum.

The mum is smart. What is the main purpose of having an exam? It is to test whether the children understand the concepts and knowledge taught. Thus, the mum only asked one question. As long as the child understands the concepts and knowledge taught, why not let him enjoy himself on a fine day?

It really takes a lot of courage to let your child do such a thing. Moral of the story: The marks are only a value. What is the most important thing is to understand the concepts and gain knowledge, and able to apply the knowledge in life. The PSLE T-score is important, but it is not the ultimate goal in life. You have a long way to go, by the time you are 50 years old, PSLE will not be one of the most memorable events in your life.

There are (less than) three months before you start your secondary school. So, keep the calculator, relax, and plan your next move. Where do you want to go for holidays? How do you want to prepare yourself for secondary school? Is there any interesting thing that you would like to do, but put off because of PSLE? PSLE is over, do it now!

Please Respect the Books

A 7-year-old boy threw his elder brother’s book on the floor. I told him he not to throw any books on the floor, even if the book is not his. I told him to respect the book.

“But the book is not a person,” he protested.

I did not have a chance to explain to him why even though a book is not a person, we should still respect the book, because his mum came out from the room to make sure he picked the book up.

I grow up believing that books should be respected so that what you learn from the books can be remembered in the brain. Yes, a book is not a person. But, books contain knowledge. Along the way of gaining knowledge, books are the important bridge between you and knowledge.

If you do not respect books, it means you do not respect the knowledge in the books. For me, not respecting the knowledge is a disaster, it sounds like I would be dumb. Who would want to be dumb?

I do not throw books onto the floor; I also do not throw books into the recycle bin. I have lots of books. There was one time when my mum wanted me to “recycle” my books (which means the books will be treated as normal paper and recycled into other paper products). No! I rather give them to the library. At least, the knowledge is not “destroyed”.

You may say that I am old-fashioned, but I would like to repeat, respect the books, please.

Singapore Education System

If you have been reading my posts, you see that I use general terms such as children or write how old the child is. Every country has its own education system. Thus, using general terms is easily understood by most people. If you would like to know what K2, P1 or Sec 1 means in Singapore, below is the table to show the education system in general*:

Stage Sub-categories Typical Age Short Form Used
Pre-school Playgroup age varies  
Nursery 3 — 4 N1, N2
Kindergarten 5 — 6 K1, K2
Primary   7 — 12 P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6
Secondary Lower Secondary 13 — 14 Sec 1, Sec 2
Upper Secondary 15 — 17 Sec 3, Sec 4, Sec 5
Post-Secondary / Pre-University   age varies JC, poly, ITE (depending on which institution you are in)
University   age varies

* Note: I do not have children (as of now). The above table is made based on my personal understanding. If there is any deviation from the current system, please feel free to update me. Thanks.