Singapore’s education landscape has evolved enough to push for holistic development, such as through the introduction of Applied Learning Programmes, Learning for Life Programmes and the Joint Polytechnic Special Admission Exercise, which take into consideration non-academic attributes such as leadership skills, co-curricular activities (CCAs) involvement, and community involvement.
In the Ministry of Education’s addendum to the President’s Address, the ministers further voiced their beliefs in and objectives of strengthening the education network (“Schools to foster love for learning, reduce focus on exam results: MOE”; Jan 20).
But it is worth thinking about how strong the partnership in education currently is among teachers, students, parents, employers and communities.The Government can implement a raft of policies, but if stakeholders are not willing to hold the same beliefs and champion the same cause, it becomes a one-man show.
Indeed, mindsets need to change.
Teachers spend a lot of time with their students in school. In the classroom, teachers can play the role of supporter and advocate of non-academic pursuits such as the arts and sports by encouraging students to take part.
This can promote greater understanding and trust that all achievements will be recognised, academic or non-academic.
Parents often set expectations for their children, and these expectations should include excelling in CCAs and contributing to society, among other things. Do we want to pressure children to attain perfect scores but neglect their social skills and values?
Employers also need to be open to accepting non-graduates and taking into account their practical experience, soft skills and attitude.
After all, many of our successful business leaders or brilliant minds did not necessarily score straight As in school.
Only when synergy in mindset and behaviour is achieved across all these key stakeholders will our goal of holistic education be attained. Just like how choirs make good music only when all choristers are in harmony, students can be value creators only if they are well supported and guided.
If students can excel in both academic and non-academic areas, they will become well-rounded assets for Singapore.