Saturday 19 May 2012

MOE to spend $650 million to upgrade 71 primary schools from November 2013

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 17 May 2012

These include Cedar Primary School, Hougang Primary School, Tao Nan School and Zhonghua Primary School.

Minister of State for Education, Lawrence Wong, made the announcement on Thursday.

It is in line with recommendations set out by the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee.

At Dazhong Primary School in Bukit Batok, students enjoy having lessons in their new Programme for Active Learning room.

As part of the upgrading under PERI, the school has also been provided with a playground area, dance and performing arts studios, an outdoor lab, and redesigned classrooms.

With plans to eventually upgrade all 180 primary schools, the Education Ministry said the facilities and programmes provided will enhance the quality of primary education.

Mr Wong said: "We have talked about making every school a good school. It has to be more than a slogan - it is a commitment to really improve not just the facilities and infrastructure, which we are doing, but also the resources, the teachers, to make sure that every school, wherever you are, can offer children a high-quality learning environment, a holistic education."

Dazhong Primary School is one of 78 primary schools selected in earlier phases in the PERI upgrading programme. So far, upgrading for three schools, including Dazhong Primary, has been completed. The Education Ministry said that it takes, on average, about two years for upgrading to be completed.

Redesigned classrooms, which incorporate wide spaces and special seating arrangements, have made a vast difference to teaching and learning capabilities.

This is especially the case for the school's Primary One and Two classrooms, where open shelving and station-based teaching enable teachers to focus on the different learning needs of their students.

Hannaria Srihanum Tumbuck, a teacher at Dazhong Primary School, said: "I do not have one lesson that is for everyone. It is easier because I help my advanced learners become stronger, and I help my weaker students bridge the gap. So it provides a level playing field for the low ability learners.

"In the previous school (design), where we had smaller classrooms, the children bumped into tables and chairs. We do a lot of interaction, and with the larger classrooms, and when they are seated in groups, it facilitates interaction. And the classroom has a lot of space for manipulatives to be on the sides of the classroom, and it encourages self-directed learning, because when students finish their work, they will automatically go to the sides of the classroom and occupy themselves.

"Students get bored both ways, when it is either too difficult, and they are not engaged, or if it is too easy. They become restless, and disrupt lessons. With these facilities, there are instruction materials at the side of the classroom, and all of them are engaged."

Barnabas Sng, a Primary Five student at Dazhong Primary School, said: "Our learning is more authentic. For example, in Science, instead of looking at pictures and videos of plants, we can go down to the garden and look at the picture plants and feel it.

"The new facilities are also good because there is a new playground that combines exercise and fun, and the exercise helps develop muscles, and it is fun because there are slides and rock-climbing."

Teachers at Dazhong said the new design and facilities have led to students becoming more motivated.

And with Primary One Registration exercise starting soon, the Education Ministry hopes parents will consider a broader range of options available, as more schools become better equipped with facilities and resources.

Mr Wong said: "Parents will (have) certain expectations and preferences for their child, that is inevitable. But I would encourage them to look more broadly, and have some assurance that whatever school that their children are going to, we are committed on MOE's part to make sure that their child will have a good quality education, like what you can see in this particular school.

"It is a very good example of the kind of education they can get, and the commitment that MOE can provide to their children - that they will have good teachers with them, and have access to good facilities and programmes."

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