Saturday 26 May 2012

New-look schools: Ministry of Education upgrading infrastructure of primary schools

School gets spruced-up facilities
Guangyang Primary pupils enjoy new theatrette, science and herb garden
By Kezia Toh, The Straits Times, 24 May 2012

GUANGYANG Primary School has been at its Bishan location for nearly 20 years - not that anyone can tell by looking at it today.

The school, which moved from Yio Chu Kang to Bishan in 1993, is not only freshly painted, but has a suite of new facilities, including an outdoor science and herb garden and a theatrette for about 100 pupils that opens up into a performing arts area.

Guangyang was renovated in 2010 under an Education Ministry (MOE) initiative that helps primary schools upgrade their facilities to include those that promote skills and values - such as for music and drama lessons.

Since the scheme was launched in 2009, 78 primary schools have been slated for upgrading and 11 new schools built.

Last week, MOE said that from November next year, another 71 schools will be given a makeover at a cost of $650 million.

It is the largest batch of schools to come under the scheme so far.

Guangyang's new facilities are part of MOE's vision to achieve a balance between learning knowledge and developing skills and values, said an MOE spokesman.

'A higher degree of flexibility in facilities will enable schools to better build up their niche areas and customise programmes to meet the varied needs of students,' the spokesman added.

Under the scheme, schools will have facilities to support different teaching methods, such as fitness playgrounds.

But schools may also request facilities that help them build up niche areas.

At Guangyang Primary, for example, an emphasis on playing handbells - the school bagged the gold with honours award at the Singapore Youth Festival this year - led to a request for a dedicated soundproof studio for handbell practice, said vice-principal Tan Siew Leng.

Mrs Sharon Ng, subject head for music and aesthetics, said: 'The children are now able to hear the notes more accurately with no echoes, and can evaluate their own playing and that of their classmates.'

Self-evaluation also takes place during speech and drama lessons in the school's performing arts studio, located in the basement of its two-storey library.

During classes, pupils perform skits and give speeches in front of a camera, and footage is then replayed to get feedback.

This way, the children can evaluate each other's body language and articulation skills, said Mrs Hema Ramasamy, who teaches the speech and drama module.

Another feature is an outdoor science and herb garden that comes with a clear-glass aquarium, so pupils can peek at tropical fish and aquatic plants.

It is an eye-opener for Primary 6 pupil Elizabeth Tan, who hopes to observe water plants such as duckweeds and water lilies.

'While we used to just have science apparatus to work with, learning science now is more open because we get to come in to the garden freely and observe living things,' said the 12-year-old.

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