Sunday 16 December 2012

8,000 students to get Edusave Character Awards

By Kezia Toh, The Straits Times, 15 Dec 2012

STUDENTS who have demonstrated exemplary values and civic responsibility will be awarded a new honour from tomorrow.

Some 8,000 will become the first batch to receive the Edusave Character Award, which comes with a cash sum of between $200 and $500.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook post last night that over the next few months, about 150,000 Edusave awards would be handed out at community ceremonies, rather than schools, to "clearly signal that excellence in all domains is valued by the community".

He added: "Partnerships with the community are important as they allow our students to access resources, expertise and opportunities in the community, which can significantly enhance learning in our schools. They could also complement learning at home, thus achieving a more holistic education for the child."

The Edusave Character Award was launched earlier this year to recognise students who have set an example through their behaviour and actions.

Teachers nominate students for the yearly award. But it prompted concerns that the cash award, which is supposed to encourage people to demonstrate good values, may backfire and promote materialism instead.

Mr Heng defended the move yesterday saying that the award celebrates students with "exemplary character and outstanding personal qualities".

This includes those who have persevered despite facing difficult circumstances, overcoming the odds to do commendably well. He wrote: "The changes we have made to the Edusave Awards are in line with the increased emphasis on ensuring a holistic education for our children, so as to better prepare them for the future."

Rewarded for good values, not grades
First batch of students receive new Character Award
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 17 Dec 2012

NUR SHAFIQAH Saharudin, 11, frequently helps tutor her classmates in subjects they are weak in, and also makes coffee for her elder brother at night to help him study.

"From their faces, I know they're finding it a bit difficult, so I help teach them," said the Eunos Primary pupil, whose friends call her Iqah.

"I feel happy when I manage to help someone."

Her mother, housewife Salimah Said, 46, told The Straits Times that she helps mop and sweep their two-room rental flat in Eunos without being asked.

Shafiqah was one of more than 50 students at the ceremony for the inaugural Edusave Character Awards at the Geylang Serai Community Club yesterday.

Bursary awards were also given out at the ceremony.

The awards are in line with the move towards a more values-based education here, said MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef, who presented the students with their awards.

"It is not just in the academic domain that we're recognising our students, but also in non-academic fields," said Associate Professor Fatimah.

"This will help us to recognise our children's strengths and talents, and nurture them."

Other students were given awards based on cleaning classrooms, starting study groups and organising morning jogs.

In total, 8,000 students will receive the new award in several ceremonies over the next few weeks.

The Character Award, given to nurture students with good values, divided observers when it was first announced in March this year by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

It stemmed from his decision to place more weight on the softer aspects of education since he took over the portfolio after last year's general election. The move also came amid other changes he instituted, such as a new character and citizenship syllabus.

While some welcomed the changes to the Edusave award - which for years has been presented to those who achieve good academic results - others questioned whether rewarding good character with cash would send the wrong message that students should do good deeds only for rewards.

Recipients were nominated by their schools and will receive between $200 and $500 each, depending on their level of education.

Unlike previous years, ceremonies will be held in community centres rather than schools, said Mr Heng in a Facebook post last Friday.

This was both to signal that the community valued both academic and non-academic excellence, and also to let the community appreciate the importance of a holistic education for children, he said.

Those who do well academically will still get Edusave awards.

Around 150,000 students will get awards in categories such as the Eagles award for good leadership and service.

Another Character Award recipient was Primary 3 pupil Teo Wei Ren, who said that he helps keep worksheets for his absent classmates.

His father, 42-year-old delivery driver Teo King Soon, told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "He helps his mother to carry her groceries when she goes to the market.

"He's energetic, and has a good heart."

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