Saturday 8 June 2013

Most education systems have 'some form of assessment': Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at Pre-University Seminar 2013

Not anything that seems boring is not worthy of learning: Heng Swee Keat
By Stacey Chia, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2013

MOST education systems have some form of assessment, including the much-touted Nordic model, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

He was responding to a question from a student at a seminar, who asked whether exams such as the A levels hinder creativity and passion for learning.

"In fact, we don't really study, Sir, we mug," said Jurong Junior College student Tay Yu Xuan, 16, whose statement provoked huge cheers from the crowd.

Mr Heng replied that Finland, for instance, has a high school examination at the end of 12 years, and every university has its own entrance exam.

"We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that anything that seems rigorous, seems boring is, therefore, not worthy of learning."

The minister was speaking to 540 students from junior colleges, polytechnics and the Millennia Institute at the closing ceremony of the annual Pre-University Seminar held at the National University of Singapore.

He also took questions ranging from the Media Development Authority licensing scheme for news websites, to university admission, to whether Special Assistance Plan schools, which tend to have a predominantly Chinese student population, increase segregation.

Singapore's system is not perfect, said Mr Heng, but he urged students to "stand back and have some perspective".

In his closing speech, he said that a very important part of the current national conversation is to share perspectives, which is why students have been put into various groups to discuss solutions to challenges that Singapore may face in 2030.

Over the last four days, they have discussed issues such as redefining success and how to create an inclusive society, a process that culminated in an exhibition.

Their ideas were presented to Mr Heng and two members of the Our Singapore Conversation committee, lawyer Chia Yong Yong and Mr Benett Theseira, managing director of Pramerica Real Estate Investors (Asia).

"My perspective may not always be the right perspective and there are other perspectives that I also need to consider," said the minister.

He added that it is important for students to come together to talk about their aspirations and the kind of Singapore that they want to see when they are in their mid-30s.

"When we think about Our Singapore Conversation, Singapore 2030, it is not an abstract notion. It is about all of us coming together," said Mr Heng.

Estelle Tai, 17, from River Valley High School, said she agreed with looking at issues from various perspectives. "Good policy making needs to take into account the needs of various interest groups."

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