Thursday, May 26, 2011
Questions For The Education Minister
In last year's Chemistry paper for the A levels, there was one question that was out of syllabus. However, one school did provide the required text material for its own students, and the raw score was adjusted upwards for the whole 2010 batch of students to address the anomaly. Some "B" grade students happily earned an "A" score, thanks to the "upgrading" exercise. Not all "A"s are created equal.
The incongruity happened because, for reasons best known to the Mandarins at MOE, junior colleges do not use textbooks. Instead, teachers produce notes which are culled from the recommended textbooks included in MOE's official syllabus for each subject. Although the same list of recommended books are used by the teachers to prepare the study notes, the students end up with study material content that depend on the varying industry and competence of the relevant subject teachers. Teachers are not textbook writers. Despite the differing sets of input material, all students sit for a common test paper to evaluate their scholastic output.
One teacher acknowledged and recognised the inequality of the system, but could offer no explanation. She had her own frustrations with the top-down dictates from MOE. "Do you know we are not supposed to teach Kirchhoff's Law?" she volunteered, referring to the most fundamental and important rules in electronics. If Mr Kirchhoff fell out of favour with the powers that be, perhaps one day Issac Newton will also face the same fate. Maybe our schools will soon explain away all physical phenomena as acts of god. That would be so convenient for the Minister for Floods.
Although better recognised for his experience at MAS, Heng was supposed to have spent time at the Education Ministry, the esteemed halls of which have been paced by many high flying scholars. Time will tell if he is the right man for the job. One thing's for sure, it has to be better than tasking Tharman Shanmugaratnam to spearhead the learning of Mandarin, as he was once assigned.