The simple reason why children hate reading is usually because they are weak at reading.
Children are just like us – we tend to avoid tasks that we are weak in. For example, if we find exercising a chore, it is usually because we are unfit in the first place. Conversely, people tend to do what they do best. For example, when people choose what courses to enrol in for higher education, they tend to choose the subjects they scored the highest grade in.
Unlike my time, students nowadays have two clear advantages – they know their PSLE grades and secondary schools also publish their historical cut-off mark. At least students know if they have a chance of getting accepted.
I remember when I had to choose my secondary school more than 20 years ago. I did not know the cut-off point of the schools I selected before I submitted the form. In fact, I believe I did not even know my score. In addition, my school teachers were also not very helpful in guiding me. All I remember was that since I studied in a primary school that was affiliated with a secondary school, I put it as the first choice. I had absolutely no idea if I was able to get in. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was successful.
In RG Channel Future School, we believe that curriculum should be practical and systematic.
What do we mean by being practical? Being practical means using strategies and tools that are designed to be effective and efficient in real life. Seeing a student’s English results improve gives us both joy and pride. Being systematic means that we believe that there is a framework that guides us to progressively scaffold our children so that they develop. And that is where our CAL2 system comes in.
The MOE Workplan Seminar 2013 just ended a week ago. Some interesting new programmes were announced. Let us do a quick recap of the initiatives announced.
Applied Learning Programme
The Applied Learning Programme connects academic knowledge and skills with real-world thinking skills. It spans many different disciplines, and stretches the imagination of the student in applying knowledge in authentic settings.
Learning for Life Programme
The Learning for Life programme is designed to give students with real-life experiential learning to develop their character, values, and people skills. According to MOE, this will be the approach of Character and Citizenship Education (CCE).
Integrated Online Learning Space
An online resource library will be made available for both teachers and students. This library will consist of materials specially chosen by experienced educators. The student can refer to the library to understand concepts they did not understand in school. The teacher can also use this as an additional way to teach the students.
Student development teams
Student development teams will be formed in schools to better oversee and support students’ learning and character development. Year Heads will be appointed to oversee the Form Teachers, and together, they will plan, monitor and assess the effectiveness of the various programmes in schools.
Overall, MOE has launched quite a few interesting programmes. What we like was their attempt to put in real-world learning into schools. As Minister for Education, Heng Swee Keat emphasised, the 21st century environment will be ‘volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigious (VUCA)’. This is precisely what RG Channel Future School is all about. We have always tried to teach English in a way that relates and will help students in the future. An example of this is our Problem-Based Strategic Thinking Concepts programme.
The online learning space is also something that we have already implemented in our school. All our students are able to see the resources that we teach in school, as well as other supplementary reading material. We are sure MOE’s online resource library will prove to be as useful to students as ours have been to our own students.
The Strategic Thinking workshop equips today’s young people with both the vision and skills needed to anticipate, comprehend and solve the problems of today and to build better tomorrows.
Why did we design this course?
This course came about as a result wanting to create a programme that helps students to learn critical and creative thinking, problem solving and decision making.
We wanted a ‘real-world solution’, one that students might be able to benefit when they reach tertiary education or when they are working. Using my experience when I was working in the ministries as well as my partner’s experience as a consultant, we developed a programme that merged Problem-based Learning and scenario planning into what we call the Problem Based Strategic Thinking Concepts programme.
The goals of this programme is
enhance the development of student leadership skills. At the same time, the programme is designed to improve the cognitive level of its participants through scaffolded but rigorous activities.
think more strategically by becoming involved in activities to increase the flexibility, fluency, originality and elaboration of their thinking;
develop research skills needed for the collection of data;
relate effectively with others as members of a small, cohesive team; and
improve oral and written communication skills for the better understanding of their ideas by others.
One feature that we always have in our programmes is the development of cognitive rigour. We believe that it is really important for our students to be challenged and stretched because that really engages and develops them. Our programme has a six step problem solving model that progressively challenges the student as it gives the them increasing complex tasks.
The six steps and cognitive rigour is summarised in the table below:
1. Identify Challenges
Understand 2: Understand and explain concepts and challenges.
2. Select an Underlying Problem
Analyse 2: Deconstruct and select relevant problem.
3. Produce Solution Ideas
Create 2: Generate hypothesis based on prior knowledge.
4. Generate and Select Criteria
Analyse 3: Analyse and use understanding of information to create criteria.
5. Apply Criteria to Solution Ideas
Evaluate 3: Compare and contrast solutions and justify choice.
6. Develop an Action Plan
Create 3: Synthesis information and develop alternate solutions.
Our CAL2 methodology is based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. We believe that the success of a student’s learning is reflective of the quality of the teacher, as well as a effective teaching pedagogy and that’s why we use it. Interestingly, the Dean of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore mentions that Duke-NUS uses Bloom’s Taxonomy in their teaching as well. Read More…