Posted by: Principal/Editor | October 29, 2013

Impact of changes in key Education policies on Community organisations

In the past one year or so, we have observed the introduction of several new and revised education policies. Policies such as every school is a good school, applied and lifelong programmes in every secondary school, normal stream students can take subjects at express streams, integrated online learning spaces, holistic development programmes, expanded Direct School Admission (DSA) criteria for Secondary One admission, new Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergarten framework, MOE run kindergartens (KGs) and most recently MOE’s stand that tuition is not necessary and the review of policy allowing teachers to give private tuition, just to name a few. National Institute of Education has also announced that it will undertake three research studies to study the impact of tuition.

These policies will also not only affect the direct stakeholders – the students, school leaders and teachers, but also parents, community partners and private education industry just to name a few. In particular, these shifts in policies or implementation of new policies will certainly have an impact on the programmes run by Community organisations, in particular the Self Help Groups (SHGs).

SHGs and community organisations run academic programmes that are targeted at underperforming students typically from low or middle income families. These programmes are highly subsidized. Three policies introduced by MOE recently will impact programmes run by SHGs and community organisations.

The first is the introduction of MOE run KGs and the new Kindergarten Framework. This is indeed great news for Community organisations whose main objectives are to help the lower income families and underperforming students. With the allocation of places for low income students in the MOE run KGs, our low income students will get a strong head start in Preschool Education. Standardizing the Kindergarten framework will also mean students attending any KG will get the right preschool education and have the necessary foundations before embarking on a Primary school education. There are many children who are already disadvantaged when they enter Primary One currently. With a strong and quality preschool education, in years to come there will be lesser students channelled to the Learning Support Programme (LSP), Learning Support Maths (LSM) and Foundation stream.

The second key policy change that will have an impact on Community organisations will be the expansion of LSP and LSM programme to Primary Six and programmes for low progress learners. Again, MOE taking the lead to help these students building strong foundations for Literacy and Numeracy is welcomed by the SHGs. With MOE and schools introducing more programmes and strengthening its focus on this cohort of pupils, again there will be an impact on the current programmes run by Community organisations.

The third change that will impact Community organisations is the review of the policy of allowing teachers to give tuition up to six hours. If the policy is revised and now does not allow teachers to give tuition, then the tuition industry will be severely affected. The community tuition programmes will also suffer. Our programmes depend on qualified current teachers to help the students who are already not doing well and require all the necessary support. Community organisations will also end up having to spend more in terms of training and resources if they are to place non trained tutors into their programme. One can argue that community tuition programmes are not necessary if the schools are able to support the low progress learners. However, there are advantages to having community-run programmes; the small class size, the use of different techniques, the different class environment, and the pastoral support from teachers are unique elements of the programmes run by community organisations which makes them so successful.

Community organisations have to make sense of these policies and to understand how it can complement these policies. Community programmes will have to be modified or discontinued to complement the new policies. Community organisations’ roles could also change. e.g. with places allocated for low income families in MOE run KGs, community organisations should engage the community actively to ensure low income families are aware of this scheme and enrol their children in these KGs. While the community organisations review its programmes, there are new areas of focus for the community organisations that are emerging as a result of the changes and new policies introduced. Instead of running its programmes, community organisations can spend their resources on engaging parents and increasing the awareness of the changes in the policies and especially how parents can play their role and take advantages of the various schemes and programmes rolled out for their children. Very often we come across parents who are not aware of the many subsidies and schemes available to them. Community organisations can also play a role in advocating for groups of families that may fall through the cracks or identify a gap that needs to be looked into.

In today’s context, Education is so interconnected with so many stakeholders and so many differing expectations that it is important to obtain the views from every stakeholder and to assess the impact to the policy. There are many avenues to gather inputs, feedback and alternative suggestions; e.g from our Singapore conversation, focus group discussions, popular social media platforms, surveys etc. It is heartening to see the review of the education policies was also due to the various feedback and inputs MOE has received in the past few years.

All these new policies announced in the past few years have implications to how students learn, how students are assessed, how teachers teach and to how school leaders provide the leadership. Thus the communication of the policies and measuring the impact of the policies are critical. There are also challenges in ensuring that policies are understood in the same manner by all. What will be interesting is to see how these policies will be measured to understand its impact and how the corrective actions will be incorporated. Stakeholders must also be patient to see the policies through. The policies will only be successful if all stakeholders; parents school leaders, teachers, community organizations understand the objective of the policies, the role they can play, and the constant communication if the policies are producing the desired outcomes.

Posted by Rosan

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Responses

  1. With regard to MOE’s stand on tuition, I agree that tuition is not necessary as long as the students make full use of their school lessons during curriculum time and conscientiously complete their homework assignments. Often, students are bogged down with their packed tuition schedules, so much so that school lessons and school work take a second place and they are too tired to pay attention during school time. This becomes a vicious cycle and perpetuates the myth that tuition is the way to go. I applaud parents who have taken the bold step to remove tuition, after seeing how confused, stressed up and tired their children were, and instead worked closely with the school teachers to guide their children. The results were rewarding as the students could focus more and the school teachers had given them the confidence. Perhaps, the real objective of tuition for most students is not really to address their learning gaps, but rather to give both parents and students a greater sense of confidence and security. School teachers must really communicate and work closely with parents for the trust to be established.

    For students who come from really low-income families, there is a greater need for tuition not because these students have a poorer subject foundation but rather their family situations usually are not conducive enough for them to revise school work or complete their work at home. I personally feel that there is no need to have qualified teachers to guide them. Rather, they just need mentors and coaches to support and engage them after school so that they do not lose out to other students who have a more conducive home environment to practise what they have learnt in school and to complete home assignments.


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