Posted by: Principal/Editor | October 30, 2013

Critique of Compulsory Core Curriculum Activities (CCA) Policy in Secondary Schools

Background

CCAs are an integral part of our students’ holistic, well-rounded education. They help nurture in students qualities such as resilience, tenacity, confidence and perseverance, which prepare them to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
MOE mandates that every secondary school student must have a CCA. Each student will be graded on a Leadership, Enrichment, Achievement, Participation and Service or a LEAPS system for 4-5 years Through CCA, students will be meaningfully occupied after school and they can learn new skills, knowledge and values out of their daily academic lessons.

Implementation

Teachers are given tasks to handle a CCA for them to develop their students with the 21st century competencies. Other than the administrative requirements, they shoulder the responsibility of the safety and, learning of students as well as arriving at achievements relevant to the CCA. A high performing CCA may receive more funds for use in their programmes or for use in employing coaches. CCA is given on top of a teacher’s regular teaching loads. Teachers take turn to be present at their CCA sessions.

Latest Development

In 2012, the Singapore Minister of Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat announced at the Annual Workplan Seminar the removal of the highest tiered award, the School Excellence Award (SEA), and the lowest tiered Achievement Awards (AA), and Sustained Achievement Awards (SAA). This symbolises that schools should not merely chase for achievements. Instead the focus should be providing students with student-centric, values-driven education, operating under the philosophy that every school is a good school.

Discussion

1) Why Compulsory?

Students have vast talents and interests and schools cannot offer everything. As such sometimes the school is unable to offer the CCAs that the students are passionate in. This results in students skipping their CCA thus leading to teachers having to chase for attendance. Some students opt to participate in external club training. However such activities will not be recognized unless it’s at a national level. Students are still required to participate in a school organized CCA. This greatly impacts on students’ pursuit of excellence and taxing them out to the maximum and affecting their enthusiasm to participate.

If students are viewed as young adults who should be able to manage themselves, the system should have faith that students would pursue their own interests after school. It could be in the form of external club training, enrichment classes or volunteering their time in various civic activities.

Recommendation: CCAs should be made available to students who wish to participate in it and not forced to. Teachers should sign up for what they are passionate in instead of being assigned to handle CCAs.. This will then create more buy-in and the respective CCAs may be developed to greater heights.

2) Are we really preparing them for the rapidly changing world?

Students are currently very Information Technology (IT) savvy yet our current CCA programmes have not moved to that level. We are still expecting the students to be passionate in drills, repeated training or practices. Have we forgotten to take into consideration what the world is like out there? Currently CCAs are spilt into Uniformed Groups, Performing Arts, Clubs & Societies and Sports and Games. We may explain that repeated drills or training help to establish resilience and perseverance. But the anecdotal feel on the ground is this policy is “forcing” the young ones to be like those young once just like how the current school system is still like. Rules like four hours of training, twice or thrice a week will just limit the creativity and flexibility of CCAs. It is time to relook at how CCAs are done and keep up to the demands of the world.
Recommendation: CCAs should go through an annual review to determine the relevance to the rapidly changing world outside. MOE Headquarters (MOE HQ) need to give more autonomy to the schools to come up with more interesting and relevant CCAs to better meet the aims of student centric and values- driven education.

3) Accountability?

CCA Teachers are held accountable for the attendance of the students. Expectations are set during meeting with their Reporting Officer. Statements like your CCA should aim to qualify for National Champions can still be heard on the ground. CCAs should be focusing on positive student experience and developing 21st centuries competencies. CCA teachers should channel their attention and effort in designing appropriate curriculum to deliver these outcomes instead of spending the time to call up students who are absent. Definitely, the extent of CCA truancy may differ from school to school. However, MOE HQ is the crucial factor in determining the direction schools are taking.

Recommendation: Student s should be held responsible for their attendance in CCA. In the event students wilfully absent themselves, it would then affect their own CCA grade. Teachers should do the due diligence in partnering with the parents. However, truancy should not be a measure for CCA teachers’ performance and brought up during the annual ranking exercise for teachers. Instead CCA teachers should be assessed on how their CCAs manage to accomplish student centric and values driven goals.

4) Why only Secondary School?

Parents have questioned why CCAs in secondary school are compulsory while they are not in Primary or Tertiary Education. Even though it is important to keep the secondary students engaged in school and away from the streets, secondary school should not be treated as an after school care provider. Some parents do not see the need for their children to be in any CCAs as they have designed their own after school curriculum for their children. This may be in the form of different enrichment courses or spending time with their children to inculcate values. Many have raised concerns that their children spend too much time in school and they do not get to spend time with their children.

Recommendation: There should be a conversation done among the key policy actors who are MOE, schools, teachers, students, parents and partners. This could be done in the format of the current Singapore Conversation. (To know more about the Singapore Conversation, visit https://www.oursgconversation.sg/) Focus groups should revisit this compulsory CCA policy and determine the need to enforce it on secondary school students.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is a need to revisit this policy just like how academic syllabus changes every five years. It is insufficient to merely change the system on how CCA points are counted. CCAs should be student centric and values-driven with the aim of providing a ballast in order to accomplish the lofty goal of Every School, A Good School.

References

Ministry of Education. Retrieved from http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/cca/

Posted by Jia Sian

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Responses

  1. This article reminds me of the recent news article on the compulsory nature of CIP in certain tertiary institutions. The tertiary students interviewed confessed that they were a little hesitant at first but they were glad that CIP was made compulsory to them afterall as it had broadened their perspectives and enriched their learning in ways they had not imagined. Most of all, the compulsory CIP had a deep positive impact on their value system.

    For secondary school students, CCAs are not just platforms to cultivate interests but also to inculcate core values and I view CCAs as an integral part of learning in the lives of the secondary school students. Due to resource and manpower limitations, not all CCAs can cater to students’ specific interests but all students can benefit from CCAs if they bring with them an open and willing mind to learn. In fact, CCA present many teachable moments for the teaching and learning of values which will last the students a lifetime. But yes, the true meaning of CCAs will be heavily distorted if the focus of CCAs is predominantly on award-chasing and that will defeat the whole rationale of making CCAs compulsory.

    The challenge of teachers is to ensure that CCAs keep up with the times too and are seen relevant and engaging by the students. But the true spirit and values behind CCAs should never be compromised.


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