Saturday, July 4, 2009


The current Minister of Education confessed at a recent press conference that he didn’t know that a pass in English is not compulsory to pass the SPM. Neither was he aware that grammar is no longer taught in schools. Shocking admission from someone who has been entrusted with the education of our children! Makes one wonder what else he doesn’t know.

At the recent 14th International Conference on Thinking (ICOT) held from 22-26 June in Kuala Lumpur, participants had the privilege of listening to Harvard Professor of Cognition and Education, Howard Gardner, speak on “Multiple Intelligences: 25 years and beyond”.

According to him, it would be a mistake to continue investing resources in 'uniform' schools. The curriculum in these schools is mostly directed at pupils with linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. It does not cater to pupils with other intelligences, and is therefore unfair to them.
The alternative, he suggests, is individualized education delivered via computer-based resources. The personal computer is infinitely more patient and more efficient in matching students with the appropriate curriculum. This is of particular importance to those with learning disabilities. With computer-based learning, every student, regardless of the type of intelligence they have, has equal access to an individualized education.
Discussing Gardner's framework of Multiple Intelligences at the 14th ICOT.

Gardner is currently involved in two projects: The GoodWork Project and Project Zero. Do check out the links to find out more about these new trends in education, and also the link for Reggio Emilia pre-schools. The latter follows an emergent curriculum that is centred on the children's interests. The educational approach adopted by these schools are based on Gardner's framework of multiple intelligences.

Children expressing their creativity in art at a Reggio Emilia pre-school.

Another speaker, Art Costa, who is Emeritus Professor of Education at California State University, believes that teaching students to think is one of the best ways to prepare them for the future. He advocates teaching the ’16 Habits of Mind’ so that students know how to behave intelligently when faced with problems or uncertainties. Many schools in Singapore have introduced this programme in their curriculum.

A large part of problem-solving centres on the ability to ask the right question. Unfortunately, our students are not taught to think or encouraged to question. They are passive learners. Their approach to learning is to soak up all the facts, commit them to memory and then regurgitate them in the exams.

Students in passive learning mode - a picture of utter boredom!

As responsible parents (or teachers), we should take it upon ourselves to find out about the latest learning approaches and use them to teach our children. We cannot wait for the government to make changes in the system. They have a habit by dragging their feet.

Take for example the language issue. It has been SIX years since Maths and Science were taught in English, and EIGHT months since the call for public feedback. Yet no decision has been made whether to continue teaching these two subjects in English, or revert to Malay.

Perhaps it’s time the minister placed education above politics. The future of our children is at stake.

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