Thursday, 26 November 2015

Words of Wisdom on Education

This month, I had the privilege of attending the Nobel Prize Series Conference.

Before the conference, I was afraid that the content might be too high-browed and I would not be able to comprehend anything. My fears were unfounded. The Nobel Prize laureates and the other panellists spoke simply and I gleaned much wisdom from the discussion. Here are some of the points that resonated with me:

1) Many of us have accept facts without any challenge.

Sir Harold Kroto (Chemistry Laureate 1996) asked the audience if any of us had ever questioned the fact that the earth revolved around the sun. Unsurprisingly, few of us had. Of course, it will be quite difficult to obtain evidence for every information we receive. However, I was reminded to pursue the truth especially in this day and age where any Tom, Dick or Harry can post his views on the internet without basis.

2) Creativity is about synthesis.

We create when we are curious and when we ask how things work. Again, many of us utilise everyday tools such as the mobile phone without knowing how they work. I am inspired to be curious and to ask more questions. Borrowing the words of Sir Harold, I will "play on" and encourage my charges to do the same.

3) Learning stops the moment the answer is given.

Singaporean teachers tend to give answers to students instead of encouraging independent thinking. This hinders the pursuit of knowledge. I have been exploring self-directed learning in my work and have obtained some positive finding which I will share in a subsequent post. I am excited to take the study further and to encourage students and teachers to think independently.

4) Exams give a false sense of security and take away the joy of learning.

I have been griping about this. I never thought much about this until I became a parent of a school-going child. I observe the children around me and realise that many are studying for the sake of tests and exams. Few study out of interest or to acquire knowledge. As for my personal experience, even though I used to perform reasonably well in exams, I discovered that I did well as I illustriously worked on ten-year-series or the likes. I do not understand many of the concepts I ought to. I am looking forward to the announcement of the new PSLE grading system next year and hope that it will alleviate our dependency on that one number which seems to define us and our future. I also hope it will change the way instruction is carried out in the classroom.

Finally, at the end of the Nobel Prize session I attended, an endearingly quirky gentleman commented that he had been accorded an award for creativity by a certain university and was only able to do so as his mother had given him the freedom to bloom at his own pace. Although he took a longer time to complete his education as he had to repeat some years, he eventually flourished and found joy in learning. He urged the parents and parents-to-be in the audience not to run the rat race but to allow their children to learn with joy at a pace they were comfortable with. I felt admonished as I had felt uptight over J's Primary Two exam!

So, may I chew on the food for thought and become enlightened.

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