Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who knew: Singapore is a den of Dewey-eyed hippies!

On this snow day, I'm about to get down to the business of reading what my students have written about the books they're reading, but I just spent about ten minutes psyching myself up by reading a bit of Pasi Sahlberg's book about Finland.  I haven't looked much into Finland, because it seemed to me that a lot of people who hold it up as a model are ignoring the huge differences between Finland's relatively equal society and our relatively cutthroat one, but Sahlberg's book is interesting.  One thing I learned from it has nothing to do with Finland at all, but with a country I think of as dramatically different: Singapore.

I always thought Singapore was a super-conservative city state that kept its culture business-friendly by such illiberal practices as cracking down on freedom of speech, executing a lot of people, and caning schoolchildren.  It may be that way, but this morning I learned (maybe everyone else already knows this?) that its Ministry of Education has been, over the past fifteen years, promoting a vision of education that even A. S. Neill might have admired.  Singapore's initiative is called:


That is a beautiful slogan, and it's elaborated with a full-on liberalizing zeal that must be partly necessitated by Singapore's history of cane-wielding Gradgrindian severity but was still inspiring even to me.  We in Leafstrewn are, I think, with them in theory, but not always in practice.  So during this week in which Mother Nature seems to be offering her own critique of high-stakes testing, here are some Singaporean lessons (from the Ministry of Education's website):

Remember Why We Teach -
More… Less…
For the Learner  
To Rush through the Syllabus 
To Excite Passion 
Out of Fear of Failure 
For Understanding 
To Dispense Information Only 
For the Test of Life 
For a Life of Tests 

Reflect on What We Teach - 
More… Less…
The Whole Child
The Subject
Searching Questions
Textbook Answers

Reconsider How We Teach - 
More… Less…
Engaged Learning
Drill and Practice
Differentiated Teaching
‘One-size-fits-all’ Instruction
Guiding, Facilitating, Modelling
Formative and Qualitative Assessing
Summative and Quantitative Testing
Spirit of innovation and enterprise
Set Formulae, Standard Answers 

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