Friday, 9 March 2012

Confidence rather than perceptions is needed for neighbourhood schools

'Perceptions about neighbourhood schools must change' as reported in the Straits Times on the 8th of March 2012. And so the Ministry of Education hopes to make all schools as good schools, neighbourhood schools to become good schools. 

Can the perceptions really be changed? Ask yourself as a teacher, as parents, as men in the street, the answer will most likely to be the same – it is very hard to change the mindsets as the nation is divided, the society is divided and the rich-poor is divided.   

Is it too idealistic? MOE wants a change of mindset and perceptions on how to turn the bad to good, the neighbourhood schools to top schools.   If you recall not long ago a minister of state’s view on ITE students, you will know the government is ‘talk and act is not in concert’ (说一套做一套).

It is always difficult to make a change of perceptions and mindsets towards neighbourhood schools – who is the genius recommending such a discriminated term. Is this another scholar from a top school?

Confidence rather than perceptions is needed in the neighbourhood schools to face the challenges.  You cannot change the mindsets of others but you can build up your own confidence.  MOE should encourage schools to improve the confidence level of students, especially the ministry is trying to enlarge and enrich its values and character education. And confidence is in the values and character of a student.  A scholar with no confidence or always work under the protection of the government will not shine. However, a F9 student with full of confidence can still be a top salesperson or a top cook.  

(Education Minister Heng Swee Keat) Mr Heng said that as schools are geographically sited in neighbourhoods, they naturally draw students who live nearby. 'We have to ensure (that there are) good schools in every neighbourhood, and not use the term 'neighbourhood school' as an apology. So we must collectively change perceptions and change mindsets,' he said. (ST 8Mar2012)

Perceptions and mindsets are always there.  We have long wanted to correct these attitudes but when the economy goes faster, more enrichments courses and tuition options are made available and so more financial commitments are needed.  In the past decades, when the real income of the middle and lower income groups increased slower than the upper income group, where could they find the financial resources to close up the learning gap?

Need no explanation. We know where the majority of the middle and lower income students attend their schools.  So the mindsets and perceptions are there, the rich will send their children to top schools if not possible the affiliated international schools of the top schools (tuition fees are not a problem).    

Rich-poor gap, good-bad schools gap  

Since independence, Singapore has been looking for a balance, or a better a word ‘harmony’, for all citizens living here as what described in our National Pledge – a just society for all.  However, like the rich-poor gap, the Gini index has shown a very unhealthy imbalance, the gap becomes bigger with the rapid growth in our economy, so do the gap between good and bad schools, top and neighbourhood schools.

Our continuing stress on economic growth, productivity, and profit will not narrow the gap between good and bad schools.  On the contrary, like the richest people in the world, their wealth increased last year despite 2011 was a bad year for economic performance. Good schools will get better and the rich will get better increase in income. And so it will reflect, in mindsets and perceptions, of the good and bad schools.

Good schools will have better examination results and academic achievements. However, neighbourhood schools will have the opposite unless we see an improvement in the rich and poor gap.   In the mean time, not so good schools have to equip students with confidence – this intangible and valuable asset will accompany them all their life without fail.

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