This is why we'd like to encourage everyone to go Back To School! We want to tap on the energy, ideas, creativity and passion of individuals and organisations in Singapore (or even Singaporeans overseas!), because in our own small ways, we have so much to offer.
A different compass
To a certain degree, this idea is similar to the COMPASS (COMmunity and PArents in Support of Schools) advisory council, which was set up by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 1998. This council aims to "develop a common understanding among students, parents, schools and the community about the role that each group should play [emphasis added]... to achieve the desired outcomes of education".
In the list of expected roles as delineated by COMPASS, parents are asked to "support schools" and "set good examples" for their children, while students should "value education", "respect authority", and have "a spirit of caring and sharing".
As for the wider community, they are asked to "offer scholarships and bursaries to students and teachers", "encourage our young to be involved in the community", and "transmit the right values and attitudes to our young".
While we support the various efforts by COMPASS to encourage collaboration between schools and community partners, we've got some suggestions for change:
We can set good examples, we can offer scholarships - yes. But let's also go far beyond that. Using the flexibility of a small, independent outfit and the collective wisdom of the wider community, let's carve out our own space to discuss how education in Singapore can be improved, find bigger, more active, more personally meaningful ways of contributing, and as joint stakeholders, let's collaborate and take ownership of education in Singapore.
Launch of the Back To School (Singapore) website
So this is what we're about:
Back To School (Singapore) is a free-access, crowd-sourced, carefully-curated website of lesson plans, stories, discussions, and ideas focused on improving education in Singapore.
The lesson plans – all contributed by diverse individuals and organisations – focus on current affairs and the humanities, and are crafted for teachers of Primary, Secondary, Junior College and Polytechnic students. The website also features stories, and discussions of how Singapore’s education policies and practices have impacted students, teachers and parents.
Over-worked teachers who lack time to prepare good lessons, or those who want to get new ideas for teaching can come here to get fresh ideas for lesson plans. Education professionals and MOE authorities can also use the website for feedback, suggestions, and discussion.
Passionate individuals and organisations who want to spread the word about specific areas of interest can connect directly to classrooms, through the sharing of ideas and objective, good-quality lesson plans for teachers on the website.
We want to encourage students to have a greater sense of ownership of their own education, by also creating lesson plans that teachers can bring to class, and by giving constructive feedback about the realities of policy implementation on the ground.
Academics and researchers can help to translate their work into bite-sized lesson plans, so that more new knowledge, ideas and perspectives honed at higher levels can trickle down to greater numbers of teachers and students.
Activists, social workers, journalists and others at the forefront of the major social issues and culture wars of today can also suggest ways for teachers to stimulate debate and objectively teach such difficult issues in class.
The fact is that our children are growing up in a world with a great diversity of opinions, and it is crucial that they are aware, sensitive, able to think critically and independently, and able to graciously handle conflicts in opinion, especially when these differences cannot be bridged.
It takes a city to raise a child
There are so many ways our education system can be enriched, and we're glad that MOE is continuing to review their policies and practices for improvement.
We at Back To School (Singapore) want to focus on a simple idea: gathering a community to contribute to vibrant idea-exchange on teaching and learning, mainly to support the good work of teachers. Teachers are the front-liners in this continual struggle to teach and empower young people - and for Singapore's sake, we need them to do this well.
If you'd like to be part of this community of individuals and organisations to contribute to education in Singapore, do visit the Back To School (Singapore) website and join us on our Facebook page. Please view, share, modify, use and contribute to the content.... Join in the conversation!
Editors, Back To School (Singapore)