Ease off facts, let's get creative

SINGAPORE

PUPILS will soon have fewer facts and figures to learn. From the start of the 1999 academic session the content of all school syllabuses will be cut, some drastically, to create more time for computer-based learning, discussions and creative thinking.

Pupils will also be given more opportunities to participate in enquiry activities and project work.

The ministry of education's decision to cut syllabus content was based on an examination of the 162 courses taught in the state's schools. The content of 117 of the syllabuses will be trimmed by between 10 and 30 per cent. The content of the other 45 syllabuses, which are mainly language courses, will be cut by less than l0 per cent.

The cuts are part of a series of major changes to the curriculum and assessment system which will take place over the next five years.

All exams will be altered to reflect the trimmed syllabuses. Primary pupils will be examined on the new syllabuses in 1999 while secondary pupils will sit new exams in the first years of the new millennium. The ministry has issued assurances that the reduced content will not be accompanied by a reduction in the impressive standards the country has achieved during the past two decades.

In recent international tests of academic attainment Singaporean pupils ranked first in both maths and science. The intention of the syllabus reductions, according to the ministry, is to complement the already high standards of knowledge and understanding with equally high standards of creative and critical thinking.

Teacher groups have welcomed the syllabus cuts which they say will introduce much-needed flexibility in Singaporean education and help to reduce the intense pressures on teachers and pupils to complete courses.

Trimming course syllabuses will also help to reduce stress among pupils, teachers and parents. In a recent survey 68 per cent of pupils interviewed said they found school "very stressful" or "stressful". Other surveys have shown that education pressures are some of the most significant causes of anxiety among parents.

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