Thinking schools with feng shui harmony

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Do pupils learn better in bigger schools? Rosyth School in Singapore is the place to find out
Do pupils learn better in bigger schools? Rosyth School in Singapore is the place to find out. With 3,000 pupils, it is one of the country's biggest "mega primaries".

"Larger schools have better facilities, and more specialist teachers, to help raise attainment," says teacher Angela, an expatriate Glaswegian. "But they can be impersonal and off-putting. So we try to organise pupils into small, friendlier units."

Some schools operate a shift system, with half the year groups taught in the mornings and the others after lunch. This allows plenty of time for clubs and outdoor activities.

Some of Angela's pupils say they usually use afternoons for games and project work. Today, however, they are looking forward to additional lessons at a cramming school.

"Thinking schools, learning nation" is Singapore's slogan for its education reforms. It is about developing active learning skills, so that pupils are better able to solve problems and think creatively.

The strategy seems to be working: at recent Olympiads for science and maths, and in international tests of problem-solving, pupils from Singapore gave excellent performances.

Creative and original thinking is also considered essential for the state's economic competitiveness.

"Creativity is being developed through lessons on critical and creative thinking", an education ministry official said, "and by reducing the content of lessons, changing assessment modes and greater emphasis on processes than outcomes".

Rosyth School is named after the naval base on the Firth of Forth, which served the ships of the fleet that once docked in Singapore. It has been built in modern styles, with vibrant colours. Facilities include a library, fitness centre and covered play areas. The feng shui is positive and conducive to effective learning and appropriate behaviour.

"School buildings, more than most other buildings, require careful placement and arrangement of space to achieve harmony with the environment," Angela says.

"A school was recently demolished because the feng shui wasn't quite right. The incorrect flow lines were causing the pupils to behave inappropriately."

Running an orderly school requires an efficient principal. To prepare, prospective heads take full-time school leadership courses, which can last for six months.

Perhaps there are a few lessons for Scotland here.

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