As we move towards a rapidly evolving technological era, where AIs and digitalisation of data become more commonplace, the education landscape will also experience some changes alongside it. Even in the current era since globalisation has taken place worldwide, we have seen education evolve along the way
Take for example in Japan. Many Japanese schools back in the 1980s and 1990s have reduced the lesson time and started to shift its emphasis towards learning outside of its classrooms, either through school excursions or the different school club activities. This nation wide phenomenon, also known as Yutori (relax), has affected the academic performance of students, where students’ grades have taken a hit. In a bid to make up for it, their parents decided to register their kids for tuition classes, otherwise known as cram schools in the Japanese context.
Moving on to a Western counterpart, the UK has seemingly also tried to make changes to its school curriculum over the course of the past couple of decades by reducing the content of the different subjects taught in schools. However, there has been constant backlash from the public over the ease of the syllabus and of the examinations conducted at the national level. One of them is the apparently lack of depth as coverage has dropped and teachers are not required or are stipulated to not share as much knowledge as compared to the past. As a result, students may find themselves unable to comprehend certain concepts which may not make sense due to the lack of coverage and find answering certain questions more difficult than it should be.
What is the current landscape for Chemistry education in Singapore?
Looking at the two examples of these countries with diverse cultural backgrounds, there are definitely inevitable consequences when changes to the curriculum are made. Singapore is no stranger to such changes as well, as it too is not spared from the shortcomings that may have resulted from making amendments to its educational system. However, our Director-General of Education Mr Wong Siew Hoong, has expressed that the Singapore Ministry of Education takes certain precautions from lessons learnt from its counterparts and will not forgo the high quality standards of its educational programme as it too seeks to reduce the load of its local students.
What measures have our Ministry of Education done for the Chemistry syllabus?
Across the board, there have been a shift in emphasis on academics as students find themselves having to take less exams as they move towards holistic learning. For example, primary one and two students are no longer required to take exams throughout the year, though there are still mini-tests to check their progress. In secondary schools, mid year exams are no longer a requirement and students are streamed based on their performance of individual subjects rather than their overall grades to accommodate to the individual strengths of students. Such a move is definitely welcomed by students but not necessarily by parents. This can be seen by the billion dollar tuition industry in Singapore, where parents will find means and ways to send their children to tuition classes for different subjects like Chemistry in order to perform well in school, which offset the supposed reduced stress levels in students with lessened academic requirements in schools.
The Chemistry curriculum has also seen revisions as more questions are being tested based on real life and practical applications instead of hypothetical reasoning and logic only. There has also been a shift away from purely memorising and regurgitation of content. However, there is still a need to revisit the different concepts time and again due to the fact that many Chemistry topics are intertwined with each other to paint the complete picture and students will be able to better grasp Chemistry ideas and concepts once they can understand the intimate relationship across the different topics to be tested at both O and A levels.
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will make everyone happy. However, we cannot deny the fact that it is a healthy change in how schools are adopting a more holistic approach to include other aspects of learning rather than just the overemphasis on academics, so as to lighten the load of students. Despite the revisions done, there is no doubt that the quality of our education will not be undermined or compromised as a balance is needed between the two.