Parents need time to adjust to policy changes: Principal

Streaming, as it is currently known in schools, may be on its way out, but some parents still need to be persuaded that their children do not need to pick up every subject at the highest possible level.

Westwood Primary principal Ng Yeow Ling, who has been an educator for 26 years, said: “There’s a period of lag… Our education is preparing for the future – say, the next 20 years – but parents’ views and experience of education are perhaps from 20 years prior.”

In his time as an educator, Mr Ng has seen numerous changes.

In 2008, when he was principal of North View Primary, the practice of categorising children into the EM1, EM2 and EM3 streams was scrapped.

He said it always takes some time to change the mindset of parents.

“To be very realistic, there are some parents who may take a while to come on board (with such changes), based on their background and past experiences.”

He was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a visit to the school by President Halimah Yacob. The visit is part of her community engagement efforts.

The Ministry of Education announced changes to the streaming system earlier this month, during the debate on its budget.

The Normal and Express streams in secondary schools will be replaced by 2024 with full subject-based banding, where students can take higher-or lower-level subjects based on their strengths.

Subjects will be offered at three levels – G1, G2 or G3, with G standing for “General”. G1 will roughly correspond to today’s Normal (Technical) standard, G2 to Normal (Academic) and G3 to Express.

However, concerns have been raised over whether parents will still make a beeline for the G3 band, and push their children to take more subjects at that level.

Mr Ng said things are changing and parents no longer view good grades as the only route to success.

“With initiatives like SkillsFuture, we see that learning is not just for accreditation or qualifications, nor for grades.

“It’s really for the mastery of learning and working for life,” he added.

During her visit, Madam Halimah visited Makerspace@Westwood, a room pupils can use during recess to build things such as catapults or toy cars out of recycled materials.

They can also work on longer-term innovation projects that involve skills, such as Micro:bit coding, which they pick up in the first term of Primary 4.

Each pupil gets a free Micro:bit – a pocket-sized, codeable computer – and the school engages vendors and teachers to conduct six lessons, each running for about two hours, as part of a project work class.Primary 4 pupil Jadia Poh, 10, discovered her interest in Micro:bit coding through the lesson. She said: “I learnt how to code in school and when I went home, I decided to try more. I enjoy going to the Makerspace room because I can let my imagination run wild.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline ‘Parents need time to adjust to policy changes: Principal’. Print Edition | Subscribe