Monday, June 05, 2006

Self-Directed Learning in Junior Colleges

Reported by 0705Student

Recently the Minstry of Education proposed a new strategy, to "Teach less, learn more". The authority of 0705 seems to be all prepared for this, and they happily embraced this new strategy in many subjects in the college. Here are some examples:

1) General Paper
Traditionally, General Paper is a subject that tests the student's ability to read and to understand. General Paper includes a comprehension section, and a essay writing section. Comprehension consists of open-ended questions, a summary and an application question that requires the student to write about his own ideas and opinions on the topics touched upon by the comprehension passage. Traditionally, these were marked and graded by General Paper teachers, who would then write individual and valuable feedbacks to the students according to the quality of their work. The last time 0705student checked, other Junior Colleges were still practising this. However, 0705 has progressed. Only some tests were marked by the teachers. For practises and other tests, the teachers handed out answer sheets and expect students to learn from mistake. This is acceptable in subjects like maths and physics. However, this is General Paper! There is no one-size fit all answer. Did the students benefit under this? Not at all! 0705's Alevel Grade in General Paper had been slipping for a few years already. The only benefit that 0705students enjoy is that GP teachers such as the one from RJC who tore up the student's paper cannot be found in 0705. This is because teachers in 0705 don't even look at their students' work.

2) Physics
It is convenient to use Self-Directed learning as an excuse not to teach topics in the subject that the teachers were not proficient in. For example, Phyiscs Of Fluid, a topic which would definitely appear in the Alevel Examination because it was one of the compulsory "optional" questions, WAS NOT TAUGHT AT ALL. Students were given a stack of badly written notes by the MOE and were expected to understand and know that very important topic by themselves. To make matters worst, Physics of Fluid is a "local" topic. Alevel Physics textbooks in the market do not carry this topic. The only way students can learn is through the badly written notes thrown at them. No additional help given. This is what 0705 is about.

It is of course no miracle that 0705 has a long history of students barely meeting the expected grade for subjects specified. The offical expected grade for which subjects were actually based on the students' Olevel results. Meeting the expected grade implies that the students have maintained their standard, but made no improvement during their stay in 0705. Not meeting the expected grade meant 0705 produced students with negative value-addedness. This meant that under the education of 0705, students actually get poorer grade. This appears to be the current trend in 0705. Going beyong the expected grade is something 0705 talk about but never achieve.

According the the MOE's website, Teach Less, Learn More is about the following:

• TLLM aims to touch the hearts and engage the minds of our learners, to prepare them for life. It reaches into the core of education - why we teach, what we teach and how we teach.

• It is about shifting the focus from “quantity” to “quality” in education. “More quality” in terms of classroom interaction, opportunities for expression, the learning of life-long skills and the building of character through innovative and effective teaching approaches and strategies. “Less quantity” in terms of rote-learning, repetitive tests, and following prescribed answers and set formulae.

• Teachers, school leaders and MOE all have important roles to play to make Teach Less, Learn More happen.

It is clear that 0705 had failed to achieve all these. Instead, only the "Teach less" part rang in their head, prompting them to slacken off more and more.

Sidenote: Even teachers dislike 0705. An 0705 personnel who was leaving 0705 soon had a chat with some teachers and the teachers actually encouraged his move. Given the leeway to slack off, teachers were still dissatisfied with the school. This shows that 0705 has a further repulsive factor that is beyong our grasp.

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