I was disappointed to read about the school principal (of a mission school, no less) telling her Sec 5 students that they might as well apply now for places in ITE because as they were unlikely to do well in the ‘O’ levels at the end of the year. However, I was even more disappointed to read Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew’s reaction to the public uproar about the principal.
In the Straits Times report, Principal’s ‘wake-up call’ to Sec 5 students had to be ‘conveyed’, RAdm Lui was quoted as saying, “Principals need to do their job to convey this message to the students and teachers to do their part to challenge them, set high goals and to help them achieve these goals.”
The principal was clearly in the wrong and it would have been better to just admit it and move on.
What is the point of telling Sec 5 students at the beginning of the school year that basically you all cannot make it and better give up? So what if statistically 40% of them end up not making it to poly, as RAdm Lui said. That shouldn’t stop them from trying their level best in their O levels at the end of the year to overcome the odds.
If they don’t do well enough to qualify for poly, then they can go to ITE after that. No shame in having tried but “failed”. But was the principal expecting them to quit Sec 5 and go straight to ITE?
For RAdm Lui to come in and say that the principal was just challenging her students to “set high goals” is to completely overlook the fact that she had just implied that they should set lower goals for themselves.
I’m all for not mollycoddling our youths. Discipline them when they misbehave. But insulting their intellectual abilities is the wrong way to spur them on to achieve greater heights. That approach to motivation is so ‘yesterday’.
- Schools must put holistic view of education before rankings, ST Forum, 16 Jan 07.
- Visit the website of Trybe, a youth motivational programme I used to volunteer with.