Thursday, September 30, 2004

Encouraging a diversity of talents 

Yesterday, Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam spoke at the ministry’s annual workplan seminar on the new approach in education. The following is an excerpt of what I thought was most interesting:

What’s critical as we go forward is that we respect all talents, and nurture diversity. We should positively encourage a diversity of talents — in intellectual fields, in the arts and sports, and in community endeavour. We should value people with irregular strengths, not make them regular. It is the irregular and unusual talents and ideas that give most great cities their energy and vitality. And above all, we should work to avoid a convergence of ideas, even as we foster an abiding loyalty to Singapore and an interest in seeing Singapore succeed. Convergence is always the danger when we are a small country, or just a city. It is how many other cities in history have faded away...

To do this, we have to start young... How do we achieve our goals in education?...

  • First, we have to gradually reduce the emphasis on examinations, and focus on a holistic education.

  • Second, we have to give our students more choice in their studies, so that they can shape and enjoy their learning.

  • Third, we have to do all we can to support our teachers, so as to help them bring quality and innovative practices in to the classroom and school.

  • The broadening of the school ranking framework, and move from point rankings to bandings of schools, will reinforce schools’ desire to provide a holistic education... By changing what counts in education, and measuring success in more diverse ways, we will help parents take a broader perspective of education and allow our students to stay true to their interests and aspirations.
    So promotion of diversity is now official government policy. And to show that it means business, the government has not merely exhorted people to embrace the change in direction but put in place explicit measures to incentivise schools along that direction.


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