~by: Elliot Aruldoss~
~with contributions from: Jewel Philemon~
“We should recognize many paths of success”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally Speech. Mr Raj, principal of Victory Life Christian School could not agree more with the Prime Minister.
In speaking exclusively to The Online Citizen, Mr Raj says, “education, I believe, is individualised, a child cannot be put into a box and forced to conform to a structure that he does not fit in.” He goes on to say that “success is achievable by every student. But each child will have his own journey and the time taken for each child to reach that success varies from student to student. We have to respect the fact that each child is unique and individual, so, the curriculum has to fit the child not the other way round.”
Victory Life Christian School (VLCS), situated in the eastern part of Singapore, follows an educational curriculum developed by the School of Tomorrow; a curriculum which is a unique combination of academics and methodology, based on physiological development patterns of the student. ‘The School of Tomorrow’ took the conventional textbook and divided it into bite-sized, achievable work-texts called PACEs.
Each PACE is more or less equivalent to a unit in a textbook. Each level consists of 12 PACEs in each subject. Students are able to learn at their own ‘pace’ and this provides for flexibility of time with realistic goal-setting.
Besides the educational component, the curriculum places equal emphasis on the development of moral values and Biblical principles for character building purposes. This is a dimension to education that is otherwise, sorely lacking in emphasis within mainstream education systems, believes Mr Raj.
When asked about his views on mainstream education systems, Mr Raj observed that mainstream education is performance-based, which might not be entirely conducive to a child’s growth.
He maintains that a performance-based system would lead to unnecessary and sometimes, extreme, levels of competition, among not only between the child and his peers, but also among the child’s parents.
“We are all living in close proximity. Families will always tend to compare with other families. Sometimes it is not only for the benefit of the child but for the pride of the parents for their children to perform.’ Such an environment at home would exacerbate stress-levels and there would be mounting pressure within the child, to perform, especially after all the money spent on tuition.”
This will only lead to the child’s passion for learning being destroyed, replaced by an attitude of ‘studying for the sake of passing exams’ and not for the sake of learning, which is the original purpose of study, the principal of VLCS believes.
Mr Raj notes that while mainstream education tries to tackle the problem of varying learning abilities, they do it at a group level, and streaming at a very young age is an example of this.
He states that while individualising education can be done, to a certain extent in a group, another can of worms is opened, when a group is labelled as an academically weaker group and, thus, an inferior group. This perception may not only hurt the child belonging to that academically weaker group, but may also detrimentally stifle growth in the long-term. In some cases, it may leave deeper, more-pressing issues resonating within the child’s psyche, for example, low self-esteem.
On the other hand he affirms that the curriculum VLCS uses, provides an individualised education for each child, allowing each child to both, learn and grow, at their own pace. He states that it is “a curriculum which fits a child, rather than a child fitting into a curriculum.”
Moreover, it eliminates pressure and stress, enhancing and protecting the learning process. There is no pressure of a time-line and this freedom is also passed on to the child’s parents who do not feel pressurised. Mr Raj also asserts that the curriculum adopted by his school is not an inferior or a lower-level educational system.
“This education system has been in existence for the last 40 years throughout the world. There are students who have graduated from this system that have made it into Oxford and Cambridge and if you see the list of schools that our students have gained entry to, you would be surprised”, Mr Raj declares proudly.
He also stated that the curriculum of the ‘School of Tomorrow’ is a portable one, which can be taken into the homes. As such, parents wishing to home-school their children, could also use this method of education.
“Ideally the kids should be sent here at elementary level but compulsory education is up to PSLE. So the child should be sent here after PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination).,” VLCS’ principal suggests. “The child will eventually graduate with an American High School Diploma, which is an equivalent to the Junior College A’ Levels Certificate.”