Letter to TOC:
It is the time of the year where 18-year olds determine their future as they take their “A” level exams. Every year, each batch of students thinks closer attention is needed for junior colleges (JCs) in Singapore. While the Ministry of Education (MOE) says there is an “ongoing effort to redress the overemphasis on academic results, and shift it to a student’s holistic development for students” (Straits Times, 2015), little is done in JCs to realise this.
Looking back, the JC experience is one that is very different from my secondary school days. The atmosphere is perhaps too competitive and bleak.
The biggest problem is that the curriculum is overly rigorous. The difficulty of the “A” levels is infamous among 16-year olds, and this causes students to be overly stressed. Many of the hard science subjects like Chemistry and Biology are still heavily dependent on rote memorising. Many doubt the practicality of this, as most facts are eventually forgotten after exams.
To cope with the heavy workload, “A” level students often sacrifice our precious family time and friends, thus missing out on precious holistic development.
In addition, participation in co-curricular activities (CCAs) suffer. Many students shy away from heavy commitments such as sports CCA or volunteering in community centres to catch up with their heavy school work. In the process, students often miss these key opportunities to grow in character.
Thus, it would be wonderful if the JC syllabus has less emphasis on memorising and more on cultivating skills.
The Straits Times reported National University of Singapore president Tan Chorh Chuan praising Education Minister Heng Swee Keats’s efforts “to shift the emphasis from grades to talent and from qualifications to skills, to get Singaporeans to embrace a broader definition of success.”
The JC syllabus should reflect this accordingly.