Thursday, June 30, 2005

Marking essays. The question reads, "Do you think young Singaporeans are well-prepared for life today?" If ever there was a question inviting whines for answers this would be it. I've got the angsty kids railing at the education system, accusing it of rigidity and failing to prepare them to be critical/creative thinkers which is what the economy needs in this new Information Age. I've also got the suck-ups who praise the "government" for recognizing that people are the only resource in our [pathetic] country and the initiatives -- some students actually do bother to name a few -- it implements in schools will stand today's students in good stead when they go out to work as adults.

Nothing wrong with either answer, per se, but the conclusions seem a little hasty.
Newsflash 1: school isn't the only agent responsible for preparing kids to grow up.
Newsflash 2: the higher up the rungs of education our youths climb, the less representative they are of the general youth population. Already at JC level only a small proportion of a year's academic cohort are priviledged enough to further their studies, but at the same time pretty much isolating themselves from the majority of their contemporaries.

So students who just focus on how education is ruining their lives and eroding their hopes for the future; or those who agree with policy without question just don't have the scope to answer the question adequately. Sadly, lots of students have taken either tack. The difference between pass and fail therefore boils down to how well they express themselves in English on paper. Same as always.

My standards are clear to me. But I have to wonder, am I being too nit-picky as a marker? Am I expecting too much from these JC1 kids? As they are, their answers are reasonable, though I would also like to reward sophistication as well. Here is my dilemma with every paper I mark. Is it fair to punish naivete? No wonder I'm slow.

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