Saturday, March 10, 2007

In the local news, the practice of "dropping subjects" in schools these days has generated quite a bit of excitement. People are indignant that teachers have become so concerned about school rankings, or their rankings, that they are advising students to drop their weaker subjects and concentrate on their stronger subjects so that there will be fewer failures and more 'A' grades produced at the end-of-year exams.

While scoring 'A's seems to be a positive thing for a child's academic records, people are upset that dropping subjects at secondary level effectively closes off options in fields of study at tertiary level. A dropped subject means a prerequisite lost for certain uni courses. Because Little Ah Huat dropped A. Math, he'll never become an engineer, and Little Suzie will never become a doctor because she dropped Bio. So despite the fact that they scored multiple 'A's in their other subjects, it's all meaningless because they can never be the doctor, lawyer or engineer their parents always dreamed they would become one day.

Which has got me thinking about our KI selection process and wondering if we've been over-selective with our kids. Granted, at this point, there's little advantage taking KI other than for its prestige. KI certainly isn't a prerequisite course for anything at the uni, at least not for the moment. It really is a lot of pain -- not the subject itself, but the burden of requiring extra time on the timetable to accommodate the extra subject, the time spent on additional assignments, and all for the dubious distinction of being able to say, "I took KI instead of GP at JC." Wouldn't the kids find it more profitable to go out and play instead, like any other regular kid?

I have a lot of respect for those who are tenacious enough to still want to take KI though, and I welcome them with open arms. KI was not meant to be an elite subject. In fact, I'd like to believe that we're pioneering a subject that will eventually be open to all comers. It's no use to us having just a tiny core group of thinking Singaporeans when all Singaporeans need to learn how to think, and not just replicate.

Still, last year's experience scared us a little, when a third of our first KI group dropped out of college because they couldn't handle the stress. This year, we wanted to protect the kids, and perhaps ourselves as well, hence the stringent selectivity the applicants went through. But really, if they really, really want to take KI anyway, who are we to stop them before we've had a proper trial period -- within what our limited resources can provide, that is.

But after the trial, we do need the right to determine if the student is suitable or not to continue. No one questions the probation period as an HR policy, so I don't see why anyone should question this whole "dropping subject" thing. Like everyone else, kids need to prove themselves capable of taking and keeping a subject. Showing a lack of interest, not submitting work, not being prepared for discussions, little evidence of wanting to improve, all these symptoms show a lack of aptitude in a subject. It's a sad fact of life everywhere: Sorry, kid, you're the weakest link. Goodbye.

No comments: