Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Useful afternoon workshop... although the key ideas presented didn't push the envelope quite far enough to reach their logical conclusion.

Consider that our obsession with making the kids answer questions correctly has us barking up the wrong tree. The right tree to bark up is teaching our kids to ask questions no one has ever thought to ask before so that collectively we can dredge up some new answers from the bottomless pit that contains the sum of all human knowledge.

The highest aim of T and L ('Teaching and Learning' in campus parlance) is the ability to ask questions, not pickle that which we already know.

Sadly, most people can't see past the end-of-year exam. That's why we get proposals like MP Denise Phua's experimental do away with 'high stakes' exams through-train schools cluster. It would be nice to have a stress-free educational experience, but removing the exams does not remove the source of the stress. In every journey there are milestones to pass by en route to the destination. Removing the milestones does not make the journey any less tiring.

Exams are only milestones along the way to whichever education destination we have chosen to journey towards. They tell us how far we've come, and perhaps how far more we have to go, but that's all. As soon as we encounter one, we just walk past it on the way to our end point. No one plans a journey to end at a milestone because usually there's nothing else there, and yet that's what many of us are doing on our education journey. Instead of seeing the little rock at the side of the road with some useful numbers etched in it, we see a boulder right across our path that stops us dead in our tracks. Stress comes from our faulty perception when we can't see things for what they really are.

So why are some milestones harder to get past than others? Because not every journey is a straight-paved path strewn with primroses all the way to the end. Many a time, the terrain becomes difficult to negotiate. There are detours; unexpected obstacles; sometimes the path becomes hard to see; other times, we may have wandered off the path and struggle to find it again; and sometimes we may even change our minds and strike out on another path towards a different destination. The next milestone we encounter tells us we have found the right path, so keep on moving to the next, and the next, and the next until we finally arrive at wherever we want to be.

So pack for a long journey; enjoy the scenery; don't fixate on the milestones and just keep going. Your journey only ends when you decide you don't want to go any further. But it's a decision you have to make. A milestone can't make that decision for you.

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