Saturday, July 07, 2007

Talking about NE @ Branch Meeting (3 July 2007)

The first item in the Agenda was news-Teach, on National Education review.

It introduces the 'new framework' where 3Hs come together: Head, Hands & Heart. There's a review of the NE programme in Singapore - like a stock take of how far we have gone on since... several schools shared their practices to inculcate the NE values and communicate the message to pupils:

  • In Cedar Girls' School, pupils take the lead to share in the morning assembly, their reflection - linked to National Education. I guess, it probably anchor on the 6 key NE messages. In fact, I just wonder, it's pretty easy. Take a closer look or deeper thought, there's NE everywhere - I believe my friend (CN) will agree :D
  • Chung Cheng High shared about getting teachers to go for teacher attachment to learn how others integrate NE into the lessons. Through interaction with the implementers - to see, to hear for themselves - it's possible!!! Yes, it could be just my mindset - but I think it's really necessary to show our colleagues that "It's Possible" before 'pushing' them into it... it's one of the strategies to buy in, to convince them!
  • Another clip showed a group of teachers from Bendemeer Secondary packing a first aid kit, contextualised to one of the 'historical' event (eg. in preparation of the riot) so that they could have a more focused and hence in depth discussion (I guess...). On the other hand, I'm not really impressed... it seems (to me) rather force-fitting. After packing the first aid kit, so what? It seems to be just providing a talking object and protected time to the teachers and therefore the first aid kit is just the prop!
  • On the other hand, RJC pupils were given an opportunity to interact with political leaders through the meet-the-people session, that I thought, it's really to hear and understand Singapore (esp the current affairs) from the horses' mouth.
  • After hearing from Victoria School's strategy, now I understand why there's this NE-related website hosted by VS - the multimedia club ran the competition for schools; interesting, the pupils were the judges - and it's through the process, they have to know the country well before they could judge the work submitted.

To enhance the NE experience through collaboration with community,

  • Clementi Town Secondary shared how it engages alumni in the various school activities (which, in fact, I thought it is quite commonly practised in Secondary schools), the only difference could be the extent of activities the alumni is involved in. They also shared about pupils involved in community projects such as promoting "Safe Water" in the neighbourhood parks, gardens, etc.
  • Christ Church Secondary talked about its overseas stint where pupils regularly go to one of the villages to provide support to the needy there - I think it distinguishes itself from projects of others for its sustained effort and support to the same group of beneficiaries. Normally, schools will treat it as a one-off project rather than building up a long-term relationship, which I thought it's good! It's some kind of follow-through. The school also brings up another point - through the interaction with people of a different background, they learn the culture of the foreign land. Indeed, they learnt how fortunate they are.
  • I think among all the instances showed case, the one from ITE struck me most! They use their skills to help others! It's really applying what they are good at and contribute to the society. It's brilliant! I hope, through this, the ITE students know that the skills they learn, does not serve just as a means for living, but it enables them to do something meaningful and appreciated by others!

To round up this segment, Siew Lian asked 2 questions:

  • (i) What does NE mean to you?
  • (ii) What is the difference between empathy and sympathy
  • (iii) Gaslow Airport's case - what's your reaction?

  • To me, NE - National Education - it's a conscious way to bring out our love of the country, to talk about it... and it could not be surfaced, then will probably have to instill in us. So, NE is here to stay because for these 2 purposes - to bring out what's there and to inculcate the kind of mindset...
  • In fact, I think it's really social responsibility - to give in return... because of love... the love we have for our country, and because we want our country to be better, we want our fellow countrymen to lead a good life here... in the country that has provided us with what we have today. Think about it..., we started receiving since day 1 - the stability that we take for granted, the materials provision, the education system that we went through...
  • One of the NE message says, no one owes Singapore a living... True! The growth of the country, what it becomes, it all lies on our hands, how we want to shape our culture, our values! In fact, I can still recall very clearly what the tour guide of my Hokkaido commented about Singapore - well, he's a Japanese, but now a Singapore PR - he commented, Singapore grows very fast, moves very fast - in fact, too fast - that although we are so ahead in terms of economy, our values, our beliefs are not strong! There's a vacuum... some things simply need the time to shape, need the kind of experience that the people go through together to shape. Being a young nation, the pace is too fast for values to take shape. Make a comparison - the social culture of Singapore and Japan... Yes, I agree to a large extent - are our people behaving what it takes to be in a developed (world class) country? We are still very vulnerable to influences... like the chinese say, it takes 3 days to inherit undesireable habits, but it takes 3 years for good behaviour to take shape (学坏三天,学好三年).
  • Just like one of the pupils in the video clip mentioned, after going through the CIP overseas, they learnt to appreciate what we have back at home here... Yes, it's very painful and sad to learn that we have to undergo some deprived conditions before start to appreciate what we have... on the other hand, are we being driven by material needs and that's why we appreciate what Singapore gives us? What happens if one day Singapore could not provide us with the desireable level of material needs? Then we'll look for another place that can satisfy our needs? This is not being appreciative? It's just being practical, right? Think deeper - what makes us appreciate what our country has done for us and how are we going to reciprocate?
  • I must admit... I was one of those who, after having gone through one year of volunteer work, start to compare the system, the environment and came to a point that yes, Singapore has done alot for me... or I should say, I have benefited a lot from what it can provide...
  • In a way, I tend to defend my country - those 'ambiguous' rules that govern our peace and safety and the clean environment... because I could imagine the flip side of things - "what if" we live in the other end of the spectrum? Yes, even the Bhutanese know that we are a "fine" country... but it's then I start to defend our actions and clarify... Oh yes, I surprise my Bhutanese friend when I asked them where I could find rubbish bin!

  • The next question is: What's the difference between empathy and sympathy... Well, being able to empathise is certainly at a much higher level of emotional response compared to just sympathy... which sometimes, I thought the latter is more towards giving lip service - yes, when one sees it, one reacted by sympathising, feeling sorry for the other... To be able to empathsize requires one to think what if it happens to one? How will one react to the situation/problem faced... more like being in one's shoes.
  • To be able to empathsize - especially in NE, I think it really requires one to be exposed to the kind of environment conditions, hardships - then we can 'measure' the empathy - how deep or 'real' it is... The lack of understanding the culture and background and pre-longed exposure/experience discounted the degree of empathy we tend to express we know...

  • As of Gaslow's case, my reaction is really - how could people do such destructive damage to fellow human beings??? Why??? Is that the best way to revenge? There are certainly better channels for communication...
  • Of course, fortunately it doesn't happen in Singapore - but it's possible to happen here, isn't it? So, we should not take for granted of the stability we're enjoying now...

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