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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 14, no. 26 (October 20, 2006).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c October 20, 2006
Curriculum as praxis : ensuring uality technical education in Singapore for the 21st century/ Tiew Ming Yek [and] Dawn Penney.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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Readers are free to copy display, and distribute this article, as long as the work is attributed to the author(s) and Education Policy Analysis Archives, it is distributed for noncommercial purposes only, and no alte ration or transformation is made in the work. More details of this Creative Commons license are available at http://creativecommons.org/licen ses/by-nc-nd/2.5/. All other uses must be approved by the author(s) or EPAA EPAA is published jointly by the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State Universi ty and the College of Educ ation at the University of South Florida. Articles are indexed by H.W. Wilson & Co.. Upload commentary to http://epaa.info/wordpress/ and send errata notes to Sherman Dorn (firstname.lastname@example.org). EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Sherman Dorn College of Education University of South Florida Volume 14 Number 26 October 20, 2006 ISSN 1068 Curriculum as Praxis: Ensuring Quality Technical Educ ation in Singapore for the 21st Century Tiew Ming Yek ITE College West Singapore Dawn Penney Edith Cowan University Australia Citation: Yek, T. M. & Penney, D. (2006). Curriculum as praxis: Ensuring quality technical education in Singapore for the 21st century. Education Policy An alysis Archives, 14 (26). Retrieved [date] fr om http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n26/. Abstract Singapore, a small island ci ty-state, has achieved notable economic advancement within 40 years since independence. It is fast becoming a global city and a knowledge society. In education and tr aining, the Singapore system has evolved from its British roots. Macro performance in dicators of particip ation rate, literacy rate and mean years of scho oling, show that the current education system can be regarded as highly successf ul. The contributions of ge neral education as well as technical education and training 1 to the overall success of the nation are often cited. Technical education and training, which is globally perceived as having a lower status than academic curricula, has largely overcome its image problem in Singapore. Singaporeans have seemin gly embraced technical education and 1 Technical education and training in Singapore is synonymous with vocational and technical education which is more commonly used elsewhere, and they are used interchangeably throughout this paper.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 2 training as an accessible, attractive mode of education, which therefore enjoys a high participation rate. The success and qu ality of technical education and training were affirmed when its main provider, the Institute of Te chnical Education, became the first educational institution in Singapore to win the Singapore Quality Award in October 2005. This paper pr ovides a review of the contemporary education system and curriculum in Singapo re with a focus on technical education and training vis--vis a vision of education and training in and for postmodern knowledge societies. Suggestions are made on how the technical education and training sector in Singapore can further develop and thrive in th e 21st century, while continuing to be access ible and of high quality. Keywords: curriculum; vocational & techni cal education; training; globalization; knowledge society; Qu ality; Performance. Introduction Singapore is a small island city-state established 43 years ago with an outstanding history of economic development. According to its Economic Development Board (EDB), in the 1960s, Singapore was a third world country (EDB, 2006a) Today it has a resident population (consisting of citizens and permanent residents) of 3.49 million and ranks among the world's strongest and most vibrant economies (EDB, 2006b). Its per capi ta GDP at Current Market Prices rose steadily from US$427 in1960 to US$26,833 in 2005 (Stati stics Singapore, 2006a). Several publications have reviewed the successful economic growth of Singa pore (Lee, 2000; Chiang, 1998; Huff, 1994), while many articles studying the success of Singapores economy and education can be readily found on the web (Thatcher, 1993; Schwastz, 2000; Ng, 20 01; Cavanagh, 2005; Inkpen & Wang, 2006; Al Jamal, 2006). Singapores growing status as both a global city and a knowledge society is reflected in accolades and achievements cited on the Singapore EDBs homepage: SingaporeWorlds most globalized nation (A.T. Kearney, 2005), SingaporeMost competitive Asian economy (Global Competitiveness Report, 2004), SingaporeBest place to live and work in Asia (EIU Quality of Life Index, 2005); SingaporeBest infrastructure in Asia (Global Competitiveness Report, 2004); and SingaporeBest work force in the world (BERI, 2005) (cited in EDB, 2006c). Singapores contemporary population is broadly grouped into four major ethnic communities: Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasians and others roughly in the proportion of 76:14:8:2 (EDB, 2006d). Together with more than eight milli on visitors every year, Singapore is a notably cosmopolitan city where English is the language for business and government as well as for interracial communication. With respect to education and training, Singapore has an established emphasis on multiracialism and meritocracy, with the intenti on of ensuring that every resident has equal opportunities to schooling and employment. Wong (2000, 4) credited this emphasis on multiracialism and meritocracy [as having helped to ] build multiracial harmony out of diversity in Singapore, and fuelled our economic development ov er the past three decades. A close look at Key Indicators of Education and Literacy provided by Statistics Singapore (2006b) shows that in 2004, the combined Gross Enrollment Ratioa prox y to participation ratereached 87.4% and the Literacy Rate has increased to 94.6% while th e Mean Years of Schooling is 8.8 years. These indicators demonstrate the success of Singapor es education system. Yet, both national and international readers may well pose questions of how success is portrayed and perceived in Singapore and, more particularly, of what implic ations the success has for the Singapore society.
Curriculum as Praxis 3 This paper presents a critical policy analysis that focuses on Singapore as a knowledge society considering its general education and technica l education and training systems. It engages with key policies of these seemingly successful system s in relation to issues and insights provided by two sources of work with a vision of education and training in postmodern knowledge societies; Hargreaves (2003) and Grundy (1987). The first section of the paper develops the framework for critical policy review. The second section of th e paper focuses on where contemporary education, and technical education and training curriculum and practices in Singapore appear to be positioned when compared to the vision represented in the framework. The third section presents challenges, measures and changes that are arguably needed for Singapores technical education and training to transit and thrive in the 21st century. We begin, therefore, by engaging with the notion of Singapore as a knowledge society. Singapore as a Knowledge Society The impact of globalization is visible in the Singapore economy and the day-to-day lives of Singaporeans. For better or for worse, Singapore is fast becoming what may well be termed a knowledge society. Among the indicators of this development are Singapores ranking as #1 in Worlds Top 20 Most Globalized Nations, according to A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalization Index 2005, and Singapores positi on as one of worlds top seven Intelligent Communities of the Year, according to Inte lligent Community Forum 2005 (EDB, 2005e). The question of how ready the general education and technical education and training systems in Singapore are to help prepare its citizens and resi dents for the knowledge society which is definitely at our doorsteps if not already here is therefor e very pertinent. Inquiry into that readiness necessarily requires, however, that we firstly acknowledge important characteristics of the contemporary context and its historical and cultural origins. Education in Singapore The Singapore education system evolved from an English model. Superficially, the contemporary general education model for primary and secondary school years features tracking (or streaming) and is centrally managed, highly stru ctured, stratified and differentiated with a clear academic/technical divide. Figure 1 depicts the structure of the Singapore education system as presented by the Ministry of Education (2002, Annex). It shows that all students sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at the end of Year Six when they are 12 years old. Depending on their results, they are tracked into Normal (Tec hnical), Normal (Academic), Special and Express courses. They then follow different academic/techn ical pathways in the secondary schools and take different examinations (GCE N-level or GCE O-level) at the end of Year 10 when they are 16 years old. The system is thus highly structured and tracked with a clear distinction between academic and technical routes. In an academic route, students follow either the Special or Express course in secondary schools and proceed to junior colleges and then universities. In a technical route, students follow either the Normal (Academic) or Normal (T echnical) course in secondary schools and join the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) or polytechnics. The system does, however, provide pathways for students who do well in the ITE and polytechnics to continue their education in the universities.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 4 Technical Education and Training in Singapore Like Singapore as a nation, technical education an d training has a relatively short history. A national system of training was adopted primarily to support the manpower needs of industrialization after independence. Since then, th e system has undergone several transformations (Law, 1996), from vocational institutes within th e school system in the 1960s to the creation of Industrial Training Board outside the school syst em in 1973 and the formation of Vocational and Industrial Training Board as a Statutory Board in 1979. Finally, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) was established in 1992 as a post-secondary institution and the national institution responsible for providing technical education and training to school leavers and working adults. As shown in Figure 1, ITE is an integral part of the national sy stem of education and training in Singapore today. The mission of ITE is To Create Opportunities for School Leavers and Adult Learners to Acquire Skills, Knowledge and Values for Lifelong Learni ng in a Global Economy (ITE, 2005a). With this mission, the ITE education and training system essentially caters to between 20% of a cohort leaving their secondary education with lower academ ic achievements. It provides practical hands-on training to equip students with skills for employment and a learning environment that is designed to develop students into confident, independent and thinking practitioners, able to cope with constant changes around them, have passion for what they do and care for the community and society. The ITE space in Singapores society is important in several respects. It serves to occupy the fresh school leavers (youths) and focus them on learning skil ls for employment and thus, be positioned to contribute to society in their adult years. Although it is well recognized that vocational and technical training is perceived as having a lower status the world over as compared with its academic counterpart (Metzger et al, 2001), ITE has larg ely overcome this image problem. Today,
Curriculum as Praxis 5 Singaporeans embrace it as an accessible and attractive alternative, enjoying a cohort participation rate of 27% compared with a nati onal target of 25% (ITE, 2005b). In October 2005, in recognition of its status as a world-class institution of excellence in technical education, ITE became the first educational institution in Singapore and one of 22 organizations to win th e prestigious Singapore Quality Award (SQA) since it was launched in 1994. Such achievements undoubtedly paint an impressive picture of educational innovation an d development. However, critical policy review remains fundamental if such advancements are to be sustained in and aligned with changing national and international economic, political, and social contexts. A Framework for Critical Policy Review As a newly developed nation, Singapore represen ts one notion of a developing knowledge or learning society. The terms knowledge society and learning society are often used interchangeably in the literature. For example, Hargreaves (2003) states that a knowledge society is really a learning society (p. xviii ) and Guttman (2003) wrote about the challenge every country faces in becoming a learning society, and the importance of ensuring that citizens are equipped with the knowledge, skills and qualifications they will need in the twenty-first century (p. 19) in a chapter entitled Towards Knowledge Societies. As such, the term knowledge society will be the term used in the rest of this paper, taken to simultaneously embrace notions of a learning society This paper uses two main sources of work wi th a vision of education and training in postmodern knowledge societies: Hargreavess (2003) Teaching in the Knowledge Society and Grundys (1987) work exploring curriculum as product or praxis. Specifically, we draw on concepts from these two sources to critically re view contemporary curriculum policies and practices in Singapore, with the aim of illuminating good pr actices and identifying what may be regarded as gaps or shortcomings in the current general educ ation as well as technical education and training systems. The concepts drawn from Hargreaves (2003) and Grundy (1987) are the theoretical basis for suggestions on how the technical education and training sector can further develop to support the further growth and prosperity of postmoder n Singaporean as a knowledge society. Supporting information, arguments and counter-arguments are drawn from journal papers in the Educational Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA), speeches and publications from the Ministry of Education in Singapore (MOE), and contemporary academic literature with a focus on education and curriculum aligned with notions of information (Guttman, 2003) and knowledge or learning societies (Young, 1998). Teaching in the Singaporean Knowledge Society As a developing knowledge society, the que stion of whether the education systems, curriculum and educational professionals in Singapore are ready to provide general education or technical education and training for a knowledge society is an important one. Hargreaves (2003) presented three perspectives of teachers and teaching in a knowledge society teaching despite the knowledge society, teaching for the knowledge society and teaching beyond the knowledge society. Variously, the three perspectives provide contrasting visions for the role of teachers, the nature of their work, the sort of learning and learners that an education system is concerned (and designed) to develop.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 6 From the perspective of teaching despite the knowledge society, teachers are trapped in an infernal triangle of competing pressures and ex pectations in the knowledge society (p. 59) and become its casualties. Teachers as casualties tea ching in and despite the knowledge society find themselves increasingly preoccupied with coaching children for standardized tests (ibid). They have little or no academic and professional freedom, and more often than not they find themselves pressured to teach as they are told. Research in best classroom practice is imposed on them rather than being a source of professional reflection and adaptation to teachers own classroom circumstances (ibid). Focus on key performance indi cators and results reduces essential partnership and relationships with parents for support in pupils learning to either market transactions where schools treat parents as consumers, or to defe nsive reactions which characterize parents as interfering complainers (p. 60). From the perspective of teaching for the knowledge society, teachers are expected to be catalysts of the knowledge society, to be the key agents who can bring it into being (p. 15). As catalysts, teachers teaching in and for the k nowledge society are concerned with sophisticated cognitive learning, an expanding and changing re pertoire of research-informed teaching practices (p. 20). They are mature professionals and avid lifelong learners who practice continuous professional learning and self moni toring, teamwork, learning partnership with parents, developing and using collective intelligence, and cultivating a profession that values problem-solving, risktaking, professional trust, coping with change an d committing to continuous improvement (ibid). From the perspective of teaching beyond the knowledge society, teachers must address other compelling human values and educational pur poses in addition to those that make a profit purposes concerned with character, community, democracy and cosmopolitan identity (p. 43). Therefore, from this perspective, teaching mean s serving as a courageous counterpoint for the knowledge society in order to foster the values fo r society, community, democracy, humanity, and a cosmopolitan identity. It means not just delivering values but being driven by values. Teachers as counterpoints teaching in and beyond the knowledg e society are thus concerned with character as well as performance, with social and emotional as well as cognitive learning, with personal and professional development as well as professional lear ning, with group life as well as teamwork, with caring as well as cognition, with preserving c ontinuity and security alongside promoting risk and change (pp. 50). The broader concern of teaching beyond the knowledge society includes developing social capital, laying the emotional foundations of democracy and creating the kernels of cosmopolitan identity (p. 51). Today, Singaporean educators in schools and in technical education specifically come from varying backgrounds with a wide spectrum of k nowledge, skills, values, and experience. Many who started their teaching careers in the 1960s and 70s are still in the system. We might well hypothesize that a good number of them would hang on to the good old days and identify themselves as teaching despite the knowledge society. Meanwhile, up-to-date lifelong learners and younger educators would be in tune with the fast changing world and might say that they are teaching for the knowledge society. Yet few could be expected to have the professional maturity and academic insights to teach beyond the knowledge society. For an official stance on these matters, th en-Prime Minister Goh (1997) declared the following vision of Singapores education system known as Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (Goh, 1997): It is a vision for a total learning environment, including students, teachers, parents, workers, companies, community organizations, and government. to develop stronger bonds bet ween pupils and a desire to contribute to something larger than themselves. Every school mu st be a model learning organization. Teachers and principa ls will constantly look out fo r new ideas and practices, and
Curriculum as Praxis 7 continuously refresh their own knowledge. to the individual, it offers satisfaction in being able to exercise i nnovation, demonstrate initiative and enjoy the freedom to participate in improving his own life as well as his community and nation ( 17). While ministerial pronouncements and official policies arising from government arenas are political and never value-free, elements of teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society are apparent in the decl aration. Subsequent se ctions of this paper w ill use this vision of education and training in the postmodern knowle dge societies as well as concepts and teaching and learning theories as proposed by Hargreaves (2003) to inform the macro-level review of the key developmental stages in Singapores general education and technical education and training systems to their co ntemporary forms. Before advancing th at discussion, we must necessarily turn our attention to the second key source th at informs the framework for our policy analysis. Curriculum as Praxis Few would disagree with the statement that education and training in and for knowledge societies must aim to be inclusive and open to develop the human capacity of all to benefit from the development and progress of societies. Yet it is crucial to acknowledge that how curriculum is perceived and organized influences the process of teaching and learning. The concept of curriculum is key in understanding the possibilities and limitations of educational reforms. In postmodern knowledge societies, a key feature is the rejection of meta-narratives, stories which purport to explain the world, history, trut h and practices. Thus Lyotard (1984), the person who first coined the term postmodernism, defined postmodern as incredulity toward meta-narratives (p. xxiv). Postmodernists view knowledge as the product of di scourse, not something which is independent of human minds. It is subjective and changes with time according to prevailing environment and situation. Hence for postmodern knowledge societ ies, viewing curriculum as praxis (Grundy, 1987) appears the way forward to develop and maximi ze the potential of each and every individual. Curriculum as praxis (Grundy, 1987) is a conceptualization of curriculum derived from an orientation towards human well-being and which makes an explicit commitment to emancipation of the human spirit. Hence, it moves the teachin g and learning process to critical pedagogy as Grundy describesa process which takes the experiences of both the learner and the teacher and, through dialogue and negotiation, recognizes them both as problematic (p. 103). Grundy notes that critical pedagogy places control of knowledge (that is, both the production and application of knowledge) with the le arning group rather than elsewhere (p. 104). Students and teachers are encouraged to confront real problems together. They are encouraged to think and reflect critically and develop these skills further. In working together, they develop an understanding of their respective pedagogical roles and what others expect of them in the learning process. As a learning group, they need to work out an action proposal for essential content and for outcomes of the educational encounter. The learning process and outcomes are continually evaluated based on the dynamic interaction of the learning group. Hence, the curriculum itself develops with the learning process. As Grundy puts it, the curriculum is not simply a set of plans to be implemented, but rather is constituted through an active process in which planning, acting and evaluating are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process (p. 115). As such, praxis takes place in the real world and at the center of praxis is informed and committed action. The key concern here is for students to make sense of the concepts and theories as well as find meaning and connection to real world applications of knowledge in their learning journey.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 8 Based on one of our (Tiew Ming Yeks) persona l experiences, the idea that curriculum is dynamic and develops with the learning process according to the dynamic interaction of the learning group does not fit well into the structured, skillsand standards-driven technical education and training curriculum in Singapore. Indeed, it seems likely to be alien to most of the educators in the technical education and training sector, but neverthe less, it is a potentially important and powerful basis from which to consider the future deve lopment of technical education and training in Singapore. Necessarily, any consideration of prospecti ve future developments must be grounded in an understanding of the historical, societal, po litical and contemporaneous context. Contextual discussion provides the basis from which we will c onsider the relative readiness of and changes needed for technical education and training in a postmodern knowledge society within Singapore. Contemporary Curriculum a nd Practices in Singapore In terms of a number of measures, the success of Singapores education system over the past 40 years has been significant. Available data show s that educational attainment indicators compare well with the developed countries, for example: the literacy rate in Singapore reached 93% in 1997 compared with 99% for US and Japan in the same year; mean years of schooling is 7.8 in Singapore in 1997 compared to 12.4 in US and 10.2 in Japan in 1992; and research scientists and engineers per 10,000 labor force is 60.2 in Singapore in 1997 comp ared to 109.8 in Japan in 1997 and 75.2 in US in 1993 (Teo, 1998, annex). The evolution of Singapore s education system can be looked at in three stages. Before independence, education was for the elite and accessible only to well-connected minority. After independence, mass education existe d with an efficiency-driven education paradigm. In the contemporary education system, the official stance is in favor of holistic education with ability-driven education paradigm given the vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (Goh, 1997, 17). The development of technical education and training in Singapore took a relatively independent path compared to the general educat ion system (with primary, secondary and junior college levels). In the beginning, the discourse for technical education and training was a clear case of national economic direction and the concomitant skilled manpower needs. Law (1990) recorded that the first vocational institute was set up within the school system in 1964. With an increasing pace of industrialization, there was a growing concern on how best to expedite and expand the vocational training system to meet the manpower requirements of the emerging industry. By 1972, there were [nine] vocational institutes. The annu al output of graduates increased over -fold from 324 in 1968 to over 4,000 (p. 4). Since th en, the systems structure has undergone several evolutions, from a system of vocational institutes within the school system in the 60s to the creation of Industrial Training Board outside the school sy stem in 1973, the formation of Vocational and Industrial Training Board as a Statutory Board in 1979, and the establishment of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as a post-secondary institution in 1992 (Law, 1996). The establishment of ITE as a Statutory Board in 1992 is a key milestone for Technical Education and Training in Singapore. It marked th e beginning of an era that saw ITE going through three clear phases of transformation. The first phase was the transition from a lowly vocational training institution with a poor public image towards an established post-secondary institution. The second phase was from an established post-sec ondary institution towards a world-class technical education institution. Indeed, ITE is today recognized as a world-class institution after becoming one of three Singapore Quality Award (SQA) winn ers in October 2005. ITE became the first educational institution in Singapore, and one of 22 organizations to win the prestigious SQA since it was launched in 1994 (SPRING Singapore, n.d.). Wi th the Prime Minister as its patron, the SQA is
Curriculum as Praxis 9 described as the most prestigious award confe rred on organizations that demonstrate the highest standards of business excellence in Singapore (SPRING Singapore, n.d.). Essentially, the business excellence model underpinning the SQA is based on universally accepted standards also found in the US Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the European Quality Award, and the Australian Business Excellence Award. The third and current transition is from a world-class institution towards a global leader in technical education. A roadmap defined as the ITE Advantage Plan has been developed to guide ITEas an educational institutiontowards its vision of becoming A Global Leader in Technical Education in five yea rs (2005). Major changes relevant to the discussion on the knowledge society through the th ree phases of transformation include seven components: introduction of a restructured training system, introduction of an Institute Attachment Program, construction of a new curriculum structure, introduction of the ITE pedagogical model, formulation of the ITE information technology master plan, formulation of a global outreach strategy, and formation of an applied research center for vocational and technical education. Amidst all the changes and developments, both the general education system and the technical education and training systems have emerged as unified national systems, with multiracialism and meritocracy as policy pillars that aim to provide equal opportunities for each student to learn and achieve their highest potential within the system. In turn, multiracialism ensures that the bilingual policy would become a cornerston e of the education system. While English is the medium of instruction and the first language in schools, every student is also taught their mothertongue as a second language for the purpose of tr ansmitting moral values and cultural traditions. English, as the common working language, enable s inter-racial communication and facilitates the emergence of a common or even universal work and organization culture. In addition, English provides access to the world of knowledge and technology, and others in the world. Meanwhile, meritocracy recognizes and rewards everyone who works hard and excels, gives equal opportunities to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, class or gend er. Indeed, under this system, the minority groups have made big strides in social mobility through thei r own efforts. In essence, meritocracy is highly compatible with the multiracial model of society. It allows all ethnic groups to advance in various fields, solely on the basis of achievement, merit and hard work. In the following subsections, the changes and developments in general education and technical education and training systems are examin ed vis--vis visions for knowledge society. In Hargreaves (2003) terminology, are we teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society? Or, are we still teaching despite the knowledge society? Are developm ents informed by and serving to reaffirm Grundys (1987) articulation for curriculum as praxis? Teaching despite the Knowledge Society For general education, the efficiency-driven education paradigm adopted in the 1960s and 70s is akin to Hargreaves (2003) perspective of teaching despite the knowledge society. This is related to the fact that during the early years of nation-building, Singapores government had to concentrate on providing mass education to equi p the young with employable skills including literacy and numeracy skills that were crucial to th e nations earlier phase of industrialization. The view that literacy and numeracy skills are important em ployable skills for industrialization is shared by Mark, Macmillan, and Ainley (2004) who noted th at in Australia today at the macro-economic level there is [still a] strong case to improve st udent performance in literacy and numeracy, since the economy is likely to be increasingly reliant on industries based on the manipulation of symbols (words and numbers) (p. 3). Mass education was achieved through an efficiency-driven education paradigm which provided a single curriculum and common examinations for all students in the
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 10 country. At that time the dominant discourses for education were national survival and contribution to the economic well-being of the country. For a newly independent country with few natu ral resources, coupled with a poorly educated population, the move to equip the young with employable skills made a lot of sense. Teachers then were pressured by the need for an educated workfo rce in a hurry. Minimal resources were available. The state of the economy and society was rather backward, and globalization and the knowledge society were unheard of. With a mass education ap proach using the efficiency-driven education paradigm or teaching despite the knowledge society, the country was able to lift its general education profile (especially in equipping the young with empl oyable skills), progress with industrialization, and improve its economy. The strategy clearly worked. Phenix, Siegel, Zaltsman, and Fruchter (2005) also documented the case of A Forced March for Failing Schools: Lessons from the New York City Chancellor's District where a centralization and standardization approach akin to some aspects of teaching despite the knowledge society has worked well. In their conclusion, Phenix et al. (2005) noted that by developing, mandating and implem enting a comprehensive set of organizational, curricular, instructional and personnel changes, the Chancellors District significantly improved the reading outcomes of the students in those schools, in three years of focused effort. This is not a small accomplishment (p. 21). For technical education and training, the paradigm employed in the early years was also very close to teaching despite the knowledge society (Hargreaves, 2003). The initial years were typical of any community or country embarking on industrialization as a means to diversify or grow the economy. There would be shortage of skilled ma npower, and by necessity a vocational training system would be adopted to train relevant skilled manpower for the industry. In Singapore, the vocational training system known locally as technical education and training was rapidly developed and expanded to meet the needs for trained manpower with technical skills. It was highly structured and centrally regulated and managed. Metzger et al (2001) reported that to ensure efficiency, Singapore undertakes centralized manpower planninga relatively rare practice compared to that of other countries in which, for example, a ministerial level council sets intake targets for each educational institution to support economic growth (p 49). The focus was to train the students and equip them with relevant and practical hands-on skills for employment. Standardized curriculum and summative examinations and practical assessments were the normal practice. Today, ITE has created and articulated a Hands-on, Minds-on, Hearts-on technical education and training for ease of understanding and acceptance (ITE, 2005b). Hands-on refers to the core skills training that every student receives depending on the course chosen. The focus is to equip students in their chosen course with pra ctical skills required for them to perform in the relevant professional jobs that the course has prepared them for. Minds-on refers to the life-skills training that all ITE students will receive regardless of the course chosen. The focus is to equip all students with generic and transferable skills required for them to perform in any professional job in the knowledge-based economy such as information technology skills, teamwork skills and independent-learning skills. Hearts-on refers to the development of a civic mindset so that ITE students will contribute to and care for the well-being of society, community, environment and fellow human beings. In relation to perspectives of teaching in the knowledge society as articulated by Hargreaves (2003), hands-on is still done through an approach based on teaching despite the knowledge society as the focus is on ensuring that st udents acquire a set of core skills for a specific course and the training methodology or pedagogy is traditional and instructional.
Curriculum as Praxis 11 Teaching for the Knowledge Society The general education system in Singapore today has shif ted from the efficiency-driven education paradigm to an ability-driven educati on paradigm. The move towards the ability-driven paradigm basically started with a declaration by Mr. Goh Chok Tong, then Prime Minister, on the aspiration of Singapores education system towards a national education vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (Goh, 1997). From this declaration by th e nations political leader, the dominant discourse for education seems to have shifted fr om national survival and economic contribution to maximizing potential and improving lives. Within the vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nations components of teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society as articulated by Hargreaves (2003) are inherent, and some elements of critical pedagogy are present. Examples of teaching for the knowledge society include the exhortation that every school must be a model learning organizations. Teachers must be given time to reflect, learn and keep up-to-date ( 23) and for hands-on experiences and interesting them in real world technologies ( 30). Following the vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation the system for an ability-driven education paradigm was outlined in a speech by Mr. Teo Chee Hean, then Minister for Education at the Annual Workplan Seminar for the Ministry of Education. In the speech, the system was to deal with the practical bolts-and-nuts issues in getting the ability-driven education paradigm to work towards the vision (Teo, 2000). It pointed towards teaching for the knowledge economy as being the immediate concerns and the dominant direction. He referred to the Government's commitment to education by [increasing] spending on education from 3.6% to 4.5% of GDP over the next few years ( 3). He talked about the need to crea te a conducive physical environment, improving support for teachers, and recruiting and retainin g a quality teaching force [to provide] good administrative support [and] to build a quality teaching force for the 21st century ( 9). The importance of leadership in schools and focus on people in order for ability driven education to happen was stressed. A system of school aut onomy with responsibility, freedom to act and accountability was outlined. In the ministers own words education gives every child a fair shot at achieving his or her hopes and aspirations ( 39 ). Other politicians have also highlighted components of teaching for the knowledge society in the contemporary education system at various times. In a speech by Dr. Aline Wong, then Senior Minister of State for Education, she associated the system of streaming (or tracking) (Wong, 2000) with ability-driven education paradigm. According to her, when a system of tracking was in troduced in the 80s, for the very able, there are programs to stretch them to the maximum. For t hose who are not academically inclined, streaming helps ensure that they acquired the basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as prepare them for technical and vocational training ( 11). More recently, Mr. Hawazi Daipi, then Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education, s poke about arts education [playing] an important part in an ability-driven education system. It provides our students with a broad-based educational experience by nurturing their creativity and imag ination arts add depth and dimension to the world we live in and shape our everyday experience (Daipi, 2005, 2). For technical education and training, the emphasis on minds-on in ITEs Hands-on, Minds-on, Hearts-on education and trainingcan be interpreted as teaching for the knowledge society as the focus here is on equipping all students with generic and transferable skills required for them to perform in any professional job in a knowledge-based economy. Examining the development of ITE since its establishment in 1992 also points towards teaching for the knowledge economy as being the immediate concerns and th e dominant direction. Relevant changes that highlight the move towards teaching for the knowledge economy include the following: introduction of a restructured training system, introduction of an institute attachment program, construction of a
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 12 new curriculum structure, articulation of ITE pedago gical model, formulation of the ITE IT master plan, and formation of an applied research center for vocational and technical education. The restructured training system has a modu lar credit-based training system as its key feature. It was the first step towards giving the curriculum more flexibility. Young (1998) described modularization as a way of organi zing a flexible curriculum into small blocks of learning which can be combined together in different ways (p. 80). With a modular system, the possibility of student choice and new combinations of study that can relate student purposes to the options a society has for the future (p. 91) can be achieved. So this is an initiative that moves the curriculum towards teaching for the knowledge economy. The two-day Institute Attachment Program was introduced to all secondary two normal (technical) track students to enable them to appreciate the relevance of technical education to employment and career progression. The importance of linking work and career options to training courses offered by ITE and to academic subjects in secondary schools to promote lifelong learning cannot be over-emphasized. It is a key feature of teaching for the knowledge economy. With an understanding of the relevance of knowledge ac quired to real-world employment and career progression, students would be more interested and motivated to continue their studies and at the same time, more able to make an informed choi ce concerning the courses they should embark on once they leave secondary school. This is similar to the strategy used by Scottish Executive (2005) which stated In our lifelong lear ning strategy to encourage loca lly relevant links between schools, FE [(Further Education)] colleges and local employers to ease school leavers transitions into further learning, training or employment (p. 12). The new curriculum comprises 80% core skills modules, 5% elective modules, and 15% lifeskills modules. The aim of the core skills moduleswh ich are specific to each course of studyis to equip graduates of a specific course with the co re skills required to contribute to a range of professional works or careers that the course is training them for. To ensure that the list of core skills is relevant and up-to-date, the list and cour se curriculum are reviewed at least once every three years with teachers needing to continuously self-monitor and upgrade themselves professionally. In some fast changing info-communication technolog y courses, minor reviews are carried out once every year and major reviews once every three years. The elective/specialist modules aim to cater for students who wish to take up cross-disciplinary st udies as well as those who are interested to explore some subject matters in greater depth. Lastly, the life-skills modules cut across all courses and they are meant to be taken by all stud ents. The full range of life-skills mo dules aims to develop students ability to be effective and help them acquire lif e-long learning skills so that they can remain employable as the economy and job availability change. These are all important features of teaching for the knowledge society. In their review of the Northern Ireland Key Stage 3 curriculum (for students aged 11 years), the Centre for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) highlights the importance of these life-skills: [T]o optimize lif e-long learning and potential success young people need to have opportunities to develop eff ective personal and interpersonal skills and critical and creative thinking skills as part of their all round education (CCEA, 2003, p. 1). Overall, the introduction of life-skills modules and the elective /specialist modules has the effect of weakening the classification between courses, offering more breadth and flex ibility instead. The new curriculum structure addresses some areas of the suggestion, ou tlined in the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) Report A British Baccalaureate (Finegold et al., 1990, cited in Young, 1998), that a curriculum for the future would need to build on an d give specificity to the principles of: breadth and flexibility; connections between both core and specialist studies and general (academic) and applied (vocational) studies; opportunities for prog ression and credit transfer; and a clear sense of purpose of the curriculum as a whole (p. 79). The in tent of the new curriculum structure at ITE is to
Curriculum as Praxis 13 prepare graduates for the knowledge society. Toge ther with the ITE pedagogical model which is discussed next, they address many aspects of the perspective of teaching for the knowledge society. The ITE pedagogical model is positioned as a student/learner-centered pedagogy. It adopts a problem or project-based learning paradigm. In a typical learning project, students work in teams. They are facilitated through a PlanExplorePractice Perform (PEPP) cycle. During the Plan stage, a student team and their teacher-facilitator go thro ugh a planning exercise together to define the learning plan, activities and objectives. The Explor e stage allows the students to practice working together as a team, exploring and sharing their findin gs, and refining the learning plan, activities and objectives where appropriate. The Practice stage allows the students to try out their solutions and refine them where necessary. Finally, the Perfor m stage allows the students to implement and present their solution. With this PEPP approach, teac hers play the role of a facilitator or coach by the side and enable students as learners to acqui re not just technical skills, but also methodological and social skills. This changing role of teacher s further weakens the traditional framing of the teacher-student relationship. It is no longer a case of teachers teach and students learn. Spanning real-life problems, learning plans, explorations, discussions, presentations, and trial implementations built-in for learning activities, the ITE pedagogi cal model is positioned to ensure that students acquire the necessary skills to be effective in the knowledge society. A teacher acting as a facilitator or coach by the side is to teach less but work a lot harder in researching and developing the right real-life problems and context in order to bring about active learning by students. Mapping these activities to Hargreaves (2003) perspectives, teachers are therefore teaching for the knowledge society. The aim of ITEs IT master plan is to leverage in formation and communication technology, software applications, and multimedia rich digital content to develop independent life-long learning skills, to enhance and speed up learning, and to facilitate exploration and just-in-time learning as well as to enable asynchronous discussion and communication in a team environment. All students going through the ITE education and training today are required to take an independent learning module equivalent to 200 curriculum hours using the eLearning mode. They can also use the Internet for their research or pick up relevant knowledge and skills for their projects or simply for their own interests. In a knowledge society, the use of technology is an essential part of life-long learning in educational institutions as well as at the workpla ce. Hargreaves (2003) stated that aspects of knowledge society depend on having a sophistic ated infrastructure of information and communication technology that makes [all this] learning faster and easier (p. 9). The provision of easy access to sophisticated information and comm unication technology for learning activities is therefore a critical investment to prep are students for the knowledge society. As an aspiring global leader in technical education, ITE is in the process of setting up an applied research center for vocational and technical education to conduct applied research as well as encourage the development of new ideas to ad vance the knowledge frontier. With researchinformed teaching practices, continuous professi onal learning and commitment to continual improvement as key concerns of teachers teaching in and teaching for the knowledge society, the applied research center for vocational and technical education would help a long way in moving teachers towards teaching for the knowledge society.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 14 Teaching beyond the Knowledge Society While teaching for the knowledge society is the domina nt direction of the ability-driven paradigm for the general education system in Singapore today, components of teaching beyond the knowledge society can also be found. In the init ial declaration by Mr. Goh Chok Tong, then Prime Minster, he talked about giving students and the in dividual freedom to participate in improving his own life as well as his community and nation (G oh, 1997, 33). Focus on participation and improvement of community as well as the nation is clearly about teaching beyond the knowledge society. In recent years, the education system in Singapore has increasingly focused on quality and choice in learning. Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the current Minister for Education spoke about Achieving Quality: Bottom Up Initiative, Top Down Support at the Ministry of Education Singapore Annual Work Plan 2005 Seminar (Tharman 2005). He highlighted a number of issues that are relevant to teaching beyond the knowledge society: [T]wo key thrusts Teach Less, Learn More (TLLM) goes to the core of quality in educati on. It is about a richer in teraction between teacher and studentabout touching hearts and engaging minds We will [reduce] the amount of content in the curriculum [and] build space into our teachers weekly timetable to give them the ti me to reflect and share have many prototypes, different designs of TLLM, ev entually spreading into a mosaic of practices give schools more ownership and encourage greater emphasis on character development Teachers and school leaders will have to touch the hearts of their students and engage their minds This is what we a ll know gives the real quality that shows up many years late r (Tharman, 2005, September, 1199; added emphasis). For technical education and training, the hearts-on componentin ITEs Hands-on, Minds-on, Hearts-on education and trainingessentially addresses issues surrounding teaching beyond the knowledge society. Hearts-on, like teaching beyond the knowledge society, focuses on contributing to the well-being of society, community, environment and fellow human beings. Programs that are relevant to teaching beyond the knowledge society incl ude: articulation of the ITE pedagogical model and formulation of a global outreach strategy. Teachers facilitate by using the ITE pedagogical mode lPEPPand act as counterpoints teaching beyond the knowledge society. As they play the role of a facilitator or co ach by the side an d enable students as learners to acquire social skil ls, they can design and engage stud ents in learning activities that develop their characters, engage the community, and develop social capital. Hence, they are teaching beyond the knowledge society. The global orientation expressed in the ITE Advantage Plan would see ITE part icipating and play ing a more visible role on the international stage (Institute for Te chnical Education, 2005a). It would see ITE reaching out through international conferences organized with themes that focu s on technical educat ion and training at international locations. In terms of teaching and learning activi ties, a global education program was conceptualized and implemented. Through th is program, every year, some 510% of ITE staff and students will have the opportunity to visit locations all over the world for community services as well as educational and training purp oses. In addition, the aim is to bring the world to ITE staff and students through sharing seminars and cultural awareness workshops, facilitated by international students as well as participants who have ha d the opportunity to visit an overseas location. This new dimension in global outreach is compatible with Hargreaves (2003) perspective of teaching beyond the knowledge society. The im portance of looking at the
Curriculum as Praxis 15 global dimension is also supported by Guttman ( 2003) who pointed out that education is both a fundamental human right and a key to sustai nable development and peace within and among countries. [and] the reality of growing in terdependence between nations (p. 11). Critical Pedagogy: Developing a Habit of Inquiry At the Ministry of Education Singapore Annual Work Plan 2005 Seminar, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the current Minister for Education, spoke about shifting the balance in education, from learning content to developing a habit of inquiry (Tharman, 2005, 2). The call for developing a habit of inquiry would necessitate a move towards critical pedagogy, a cornerstone of the curriculum as praxis model presented by Grundy (1987). From the speech, it is apparent that the political leadership understands the issues that need to be addressed for general education to function well and deliver what is expected of it in a knowledge society. The education system of Singapore is progressing towards one that would exhibit many features of Hargreaves (2003) perspectives on teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society and Grundys (1987) curriculum as praxis model of curriculum theory. Overall, for the vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nations to be realized, curriculum as praxis must be well understood and internalized by those in the teaching profession, and all educators should be involved with praxis. For technical education and training, there is potential to leverage the ITE pedagogical model and its applied research center for vocational and technical education as catalysts toward curriculum as praxis With PEPP, learning activities can be planned and geared toward active learning and take an orientation towards human we ll-being and emancipation. As a result of active learning, actions will be both informed and commi tted. With applied research conducted within a dynamic technical education and training environm ent, a culture for critical pedagogy can be encouraged and developed. To move towards the actualization of curriculum as praxis it is important that teachers are actively involved in professional development, working together collaboratively and learning from and challenging each other to arrive at informed and committed actions. Through applied research activities using an action-research method, teachers as professional learners can acquire the skills to engage in active critique and develop a critical consciousness. As Grundy (1987) highlighted, with praxis in action learners should be active participants learning experience should be meaningful to the learner learning should have a critical focus (p. 101; added emphasis). Also, Hargreaves (2003) argued that teaching in the knowledge economy requires levels of skills and judgement far beyond those involved in merely delivering someone elses prescribed curriculum and standardized test scores. It requires qualities of personal and intellectual maturity that take years to develop (p. 51; added em phasis). An applied research center that focuses on issues related to technical education and training and simultaneously involves teachers as part of a professional learning community will certainly help equip teachers with the skills to engage in active critique and develop a critical consciousness, leading to even more learning with a critical focus. Personal development and intellectual maturity will come with experience in such a professional learning community. Readiness of Singapore Society for Critical Pedagogy The matter of whether the Hargreaves and Gr undy models are implementable in Singapore is well worthy of debate. The structural, ideolo gical, political, and economic contexts shape and
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 16 inevitably in some respects constrain the development directions that will be conceived as possible and acceptable within the education system, and sim ilarly what can be done within schools and other institutions. The first author (Tiew Ming Yek), who has more than 20 years of academic and administrative experience in Singapores education system, views the matter as a uniquely Singapore problem. Singapores democracy, media censorshi p and the freedom of expression that any Singaporean can enjoy have all been a focus for cr itical comment internationally. For example, a Google web search August 20, 2006, with the ex act phrase freedom of expression in Singapore returned some 1130 articles, the majority of wh ich implied criticism of a lack in freedom of expression in Singapore. Certainly, there are perceived and real curbs in freedom of expression when one crosses the boundary of Singapores la ws and engages in expression of libelous nature, racial bigotry, religious intolerance, chauvinism and fanaticism which the laws judge to be irresponsible. Many Singaporeans support the government and view these curbs as necessary to ensure harmony and stability in the small cosmopolitan city/society of Singapore. There is recognition that a stable and harmonious soci ety is a pre-condition for economic growth and educational progress. As indicated above, Singapores success economic ally as a city-state as well as its achievement in educating and developing human capitals are notable. That Singapores government enjoys overwhelming support and trust by a clear majority of the electorate is supported by the results of free general elections conducted wi thin five years for each parliamentary term since the country's independence in 1965. In the last three general elections held in 2006, 2001 and 1997, the governing party (Peoples Action Party) w on 66.6%, 75.3% and 65% of the popular votes respectively (Singapore Elections, n.d.). Arguably, th e stability and strength of the government can be seen to have created a situation in which ma ny Singaporeans may have become over-reliant on government for initiatives, leadership and direction, and have a blind faith in the ability of the government to further advance the economic, educat ional and social development of Singapore. It may well be time to explore how responsible and critical engagement with currently unquestioned discourses can be promoted to further enhance its social fabric and human capital towards a knowledge society. Implementing Hargreaves and Grundys models in the schools and educational institutions would certainly support the development of a capacity for critical thinking and new perspectives amongst the next generation of Singapo re citizens. The extent of open and easy access to Internet, and hence to a wide range of le gitimate (and not-so-legitimate) information and knowledge as well as responsible (and not-so-resp onsible) expression of alternative views, including views critical of the Singapore Way, shows there are ready avenues for educationists and students to carry out their research, learning and develop th eir capacity for critical perspectives. It is also notable that there has been open encouragement from senior government leaders to promote choice, creativity, innovation, and critical thinking in education in their speeches from as early as 1997 (Gan, 2006; Lee, 2006; Teo, 1997; Tharman, 2006; Wong, 1997). Singapores education including technical education and training can thus be seen as in important respects, being ready for the introduction of models such as Hargreaves and Grundys. Key challenges in implementation are in developing the education professionals with the relevant skills, knowledge, and perspectives to engage students with issues effectively. The challenges will be discussed further below.
Curriculum as Praxis 17 Challenges, Measures, and Changes Hargreaves (2003) noted that the Singapore go vernment realizes that its future prosperity depends not on educating its people in the knowledg e and skills for a particular kind of economy, but in developing its peoples capacity for learni ng and dealing with change so they can respond quickly and flexibly, adapting and retraining as future economic opportunities or recessions arise (p. 11). Supported by public funding and leadersh ip among the top-level government, the education system in Singapore is able to respond to the ra pidly changing socio-economic environment of the country. The sense of rapid and systemic change s is conveyed by the preceding section. From the changes discussed, there are good reasons to think that the technical education and training system has responded effectively to the economic and soci etal changes. While not explicitly described in terms of Hargreaves (2003) perspectives of teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society or Youngs (1998) notion of connective specialization, many of the changes in ITEs curriculum and initiatives are in line with basic principles ch ampioned by these authors. The challenges are one of translating theoretical principles into practical reality as well as linking practical initiatives and programs to well-informed and proven theoretical principles and concepts. The coming subsections look at challenges developing the education professionals, curriculum slippage, new learning environment, an d being responsive and staying relevant; measures of continuous professional development, focus on education and training with a constancy of purpose, and commitment and support for publicly fu nded education; and changes, praxis as a way ahead, needed for Singapores technical education sector to continue its success into the 21st century. Developing the Education Professionals Although good governmental support and adequa te public funding are critical, they do not guarantee success. A reality in Singapores technical education and training sector is that most teachers are trained professionals engineers, accountants and programmersfrom technical fields with minimal exposure to teaching and learning theories and practices, pedagogy, and classroom management. Teachers now in their 40s and 50s wo uld have joined the profession in the 1970s and 1980s. Some have not kept up with their professional developm ent. They would still deliver their lessons in the traditional teachers teach, studen ts learn mode despite having access to a welldefined curriculum and pedagogical model with a learner-centered and problem-based orientation. They bemoan the lack of standardized content an d clear instructions and many would undoubtedly prefer the role of knowledge transmitters deliver ing standardized text and carrying out prescribed teststhat is, exemplifying what Hargreaves (2003) termed as teaching despite the knowledge economy. Others have kept up with their persona l professional development by learning the skills needed to leverage on information and communication technology for teaching and learning and keeping pace with the domain knowledge. However Singapore is still largely an Asian society within which the dominant expectation or culture in educ ation is for teachers to be center stage with students learning from them unquestioningly. With this historical and cultural backdrop, developing the educational professions to implement the Hargreaves and Grundy models is a major challenge.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 18 Curriculum Slippage While sound principles and concepts may have been incorporated into a defined curriculum structure and pedagogical model, the final delivery of the curriculum to students in a particular class still depends on the contribution of key participants the principals, the curriculum text writers, the managers and the department heads. Penney and Ev ans (1999) identify the process as one of the production of multiple texts in multiple sites. With each transmission there is scope for slippage (Bowe et al., 1992, cited in Penney & Evan s, 1999) in the actual content and the interests and values transmitted or omitted. Dutro and Valencia (2004) sum up their study with the conclusion that all of our participating districts were engaged in important and substantive local conversations about language arts curriculum and instruction, whether around state standards or lo cally-driven reform efforts. this study reveals that the link between state and local content standa rds is a complex onetighter state control and alignment does not necessarily lead to gr eater fidelity; nor is greater fidelity necessary to positively im pact student success (pp. 39). Curriculum slippage does and will occur. If knowledge societies encourage the notion that the curriculum is not simply a set of plans [and texts] to be implemen ted, but rather is constituted through an active process in wh ich planning, acting and evaluati ng are all reciprocally related and integrated into the process (Grundy, 1987, p. 115), slippage need not be viewed as inherently problematic. Indeed, slippage can be regarded as a crucial fe ature if education and instruction is to meet the lear ning needs of any particular gr oup of students. A key point, however, is that it should be le arning and learner needs, as comp ared to any teachers personal interests and values, that inform the adaptation of curriculum. New Learning Environment Globalization heralds the pervasive use of tec hnology and explosion of knowledge such that youngsters today are exposed to all kinds of information: some pulled from internet portals, databases, movies and digital libraries, while ot hers are pushed to them via e-mails, pop-up web pages and television. Students today do not just learn and acquire knowledge while in school; they are bombarded with information and knowledge in many forms, at many places and times. Some information and knowledge are useful in their personal development. Others, however, can be propaganda, half-truths, and lies. The bombing of London reportedly by British-born and bred terrorists (Williams, 2005) illuminates the negative influence of learning outside the school curriculum through experiences in local community and online resources. So, the challenge is for teachers to leverage access to the tremendous amount of information and knowledge anytime, anywhere via technology, integrate learning activiti es outside the classrooms into curriculum, and facilitate the formation of purposeful learning communities among students to ensure that meaningful learning and overall development take place. Our professional experience in working with students has highlighted that it is a real challenge to arouse students interest and keep them engaged and motivated to learn what we might regard as the right things at the right time. Many activities are competing for their attention ev erywhereat home and in the community, shopping streets, internet cafs, and gaming arcades. We need to become better skilled in using those activities in productive educational ways.
Curriculum as Praxis 19 Being Responsive a nd Staying Relevant One characteristic of knowledge societies is the constant, rapid and increasingly complex changes that they face. The nature of education and training is such that the process takes time to bear results. Often, in terms of technical content, what is learnt in schools becomes obsolete right after or even before students step out of school A key challenge for educational institutions and establishments in such an environment is how to respond effectively to changes as they come? What is the appropriate response to change? From the perspectives of teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society (Hargreaves, 2003) and of curriculum as praxis (Grundy, 1987), education and training cannot take a reactive approach by changi ng content to keep up. So the question is not how to anticipate changes and stay ahead, but rather how to educate the new generation in a manner that informs and shapes them with the right mindset and values and equips them with the requisite knowledge and life skills to face the challenges ahea d in order to thrive in knowledge societiesand to keep developing those societies in positive directions. This surely is the meaning of being responsive and staying relevant for technical educ ation and training in a knowledge society. Continuous Professional Development The future of Singapore as a knowledge society means change and a commitment to ongoing changes as a way of life. Technology, society, economic drivers, an d the nature of education and training will change. Hence, c ontinuous professional development through personal commitment and organizational planning ought to be viewed as a critical strategic tool to ensure that the technical education and training system is highly responsive and relevant to changing needs. As the system evolves, the process of change management includes proper communication and buy-in with effective professional development and support for staff. To enable teaching beyond the knowledge society, Hargreaves (2003) calls for teachers to work together in long-term collaborative groups, committing to and challenging each other, as a caring, professional community (p. 49). Hence, it is crucial that teachers are actively pursuing professional development in collaboration with both students and peers, through the application of critical pedagogy. The plan for an applied research center within ITE is indicative of the importance of continuous professional development. Teachers to day really need to keep up with their personal professional development by consta ntly upgrading their skills needed to leverage on technology for teaching and learning. They also need to understand and embrace the impact of globalization and the dynamics of the ensuing knowledge economy and knowledge society, thereby becoming avid lifelong learners themselves. A Focus on Education and Training with a Constancy of Purpose During the Winners Sharing Conference at th e Business Excellence Awards 2005, Dr. Law Song Seng, Chief Executive Officer of ITE shared that constancy of purpose in pursuing mission and vision (Law, 2005, slide #33) is one of the ke y success factors for ITE to emerge as a winner of the Singapore Quality Award 2005. Moving forward in the knowledge society, an important factor for the success of any technical education and training system will continue to be its determination and ability to focus on education and training with a constancy of purpose for the benefits of students in the system and the national economy. If the focus is shifted to revenue generation or maximization of profits for the shareholders du e to privatization, market temptations, economic
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 20 conditions, or a combination of these factors, then it is unlikely to deliver effective and relevant training for students to graduate as the skille d manpower needed to drive the nations economy. Commitment and Support for Publicly Funded Education In general, the education and training sector in Singapore is blessed with clear focus from the countrys top political leadership. The nati onal vision for education and trainingthinking schools, learning nation (Goh, 1997)was arti culated and announced in a speech by Mr. Goh Chok Tong, then Prime Minister at an internation al conference on thinking. In his latest National Day Rally Speech 2005, Lee Hsien Loong, the current Prime Minister devoted a substantial amount of time on education and training. He raised the topic by saying Next, I want to talk about education because in order to remake the economy, then Singaporeans have to be equipped with the right skills and the right attitudes (Lee, 2005). Th is clearly indicates that one of the most prominent discourses for general education and technical education and training in Singapore is still the economy. Such focus by some of the countrys most noted leaders means that the governments commitment and funding support for education is also forthcoming. In his speech at the Ministry of Education Singapore Work Plan 2000, then-Minister for Education Teo Chee Hean spoke about the governments commitment to increase spending on education from 3.6% to 4.5% of GDP over the next few years. This is equivalent to an extra [S ]$1.5 billion every year, on top of the [S]$6 billion we spend now each year for education (Teo, 2000, 3). Young (1998) argues that in a knowledge society of the future, the paradigm ought to be an education-led economy rather than an economyled education system (p.155). Inevitably, the education system of a country and its economy are intertwined. Whether publicly or privately fund ed, education needs adequate funding for the education system to improve and excel. When the education system is working well and feeding the economy with relevant skilled manpower, the eco nomy will improve and perform better, thereby allowing higher funding for the education system. If all goes well, this becomes a self reinforcing cycle that drives the countrys education system and economy forward. However, the opposite can also be true: If funding for education is inadequate, then the system will deteriorate and the economy is starved of skilled manpower. The effect is that the economy takes a nose dive, in turn depriving the education system of further funding. This then leads to a vicious cycle that drives the countrys education system and economy to eventual oblivion. In Singapore, the education system is blessed with attention from top leaders, a clear vision and adequate public funding. The education system and the economy are arguably in a self reinforcing cycle and the upswing should continue in the foreseeable future. The commitment and support from government with adequate funding is absolutely necessary for the education and training system to succeed. The importance of publicly funded education is highlighted by Hargreaves (2003) who argued that a strong sy stem of state education is not only integral to a prosperous knowledge economy but also vital for protecting and strengthening democracy in the way it builds community and develops character (p p. 39), and by Guttman (2003) who stressed that education is a public good. States have the core responsibility for providing free, compulsory quality primary education, for expanding the provis ion of secondary and for ensuring that higher education [including technical education and training] is equally accessible to all on the basis of merit (p. 76). For the technical education and tr aining sector to continue the journey towards excellence, governmental support and adequate pubi c funding will be critical. A successful technical education and training system will not only su pply the economy with highly skilled manpower but
Curriculum as Praxis 21 also ensure that it has the ability to take care of citizens from the lower socio-economic strata of the society. This further enhances social developmen t and strengthens the nations social fabric. Praxis as a Way Forward Singapores technical education and training sy stem has done exceptionally well on account of its representative institution, ITE, winning th e Singapore Quality Award 2005. In the light of the theoretical perspectives of Hargreaves (2003) and Grundy (1987), it can be said that technical education and training in Singapore is well on its way for teachers to be teaching for the knowledge society. Moreover, the ITEs Hands-on, Minds-on, Hearts-on education and training is a clear alignment towards teaching beyond the knowledge society. The ITE pedagogical model and planned applied research center provide a definite path towards a critical pedagogy and the use of curriculum as praxis Going forward, aspects of teaching beyond the knowledge society need to be highlighted and emphasized even more in the curriculum in order to build a sustainable knowledge society. It is also important to break down or reduce the curriculum cl assification for courses and the framing of roles for teachers and students. More flexibility and choices are needed to cater for individual needs and interests so that meaningful and deep active lear ning can take place to maximize every students potential. Professional development of teachers is esse ntial for them to play their roles effectively as facilitators and enablers of a culture of critique, en gaging students in meaningful dialogue and active learning. Ultimately, the curriculum develops along the way for each learning group. Curriculum can then be regarded as praxis and teaching and learning [are to be] seen as a dialogical relationship between teacher and learner, rather than an authoritative one (Grundy, 1987, p. 115). Involvement of teachers in applied researchparticularly action research projectsas part of their professional development would further foster emancipatory curriculum practice. Grundy (1987) explained that when action research operates in an emancipatory mode, it is an expression of critical pedagogical practice and so provid e us with a framework within which critical consciousness can be developed (p. 141). With such competent and mature teaching professionals, skilled in the art of critical pedagogy and deeply committed to the purpose of technical education and training, overcoming the challenges of rais ing the critical consciousness of students and engaging them in meaningful and purposeful learning is really only a matter of time. Students are therefore informed and shaped with the right mindset and values. Moreover, and they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and life skills to thrive in the knowledge society. Recommendationsa Summary Table 1 provides a summary of the recommendations (measures and changes needed) for the challenges face by technical education and trai ning as Singapore moves forward as a knowledge society.
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 22 Table 1 A Summary of Recommendations Challenges Recommendations (measures or changes needed) Developing the education professionals Promote continuous professional development through personal commitment and organizational plan Change management process to include proper communication and buyin with professional development and support for staff Encourage teachers to act as facilitators and enablers of a culture of critique, engaging students in meaningful dialogue and active learning Involvement of teachers in applied research to develop skills and capacity for critical perspectives Curriculum slippage Encourage the notion that curriculum is dynamic and slippage need not be inherently problematic Focus on learning and the learner to allow adaptation of curriculum to meet individual learners need Regard curriculum as praxis which develops along the way for each learning group New learning environment Break down or reduce the curriculum classification for courses and the framing of roles for teachers and students More flexibility and choices to cater for individual needs and interests Leverage on access to information and knowledge (Internet) Integrate learning activities outside classrooms into the curriculum Facilitate formation of purposeful learning communities among students to ensure that meaningful independent learning and overall development take place Being responsive and staying relevant Commitment and support from government with adequate funding Focus on education and training with a constancy of purpose to deliver effective and relevant training Equip the new generation with the requisite knowledge and life skills to face the challenges of knowledge societies Align the ITE education and training towards teaching beyond the knowledge society Refine the ITE pedagogical model and promote applied research towards a critical pedagogy and the use of curriculum as praxis Conclusion The aim of this paper has been to provide a macro-review of the contemporary education system in Singapore with a particular focus on techni cal education and training vis--vis a vision of education and training in postm odern knowledge societies. While superficially, the contemporary education system in Singapore practices tracking, is centrally managed, highly structured, stratified and differentiated, the system has gone through many changes from the original English system it
Curriculum as Praxis 23 was modeled after. Today it is highly sophisticated and successful in embracing the national vision of thinking schools, learning nation. The technical ed ucation and training system has gone through two transformations, each guided by a five-year strategic plan. The institution, ITE, which basically represents the technical education and training sys tem in Singapore, is recognized as a world-class education institution for having won the Singapor e Quality Award 2005. ITE has also drawn up a third five-year strategic plan to guide it towards becoming a global leader in technical education. On closer examination, all these have enabled the general education system as well as the technical education and training system to progress toward becoming one that exhibits many features of Hargreaves (2003) perspectives on teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society and Grundys (1987) curriculum as praxis model of curriculum theory. However, many challenges also remain, includ ing developing the education professionals, dealing with curriculum slippage, adapting to new learning environments and considering how to be responsive and stay relevant. For the technical education and training system to transit into and continue to thrive in the knowledge society of th e 21st century, several measures and changes were discussed. These include a firm focus on educatio n and training with a constancy of purpose, continued commitment and support for publicly funded education, continuous professional development of staff and adoption of praxis as a way forward. It is important that teachers are teaching for and teaching beyond the knowledge society in order to build a sustainable society. It is also crucial that students find meaning in learning, acquire critical thinking skills, learn to think what seemed unthinkable and raise their critical consciousness. Essentially, teachers need to adopt a student-centered learning paradigm, facilitate team learning which allows for dialogue and critical reflection. Teachers also need to provide real worl d contexts to the curriculum they develop, leading to meaningful and purposeful learning, and pr axis: informed and committed action. As such, curriculum as praxis is really one way forwar d for Singapores technical education and training systemas an accessible, high quality, responsive and relevant systemto thrive in the knowledge society of the 21st century. Politically and culturally, Singapore is ready to develop genuine dialogic and the critical component in its general educati on and technical education and training systems to develop and prepare its citizens for the knowle dge society. The education professionals must therefore overcome the challenges and practice continuous professional development to acquire the capability and capacity to engage in critical pedagogy.
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Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 28 About the Authors Tiew Ming Yek ITE College West, Singapore Dawn Penney Edith Cowan University, Australia Email: Yek_Tiew_Ming@ite.edu.sg Tiew Ming Yek is the Principal of ITE College West in Singapore. He is enrolled on the Doctor of Educatio n Program with Edith Cowan Universi ty. His research interests include curriculum, education policy, and quality and perf ormance management in technical education. Dawn Penney is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education, Edit h Cowan University, Australia. She has been a key figure in re search on policy and curriculum development specialising in health and physical education. Dr Penney gained her doctorate from University of Southampton in 1994 and subsequently held pos itions at the Universi ty of Queensland, De Montfort University and Loughborough University She has published extensively in mainstream education and physical education journals and co-authored Politics, Policy and Practice in Physical Education (E&FN Spon, London, 1999). Her most recent work has focused on policy and curriculum developmen t relating to the 1419 phase of education in the UK and Australia.
Curriculum as Praxis 29 EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES http://epaa.asu.edu Editor: Sherman Dorn, University of South Florida Production Assistant: Chris Murre ll, Arizona State University General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Sherman Dorn, email@example.com. Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Robert Bickel Marshall University Gregory Camilli Rutgers University Casey Cobb University of Connecticut Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University Gunapala Edirisooriya Youngstown State University Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Gustavo E. Fischman Arizona State Univeristy Richard Garlikov Birmingham, Alabama Gene V Glass Arizona State University Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Ohio University William Hunter University of Ontario Institute of Technology Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Les McLean University of Toronto Heinrich Mintrop University of California, Berkeley Michele Moses Arizona State University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Michael Scriven Western Michigan University Terrence G. Wiley Arizona State University John Willinsky University of British Columbia
Education Policy Analysis Archives Vol. 14 No. 26 30 EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES English-language New Scholar Editorial Board Noga Admon New York University Jessica Allen University of Colorado Cheryl Aman University of British Columbia Anne Black University of Connecticut Marisa Cannata Michigan State University Chad d'Entremont Teachers College Columbia University Carol Da Silva Harvard University Tara Donahue Michigan State University Camille Farrington University of Illinois Chicago Chris Frey Indiana University Amy Garrett Dikkers University of Minnesota Misty Ginicola Yale University Jake Gross Indiana University Hee Kyung Hong Loyola University Chicago Jennifer Lloyd University of British Columbia Heather Lord Yale University Shereeza Mohammed Florida Atlantic University Ben Superfine University of Michigan John Weathers University of Pennsylvania Kyo Yamashiro University of California Los Angeles
Curriculum as Praxis 31 Archivos Analticos de Polticas Educativas Associate Editors Gustavo E. Fischman & Pablo Gentili Arizona State University & Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro Founding Associate Editor for Spanish Language (1998003) Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Editorial Board Hugo Aboites Universidad Autnoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco Adrin Acosta Universidad de Guadalajara Mxico Claudio Almonacid Avila Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educacin, Chile Dalila Andrade de Oliveira Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brasil Alejandra Birgin Ministerio de Educacin, Argentina Teresa Bracho Centro de Investigacin y Docencia Econmica-CIDE Alejandro Canales Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Ursula Casanova Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona Sigfredo Chiroque Instituto de Pedagoga Popular, Per Erwin Epstein Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois Mariano Fernndez Enguita Universidad de Salamanca. Espaa Gaudncio Frigotto Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Rollin Kent Universidad Autnoma de Puebla. Puebla, Mxico Walter Kohan Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Roberto Leher Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Daniel C. Levy University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, New York Nilma Limo Gomes Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte Pia Lindquist Wong California State University, Sacramento, California Mara Loreto Egaa Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigacin en Educacin Mariano Narodowski Universidad To rcuato Di Tella, Argentina Iolanda de Oliveira Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasil Grover Pango Foro Latinoamericano de Polticas Educativas, Per Vanilda Paiva Universidade Estadual Do Rio De Janeiro, Brasil Miguel Pereira Catedratico Un iversidad de Granada, Espaa Angel Ignacio Prez Gmez Universidad de Mlaga Mnica Pini Universidad Nacional de San Martin, Argentina Romualdo Portella do Oliveira Universidade de So Paulo Diana Rhoten Social Science Research Council, New York, New York Jos Gimeno Sacristn Universidad de Valencia, Espaa Daniel Schugurensky Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada Susan Street Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social Occidente, Guadalajara, Mxico Nelly P. Stromquist University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California Daniel Suarez Laboratorio de Politicas Publicas-Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina Antonio Teodoro Universidade Lusfona Lisboa, Carlos A. Torres UCLA Jurjo Torres Santom Universidad de la Corua, Espaa