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The Debate: Holiday Homework In Singapore Schools Vs International Schools

Singapore schools are known – to students and parents like – for its stressful curriculum and heavy workload. How do they compare to international schools?

While the holiday means more time for children to get up to speed on their school lesson, there is also value in giving them free time and space to initiate their own activities. Such opportunities can complement their learning in school, say educators.

Already, schools in Singapore have introduced holiday homework policies.

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Riverside Primary School, for example, states on its website that pupils should spend just about three hours on homework for each subject over the June holidays.

Tonnine Chua, Principal of Concord Primary School, says the school ensures that its holiday programmes “would be enriching and different” from normal lessons. For instance, the school runs coding programmes that enhance logical and creative thinking, and a media literacy programme on cyberwellness so that pupils are “discerning” when they use online media.

What’s the holiday homework policy at…

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Do or do not?

Dr. Sirene Lim, a senior lecturer at SIM University who specialises in early childhood education, says parents can balance children’s academic work with “interesting real world experiences” not found in existing enrichment programmes. 

This can involve learning an art form, constructing, creating or building things, or delving into topics that interest the child, such as dinosaurs, machines, space or cooking. 

“What’s important for today’s children, who tend to have short attention spans, is for them to develop sustained interest in people and things that are around them,” says Dr. Lim. 

Dr. Tay Hui Yong, a lecturer in the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning department at the National Institute of Education, says activities that help children see authentic applications to what they have learnt in school result in “more robust understanding” compared with repeated assessment exercises. “When they see different manifestations of concepts and how they can be applied, they are more likely to recognise them in novel situations,” adds Dr. Tay. 

There has been growing interest in the integration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) disciplines with art, say enrichment providers. 

Such projects are also linked to design thinking, which requires thinking out of the box and looking beyond disciplinary boundaries. 

It is important for parents to ensure that children have adequate leisure time over the holidays, stress both Dr. Lim and Dr. Tay. 

Dr . Tay says: “Spending time with children is about family bonding, affirming their effort and growth. All children (and adults) need to balance activity with non-activity to allow the mind to wander.” 

Dr . Lim says children can become self-motivated learners if they get more say in what to do with their free time. “If adults overly structure children’s use of time and always decide what they should do, children are less likely to take the initiative to be curious.”


From The Straits Times, December 2016
Additional reporting by Atifa Othman

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