As Japan implemented a new educational measure, also known as Yutori – which translate to “relax”, to reduce the time spent in school and provide some level of autonomy in self-cultivation back in the 1980s, the average grades started to decline.
Parents were worried about this new phenomenon led by this change and decided to sign their children up for cram schools to replace the loss of study time back in school. This thereby helped to popularise the concept of supplementary tuition as parents and children alike embraced this new culture to ensure that students do not fall behind in their studies and results.
Shifting our attention towards Europe now, the Ministry of Education in the UK has also adopted a similar stance recently and faced public backlash. The amount of content in the learning syllabus has been reduced across the board and even more so for hard subjects such as Physics. The interesting outcome out of this whole fiasco is a resulting paradox. It would appear that even with the Physics syllabus becoming simpler and less heavy, parents and children still manage to find fault with it as they claim that the curriculum is becoming more difficult as school teachers are now not going in depth for each of the topics taught in class due to the lower requirements in terms of content. This callout by parents is something that our Singapore education ministry should try to mitigate as the relevant parties continue to revise the Singapore syllabus every year.
Concerns of parents towards the education landscape for Physics
Director-General of Education Mr Wong Siew Hoong has mentioned that our Ministry of Education has in fact looked at how any changes made to other nation’s educational system has lead to its associated benefits and problems and how they can learnt from their counterparts. He also concur that any easing of the school curriculum and syllabus should not be done in exchange for educational proficiency of the subjects like Physics.
Across all the education levels, from primary school to tertiary education like JC, mid term exams have been abolished. At certain national exams, the gradings and calculation of the overall results to gain entry into higher educational institutions have been revised. Take for example, the PSLE grading system which has been revised from a flat scoring system of 300 marks to band grading which provides students with a fairer reflection of their overall capabilities. In secondary schools, a subject-based grading has also been adopted in place of streaming. Such trends are to prevent obsession over results and the stereotype labelling of students as expressed by our previous Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung.
What can we look forward to in the new changes in policies towards Physics?
With these new policies in place, we will likely see how Physics content will change to bring in more application-based questions that are relatable to real life scenarios and less on just the plain hypothesis-based questions. This will help to inspire and motivate students to appreciate Physics as a subject as students can understand why Physics is so important in our lives. This cannot however substitute for the need for a strong foundation in Physics knowledge and therefore a balance has to be established.
In conclusion, we can look forward to an improvement in the school syllabus, especially in the Physics department, to keep up with changing times.