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Often, people do ponder upon the real purpose of education. The fundamental purpose lies in inculcating academic and non-academic (i.e. personal and social growth) aspects in education. This essay seeks to discuss the purposes of education in our society focusing on the following three areas respectively: Academic, Personal and Social growth. In addition, it will explore the implications of these areas of purpose on students and teachers in Singapore.
Academic growth is defined by the skills and knowledge attained by each individual. Education seeks to equip a person with the necessary set of skills and knowledge so that he or she would be able to utilize and contribute actively to the economy and society. The principle idea of having different subjects taught in school is to equip one with the necessary skills needed for application in the working environment in the future. For instance, the learning of languages enables one to communicate effectively and one can perceive the business world with better insight if one has the aptitude for Mathematics and economics. With such diversity in school, students could discover their area of interests and henceforth the opportunity to excel since one is liken to the more preferred subjects.
Thereafter, specialization is instituted to achieve a set of professional skills and knowledge to enable one to contribute and excel in their area of work. "In a wise economy of education, pupils of a particular type of mind receive the training best suited for them and that training would lead them to an occupation where their capacities would be suitably used" (Great Britain, 1943). Focusing on Singapore's general school context, the path of specialization starts as early as at the age of fifteen, where students were given the choice in secondary three, to select the general focus of study, namely; Arts and Sciences. The Arts students will focus more on Languages, Literature, Geography, History or even Design and Technology. On the other hand the Science students will focus mainly on Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. This system enables the students to choose their subject of interest and further enhanced the development.
Students who are in other educational programs like the Integrated Program(IP) and the programs offered by the specialized schools(Singapore Sports School, NUS High School, School of the Arts) will be able to focus more on their specific academic areas. Students will benefit by getting a more in-depth learning with specialization of many related subjects in the syllabus. Students will be relevantly equipped with specific skills and knowledge once they enter the workforce and be able to contribute to the economy.
Relentlessly, teachers would have to be highly skilled, knowledgeable and professional. Teachers must constantly upgrade and develop their professional and intellectual capabilities to be up-to-date, so that they will be educate the students effectively (Ministry of Education, 2006). They have to ensure that the lessons planned will be relevant and crucial for students to have enough to meet the demands of the workforce.
Besides the fundamental development of one's academic achievement, one should not neglect the holistic development of one's educational journey. Other components that envelope holistic education should include the followings:
"We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr). As inferred from Dr. Martin Luther King, one might be very intelligent and knowledgeable, but without a set of good values and morals, one would not be able to thrive in the workforce and social life. A holistic development is the key to success of an individual. Four identified personal characteristics which are Self-awareness and management, Self-directed learner, Critical thinking and Good moral values will be touched on.
Self awareness and management is an important factor in which students will reflect upon their strengths, weaknesses and emotions to get a better understanding of the areas in which they might have to work on to improve (Ministry of Education, 2010). For instance, a student with good results is being ostracized by the class would have to reflect on the reason of being so. Students with good self management would be able to exercise stress control and think through to identify the problems and try to manage it well.
As technology advances, more information could be readily found online. Students would be able to use this platform to learn and gain knowledge even before the teacher teaches them. When students prepare beforehand, this allows them to ask appropriate questions to facilitate a better discussion environment during class. This will be able to develop the student into a self directed learner and a critical thinker.
The set of moral values a student possess will guide them towards differentiating right from wrong. An intelligent student without a good set of moral values may actually caused more harm to the society compared to one who is not as smart but has inculcate good moral values. With good moral values, this helps students to make correct actions and judgments to be able to further excel in life.
The four identified personal characteristics can be seen a differentiating tool for employment factor too. As a result, teachers in Singapore would have to keep in mind these four identified personal characteristics when formulating ways to educate and impart these life skills to their students. This could be achieved through the usage of Teach Less Learn More (TLLM) technique, teaching of Civics and Moral (CME) and the application of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) (Ministry of Education, 2005).
TLLM enables the student to be more independent, proactive and be able to think critically, so that they will be equipped with the skills needed for the future (Ministry of Education, 2005). Teachers no longer will be "lecturing" the contents in a teacher orientated environment, but instead, they will help students to develop their ideas and enhance their understanding towards what the students have learnt. With extra time in hand, teachers can spend more time to interact with students and impart other life skills such as moral values through CME and SEL. Students will be inculcated with values such as respect, responsibility, care and integrity, etc(Ministry of Education, 2010). Amalgamating the skills and knowledge students acquired with the set of moral values inculcated, it will be a step closer for them to be a better citizen and employee in the near future.
Skills and moral values acquired should be used to contribute to the society and economy so that it will not be gone to waste. To be able to share your knowledge with others deems to be a good measure that whatever that is taught is not forgotten and put to good use. For this reason, social growth will be discussed in the next section whereby the importance of team work is touched on.
Social growth ties in all the aims of education, where a person is able to use their intelligence with a set of good moral values to work together with others to contribute to the economy. "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent" a famous quote from John Donne explains the importance of being able to work together with others through corporation and sharing of ideas and skills. Students must be able to learn how to work and communicate effectively as a team and contribute actively as well. With the increasing trend of globalization especially, students will be exposed to communicate with people of different cultures. Thus, being able to communicate well with working counterparts and how to interact with them is very vital to get messages and ideas across. This greatly depends on social skills and people management skills. Students in Singapore are exposed to developing these skills through various programs like Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) and group work (at all education levels). These programmes create opportunities for students to interact and communicate with each other to work towards a common goal. Soft skills like people management skills are also developed through the process when handling people's emotion or resolving conflicts. On the other hand, teachers have to be able to identify students that are not benefitting from these programs and brainstorm of ways to engage them and to promote a more positive learning outcome.
To conclude, three areas: Academic, Personal and Social growth were reflected in the discussion of the purpose of education. Education provides a strong academic foundation for individuals to contribute intellectually to the workforce, but "Violent expansions in factual knowledge, but facts in isolation are by definition valueless" (Alfred, 1929). Therefore, having good personal and social skills enables one to be on the right track to being a morally upright citizen who can contribute positively to civic life. On top of that, learning how to work well as a team will be beneficial as it allows sharing of skills and knowledge. As Singapore is becoming a more cosmopolitan and globalized city, there will be new emphasis and directions in which the purpose of education and this should be revised accordingly. There can be areas for further explorations to be conducted on to enhance this aspect of educational purposes.