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I have noted your concerns, and have conveyed them to my colleagues who will look into this. They will reply you accordingly.
Ong Ye Kung
Minister for Education
Ministry of Education • 1 North Buona Vista Drive, Singapore 138675 • http://www.moe.gov.sg
Integrity the Foundation • People our Focus • Learning our Passion • Excellence our Pursuit
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From: Ganesamoorthy S <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, 16 August 2019 9:24 AM
To: MOE Ye Kung Ong (MOE) <Ong_Ye_Kung@moe.gov.sg>; MOE Indranee RAJAH (MOE) <Indranee_rajah@moe.gov.sg>; MTI Hong Tat CHEE (MTI) <CHEE_Hong_Tat@mti.gov.sg>
Subject: Confusion between Summary Writing (Preci’s) and Paraphrasing in secondary schools and junior colleges
This was published in The Online Citizen (TOC) on Aug 14, 2019, and I'd be most obliged for your kind intervention in this very professional decision-making that is being wrongly addressed in secondary schools and junior colleges. Thanx very much.
Fellow Singaporean Educator
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Traditionally, the term used for teaching Summary Writing Skills in schools and junior colleges the world over has been the term ‘Preci’s‘ that literally means ‘Precision’, ie “to say in fewer than one-third of the words what’s intended by the author of the passage.” It’s ironical that in recent years, our schools and junior colleges have been using the term “Paraphrase” to mean “Summary Writing” that literally means “state in other words what the author is stating or implying.” This has been the source of confusion in the minds of our students and teachers.
The disconcerting concern is whether the Ministry of Education (MOE) has unwittingly altered the concept of Summary Writing in both secondary schools and junior colleges to the level of causing a collosal confusion in the minds of our students and teachers.
On 18 Jun 2019, Ms Irene Wong of the MOE (Corporate Communications) responding to my inquiry on this matter asserted that “paraphrasing is only one part of the skills assessed.” But she did not clarify which part of the ‘Paraphrasing’ skills are assessed and which are not. She also did not state the extent to which ‘paraphrasing’ would contribute significantly to students attaining greater clarity in Summary Writing. She further asserted that the following skills are assessed in relation to Summary Writing:
I also did a check to explore the frequency of occurrence of the genre of “Paraphrasing” in the list of Assessment Objectives examined in both the A Level GP and the O Level English Language Syllabi, and I was surprised that in both these examinations, there is zero (0) frequency of occurrence of the genre of “Paraphrasing” itself, and I would submit, therefore, that the genre of “Paraphrasing” is a non-issue in both these examinations, and subjecting our students and teachers to this very futile and needless labour of paraphrasing, in addition to Summarising per se, is manifestly futile; suffice it to note that the time could be better employed in cultivating in our students consistently effective and efficient habits of seeking out greater sense of precision in Summary Writing within the already stringent time constraint. Now that our students are being prepared to sit the English Language ‘O’ Level and the ‘A’ Level GP examinations at the year-end, the MOE is obliged to communicate this important distinction between Preci’s and Paraphrasing to all secondary schools and junior colleges so that our students will have more than probable chance of performing well on this compulsory component of the examinations.
I await the Ministry’s esteemed response to this critical matter so that our students and teachers are not confused between Summary Writing (Precis) and Paraphrasing both of which require distinctly different skills. The confusion stems from the more than frequent use of the term ‘Paraphrase’ currently in vogue during the process of teaching Summary Writing in both secondary schools and junior colleges.
MEd (University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK),
PB, PBS, Chief Innovation Officer, EDUXELL 21 Consultancy
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TODAYonline 17 jan 19 Missing O-Level papers: Answers wanted from officials, to prevent repeat ofsimilar incidents by S Ganesamoorthy
I refer to the news that 32 answer scripts for the GCE O-Level Additional Mathematics Paper 2 are lost because the examiner marking them had his bag mistakenly taken by someone on a train in England.
I’m dismayed that action has not been taken quickly by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate — otherwise known as Cambridge Assessment — to address such situations, especially since A-Level Chemistry scripts already went missing the year before.
I'm surprised by the comments made by Ms Tan Lay Choo, chief executive of the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), where she said in a press release that the authorities ensured that affected candidates were “given a valid and fair assessment for their Additional Mathematics examination”.
Who decides what is fair and valid?
SEAB said that, together with Cambridge Assessment, it took into consideration the 32 affected candidates’ performance in the other Additional Mathematics Paper 1, which makes up 44 per cent of the final grade, relative to the entire cohort’s overall performance in the subject. They also considered the candidates’ school preliminary examination results.
Short of candidates re-sitting for Paper 2, these measures are arbitrary and randomised at best, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) ought to re-evaluate if this is truly a professional and best fit.
It is common knowledge that many students perform far better during the final O-Level examination than at the preliminary examination. Therefore, considering the preliminary exam performance is a flawed concept.
This latest episode begs the following questions that MOE and Cambridge Assessment are obliged to consider when responding to parents' queries on this serious matter:
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1st March, 2013
Ms Indranee Rajah
Senior Minister of State (Education)
Dear Ms Rajah
I refer to your statement in Parliament on Monday, in response to a query by Nominated Member of Parliament Ms Janice Koh, that "the decline in the number of students taking pure literature at the 'O' levels is linked to the introduction of combined humanities, with its compulsory social studies component, as a subject." My profile is submitted in the fourth attachment for your own information.
2 My response to your assertion is contained in the first attachment "Are schools pressuring students on subject choices?" that was published in the STForum Online edition yesterday. The truth in this matter is the reality obtaining in schools where principals and teachers in a generic sense are actually programming some of their students into believing that they would fare badly in their exams should they offer such academically rigorous subjects like literature and additional mathematics in the 'O' level exams. As a corollary, principals and teachers have been programming their students into offering such easier options like principles of accounts. Recently, I had a case of my neighbour's grandson who did pretty well in his final semester Sec 2 exams (2012) in mathematics but was denied permission to offer additional mathematics in the upper secondary levels. Instead, the school had asked him to offer principles of accounts. I had been encouraging him and his parents to appeal to the good sense of his school to allow him to offer additional mathematics instead of being forced to offer the easier option principles of account. His teachers ridiculed him by asking him if he was aware that about 80% of students who offered principles of account scored the distinction grade! The school in question is St Gabriels Secondary. And the boy concerned is Timothy Wong who I was able to move from Sec 2 (Normal Academic) to Sec 3 Express. This boy has envisioned his goal of being a lawyer in future. And, I am sure, you, as an accomplished lawyer, will be the first to assert that the process of logic that is the hallmark of good mathematics will have a powerful bearing on legal training in the future.
3 Both my sons, Siva and Vivek, were also from St Gabriels Secondary and I had the unenviable task then of taking the same matter up when the former principal, Mr Adolphus Tan (currently principal of St Patricks Sec) was in charge. My reflections on this important matter of subject offerings are contained in the second attachment entitled "Allow students to decide with their parents on their long-term goals." Whilst my elder son is currently doing great as a computer whiz-kid in the UK, my second son completed his degree in Electrical, electronic & communications engineering at the University of Bristol and is currently Systems Analyst in an international bank. If I had not ventured on behalf of my sons against certain short-sighted unprofessional decisions of principals, they too would have suffered the misfortune of being 'tunnel-visioned' into unchallenging and unattractive pathways merely to satisfy the principals' short-term gratifications of school rankings via offering easier (softer) options. There is an urgent need to address the issue of subject offerings with principals of secondary schools in a generic sense so that our students are not being short-changed.
4 A few other schools are also forcing their students into offering easier options like principles of accounts even to their pure science students. Why principles of accounts that cannot be counted even for admission to accountancy courses in our universities is anybody's guess. An example is Compassvale Secondary School. I would venture to suggest that the subject principles of accounts ought to be removed from our curriculum altogether since it is of very limited use in the life of our students.
5 Submitted for your kind deliberation and consideration.
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22nd August, 2013
The Straits Times
Re: "PARENTS' mndset key to education change: Heng"
I refer to the report by your esteemed journalists, Janice Heng and Andrea Ong, in The Straits Times this morning (Page A6) entitled "Parents' mindset key to education change: Heng" as per the government feedback Reach held last night arising from the National Day Rally (NDR) by PM Lee last Sunday evening.
2 Whilst it is so convenient to simply dismiss parents' mindset as the problem, it behoves me to ask the Minister who created this supposed mindset in the first place. I still remember the early 1980s when the late Dr Tay Eng Soon took serious pains to explain via television about the statistical assumptions underpinning the rationale decided by the systems engineers then at the Ministry of Education (MOE) on the need to convert the raw scores into their T-score equivalent. The Chief Professional Officer then, Mr Chan Kai Yau, had to pay a heavy price due to his candid view that it was indeed a flawed concept. Despite his mathematics training, his view was not treated with much respect. Before laying the blame squarely on our parents, it would do the honourable Minister Heng a great favour if he were to check the records to ensure a greater sense of fairness and justice. I must advise Minister Heng that our parents in Singapore have always contributed in no small measure towards nurturing our students into responsible citizens, caring individuals and great academics of which we can always be truly proud of, despite the occasional slips due to political decision-making and some serious shortcomings in our school system. We ought not to treat our parents as mere punching bags who will not respond angrily out of a mere deference to political leaders.
3 PM Lee stated at NDR that he would take several years to execute the changes with the PSLE ranking system. Why should this be so? After all, when the changes were introduced in the early 1980s, it was executed speedily and without any reservations. And now that we are aware that it is indeed a flawed concept in the first place, surely the changes can be effected pretty speedily as well, and our government will indeed have the support of all our parents since the system was based on the wrong premise in educational measurement. This way we will not fester the supposed mindset any further.
4 Whilst we are on the subject of the PSLE ranking system, might I also suggest that the present Normal (Technical) stream be further tweaked and renamed by a more innovative stream to encapsulate this group of students TO REFLECT their purpose and mission within the ambit of our educational ETHOS. Additionally, I recommend that all teachers undertaking to take charge of this group of our students must be made to read the refreshingly insightful book "Transformed by The Mission: Stories of Hope and Change" published by the first Principal of Northlight School, Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching..
With Warm wishes
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