Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some schools give report card on character too

Teachers assess passion for learning, capacity for empathy and resilience

By Amelia Tan
IN SOME schools here, students get more than a report card on their progress in their classroom subjects - they get one that goes right to the heart of who they are, their character.

Their teachers assess their ability to get along with others, their personal qualities, passion for learning, resilience and capacity for empathy, based on classroom observations throughout the year.

It is these schools' way of signalling the importance they place on character education and values.

To be sure, these reports are qualitative and do not indicate A, B or C grades. Schools such as North Vista Primary and Swiss Cottage Secondary give their teachers checklists of personal attributes they are supposed to look out for in students.

These schools would be considered pioneers, given that the Ministry of Education intends to bring a renewed emphasis to character and values education, as announced by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at his ministry's workplan seminar on Thursday.

He had called on schools to reaffirm the central place values and character development should have in education, and said 'student-centric, values-driven education' was now necessary because globally, traditional social structures were breaking down.

In North Vista Primary in Sengkang, report cards called 'Individualised Learning Plans' show pupils' performance in social and emotional, moral, physical, aesthetics and academic areas. Meetings are held with pupils and their parents at the start of the year, to set goals, and at the end of the year, to review progress.

At the year-end, for example, pupils would have met expectations in the social and emotional aspect if they had shown themselves to be friendly, considerate and committed to group activities; they are deemed to be moving towards meeting expectations if they needed to be prompted to help others or needed help to iron out conflicts.

Pupils also assess themselves and set goals for the next year.

Swiss Cottage's approach is to focus on its five school values of passion for learning, resilience, integrity, having the daring to try and empathy.

The schools say giving reports on character development gives students a clear idea of how they are faring, and also tells parents that the school is serious about moulding character and instilling values.

As North Vista principal Phua Kia Wang put it: 'We see the importance of shifting the focus to other aspects so pupils are developed as whole individuals.'

A Primary 4 pupil from the school, Shen Jia Cheng, 10, said: 'My teacher told me I sometimes lose my temper too easily and this is not good. Now, I count to 10 when I'm angry, and apologise. I make friends more easily now.'

His mother Shen Mo Jun, 49, a research scientist, was surprised to hear about this side of her son and has since taught him about the virtue of patience.

Schools which do not have character development report cards use other means. Students in Woodlands Secondary, for example, put their thoughts into 'reflection journals'. Its principal Julia Woo said: 'We may consider including character development in report cards, as it's a way to keep parents involved.'