How seamless is IP learning?

How seamless is IP learning?

Monday, 01 October 2012

Media Type
TODAY (Print & Online)

SINGAPORE - Some students found that "many of the things" the six-year Integrated Programme (IP) strove for during their first four years of studies were eventually not assessed at the GCE A-level examinations.

Some also reflected that "one of the biggest challenges" they faced during the IP was in adapting to a lecture-tutorial system at the junior college level, as they moved towards "a more pen-and-paper assessment/rote learning style" and away from doing projects.

These findings from a National Institute of Education (NIE) research study, conducted between 2006 and 2010, have raised a poser for educators: Can the IP truly be integrated and seamless, and fulfil its pedagogical goals and objectives, if students still need to be prepared for the traditional pen-and-paper high-stakes A-level examinations?

Conducted by Dr Trivina Kang, a senior lecturer at the NIE's Policy and Leadership Studies Academic Group, and her co-principal investigator, Dr Jason Tan, the study involved 2,500 students from 10 schools. Students from seven of the 10 schools also participated in focus group interviews.

Findings from the Final Report of Integrated Programme Study were published recently in the book Education in Singapore: Taking Stock, Looking Forward.

When it was conducted, it was the only funded study focusing on student experiences across IP schools, said Dr Kang. "Since then, I understand that the MOE (Ministry of Education) has done studies about the IP, and I am sure that IP schools have done research into facets of their own programmes as well," she added.

The IP, which started in 2004 at eight schools, is aimed at the top 10 per cent of students, who skip the "O" levels and go straight to the "A" levels or International Baccalaureate (IB). The programme is aimed at giving students the space to develop intellectual curiosity, while working on projects and undergoing research attachments. It has become so popular among students and parents that it would be expanded to 18 schools next year, up from the current 13.

While she noted that the different IPs have "matured" and made greater effort to align curriculum, pedagogy and assessment since the last focus group discussions were conducted in 2009, Dr Kang said there "will be limits to how much the second half of the IP experience can look like the first half" as many schools prepare students for the "A" levels.

"Students are also cognisant of the demands of the 'A' levels and make a conscious choice to be more strategic in how they spend their final year, even if there are still many non-academic opportunities for them in the IP," Dr Kang told TODAY.

Parents who have children in the IP felt that the transition from Year 4 to 5 could be smoother. Madam Cynthia Lee, an accounts manager, suggested that IP schools could have a few modules in Year 3 and 4 that incorporate some form of lecture and tutorial teaching.

Agreeing, Madam Chan Li Hyan felt the issue could be attributed to the relatively relaxed environment IP students have, compared to their peers who are on the "O"- level route. "The jump to 'A' levels seems more steep, and they start to feel stifled by the system after having more independence in their studies," said the 45-year-old.

Dr Kang, however, pointed out that the IP schools offer "a plethora of opportunities for their students", which did not exist for a large number of pupils before.

"What this diversification of the educational landscape has done is to give students today more choices to learn and develop in more holistically ways," Dr Kang said. "This cannot be appreciated fully unless we take a step back and see what the landscape looked like before the IP - no specialised schools, no alternative examinations like the IB or the NUS High School Diploma, and everyone taking the 'O' levels."


Source: TODAY (Print & Online), mediacorp