National Education Gets Re-invigorated by Technology

National Education Gets Re-invigorated by Technology

Tuesday, 01 August 2017

By Chua Shuyi, Research Associate, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Academic Group at National Institute of Education

As we prepare to celebrate our Nation’s 52nd birthday, we take a look at how National Education has evolved through time, and how looking back to the past with the help of current technology is the way to go to inspire a better future.

National Education (NE) was first introduced to Singapore schools in 1997 to nurture a sense of belonging to the country within our students. This is achieved through developing in them the knowledge, skills, and values needed to be proud and productive citizens of Singapore. As part of NE, schools commemorate key national events such as Singapore’s independence on National Day, take students on learning journeys to visit significant sites in Singapore, and provide citizenship courses such as the social studies subject.


The Past Gets a Much Needed Boost from Modern Technology.

In an early evaluation of the programme in 2007, students had given feedback that NE was boring, too teacher-centric, with too heavy a focus on grades, and lacking in alternative perspectives. However, in the past 10 years, many changes have taken place to reverse this trend, giving today’s students greater opportunities to voice their opinions and participate actively in learning about the nation.

In classrooms today, technology has become a core infrastructure that facilitates this process of learning about the nation. Advances like Google Classroom, a free platform that allows teacher and students to have immediate conversations and collaborate on assignments, are paving the way for more productive, two-way engagements.

For example, in a social studies classroom, when a teacher poses a question to his class, students can simultaneously type their answers on their personal laptops and have them projected onto the screen for the whole class to see. At one glance, the teacher can see the work of all students and provide immediate feedback. Students can also examine the work of other students to learn from them, pore through each answer and vote for the best one, while discussing among themselves. This scene is becoming more common in classrooms today. Use of such technology enables whole class, student-led participation in ways that the chalk-and-talk method, which was previously so popular with teachers, could not.


New Media, New Ways of Engagement.

Beyond the classroom, teachers are taking their students on adventures while learning about the community and nation. In Ngee Ann Secondary School, students interview veterans who served during historical events such as the racial riots and the collapse of Hotel New World, and retell their stories in fun and interactive ways using e-books. Clementi Town Secondary School’s smartphone heritage trail lets students follow a trail around the neighbourhood with their smartphones and visit places such as the Clementi Fire Station, Food Centre, and Community Centre. At each location, students receive clues on their smartphones, answer a few questions, and perform tasks such as conducting an oral interview, recording a video or taking pictures, before moving on to the next location - thus taking advantage of new media’s flexible ways of expression to engage in learning.


A More Immersive Past + A More Engaged Present = A Brighter Future.

Our Singapore educators are at the forefront of using technology. The use of personal laptops and smartphones to create products has enhanced our students’ experiences of learning to appreciate the nation. It is doubtful that ‘boring’ would be a word still frequently associated with NE today. Today, NE is a personal, creative, and experiential endeavour. Our teachers’ creativity with technology and willingness to take risks has taken NE to a new level, helping students to experience the familiar in new and engaging ways.

Moving forward, educators can consider how we can use technology to empower our students to shape the nation. How can students play an even more active role in decision making and activism, and develop a sense of agency to change society for the better? Finding answers to these questions will ensure the continued survival and success of Singapore.