By Elijah Yap
Mr Goh Hock Leong, Vice Principal of Academics, held the second Principal’s Dialogue for Year 5’s in the theatrette last Thursday which surfaced many concerns surrounding recent curriculum changes.
The dialogue focused mainly on the rising prominence of semestral exams in Physics Modules, particularly since exams now outweigh all other components combined. The redistribution of modular assessment credit is due to a programme piloted by the Physics department in which marks from assignments are folded into semestral exams. While assignments are still given, they have no influence on the final module grade. This redistribution mimics modules in NUS so as to acclimatise students to the eventual NUS undergraduate exam heavy structure. Mr Goh also emphasised the desire to avoid the dreaded triple-test “hell week”, reminding students that the school is seeking to manage stress levels for students.
So why the pushback? There are concerns of “changing goalposts”, and general dissatisfaction with an academic experience that seems to be straying from the concept of a modular system. The stress reduction from this seems rather intangible and may be insubstantial, especially since the overall module structure remains virtually identical. If there is a reduction in stress this year, it might be due to subject specialisation instead of the shift towards exam heavy modular structure.
ARPs were another hot topic, where the students expressed frustration that timetables did not allow for enough lab sessions. Mr Goh responded by asking students to consider the scheduling difficulties of juggling the wide variety of subject combinations. He also recalled a “failed experiment” wherein a full day was designated for research, which placed too much pressure on lessons on other days of the week. Mr Goh was sympathetic towards the demands that students face in juggling their ARP and other responsibilities, and encouraged them to do their best as they work.
While it wasn’t all good news, many felt that the increased transparency and openness of our administration was a welcome move. It’s also a sign that the school’s administration is cognisant towards the concerns of the student body. We do hope that there will be many other similar dialogues in the future.