4 Singapore schools with cool learning programmes

By Anita Yee   — August 22, 2016
  • These 4 schools have at least one distinctive learning programme
    1 / 5 These 4 schools have at least one distinctive learning programme

    Nearly all mainstream primary and secondary schools here offer at least one distinctive learning programme, including the Applied Learning Programme (ALP). 

    Through ALP, students see the relevance of what they have learnt in areas such as health sciences or electronics. 

    We check out four schools that have carved out a niche for themselves with their ALP.


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  • Jiemin Primary School
    2 / 5 Jiemin Primary School

    Jiemin Primary School is home to aspiring reporters from its Journalist Club, some of whom have their sights set on being international or even war journalists.

    Armed with a microphone and iPad for recording, pupils are often seen walking around their school sniffing for scoops.

    The budding journalists know how to handle DSLR cameras and they also write articles for the school’s newsletters.

    Ms Joanne Lim, head of the school’s English department, said: “All along, we have been doing a lot of writing. So, we thought, why not make the programme more distinctive for the school.”

    The Journalist Club is part of the school’s Applied Learning Programme, in which students learn to express themselves and build their confidence through writing and communication.

    “The club helped me slowly gain my confidence,” said Primary 5 pupil Aaliayah Nursyazlynn Jamil, who was previously afraid of speaking to large crowds.

    At the club, pupils learn skills such as drawing storyboards, preparing interview questions and editing videos. They are coached weekly by a trainer, who crafts lessons that are more palatable for a younger group without watering down the experience.

    Another programme lets the pupils read out segments of the news that have been selected from the newspapers. Like broadcast presenters, they, too, present the news to an audience.For a start, though, they do so at the school library. Jiemin Primary also offers targeted programmes for each level. Theseinclude poetry recitation and puppetry.

    “It’s an opportunity to build on their interests,” said Ms Lim.

    Some parents who are considering sending their children to Jiemin, have asked for the school’s semestral newsletter. Ms Lim hopes that the programme will give all pupils an edge when they head to secondary school.

    “It is also something that will help them as they progress up the different levels,” she added.


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  • Farrer Park Primary
    3 / 5 Farrer Park Primary

    Convincing another villager to hide his elderly mother may be Aarrya Anurag’s most difficult task.

    For two hours, the nine-year-old was immersed in an intense debate over whether a Japanese ruler who banished frail old folks into remote mountains was right to do so.

    Anurag’s adventure began in the classroom, with a Ministry of Education (MOE) storybook meant for lower primary pupils that has been adapted to become the centrepiece of a process drama lesson in Farrer Park Primary School.

    Through the structured drama programme, Anurag, his classmates and the teacher take on various characters in the story and act out different situations.

    “Through this, the pupils feel engaged in the story. It helps develop communication and critical thinking skills,” said the school’s English department head Faith Huang.

    Using drama in education is part of Farrer Park Primary School’s applied learning programme. The school-wide initiative, launched in 2013, encourages pupils to use drama to explore complex real-world issues such as bullying, forgiveness and reconciliation.

    While lower primary pupils use process drama to explore text from storybooks, those in Primary 2 to 6 also incorporate drama as an aid in composition writing. The role-playing helps facilitate thinking and flush out misconceptions.

    “There is a lot of experiential learning,” said Ms Huang. “The writing process becomes more interesting and engaging for the pupils.”

    For Anurag, the values he learnt go beyond acting or English lessons. “I learnt about being in other people’s shoes and thinking about how they would feel if they were sent to the mountains when they are 70 years old,” he said.

    Pupils are also introduced to regular drama performances during school assembly and theatre visits.

    One graduating member of the school’s drama club has applied for direct admission into Xinmin Secondary School to pursue drama as an O-level subject.

    Primary 6 pupil Nguyen Van Lam, who was a founding member of the club, has even consolidated an acting portfolio with the help of his teachers.

    “I like acting on stage and expressing myself,” he said.

    Supporting his decision to pursue drama, his father, Mr Heng Chee Kiang, a trade marketing executive, said: “Every kid has to do what he likes, rather than what his parents like. Only then can he excel in what he does.”


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  • Hong Kah Secondary School
    4 / 5 Hong Kah Secondary School

    Joseph Goh wakes up by five every morning for school as it takes an hour to get there on two buses and the train. He lives in Bishan and Hong Kah Secondary is in Jurong West.

    Sometimes the 13-year-old bursts into a sprint to reach the gates on time. He does not mind the daily race. After all, he is chasing his passion.

    He chose Hong Kah because it is one of the few schools to offer electronics as an O-level subject.

    For the Secondary 1 student, electronics has been a long-time pursuit. He was introduced to it as a child at his father’s workshop, and he has been tinkering with gadgets ever since.

    “I was amazed at what electronics can do  transforming ideas into products everyone needs, like smartphones, drones and computers, and even used to make clothes.”

    Which is why Hong Kah is perfect for the likes of Joseph.

    Electronics is included in its curriculum for all students as part of its applied learning programme.

    Students learn troubleshooting, programming and even coding to solve real-world problems.

    To spark their interest, the school holds project work classes for lower secondary students where they conceptualise and create products, applying their understanding of electronics to try to make a difference in fields such as healthcare.

    Hans Delano, now 15, worked with his friends to create a floor mat that would turn room lights on and off when someone stood on it. They were trying to solve an issue faced by many elderly people.

    “When the elderly return home, they might have trouble finding the room lights, and could fall down. With the mat, the light comes on automatically,” said the Sec 3 student.

    In Sec 3 and 4, students can choose to study electronics as an examinable subject.

    Upper secondary students also work on ground-up community service learning projects involving electronics.

    Ms Chua Shi Qian, who heads the school’s special projects department, said the programme aims to develop students into engineers who “improve the lives of others through electronics”.

    For students like Joseph and Hans, the programme is an attractive incentive to study at Hong Kah.

    Hans, who hopes to be a programmer, said the school has helped to fuel his interest.

    Parents too appreciate the courses. Joseph’s father, Mr Joshua Goh, who is managing director of a technology R&D and manufacturing company, chose Hong Kah for him to encourage his ambitions to become an inventor.

    Mr Goh said: “I don’t believe in studying for paper grades. I believe in studying for knowledge.”


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  • Juying Secondary School
    5 / 5 Juying Secondary School

    At Juying Secondary School, students are encouraged to step up onto a podium to share their thoughts.

    At their very own Speakers’ Corner in the canteen, modelled after the one at Hong Lim Park, students voice their opinions on issues ranging from wildlife conservation to global poverty.

    This initiative, in which all students are encouraged to speak their minds about things they care about, is part of Stand and Deliver – Juying’s Applied Learning Programme (ALP).

    The programme’s objectives include helping students to think critically about topics and present them confidently. “As they grow older, they need to learn to be persuasive,” said Madam Grace Tham, the school’s head of department for English language and literature.

    Stand and Deliver also develops their confidence, she added.

    To prepare for the stage, students would explore an issue and piece it together into a speech.

    And just as how the audience at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park have no obligation to stay on, students listening to their schoolmates speak can walk in and out of speeches that take place during recess at the canteen of the school located in Jurong West. The programme is “free flow and not staged”, said Madam Tham.

    Secondary 2 student Clara Lim said that the speech sessions give her “an opportunity to share what I am passionate about”. The aspiring vet spoke about animal welfare on stage. Her five-minute speech on caring for animals this month received loud applause from schoolmates.

    The school’s emphasis on critical thinking is also seen in the way yearly overseas school trips are structured around the exploration of global issues, such as the killing of sharks for their fins and saving the environment.

    Over the years, students have gone to the Indonesian island of Lombok to work on shark conservation. There, they spoke to fishermen and learnt from them.

    A version of this story first appeared in The Straits Times. 

    (Photos: ST file)




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