By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek
Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades – it’s about raising a great child!
According to the MOE website, “students discover their interests and talents” through Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs). They are “an integral part of our students’ holistic education”. But if parents and students are to be honest, not all CCAs are joined for interest.
The real reasons for joining a CCA could be:
to gain admission into a desired secondary school (through the DSA)
for purely pragmatic purposes (learning to play a musical instrument)
to participate in national competitions, which can make them just as competitive and stressful as academic subjects
simply for the sake of having a CCA, especially if a student is deemed as not having enough skill to join a CCA that really interests them
Some schools offer sports CCAs that have a national team and a recreational team, which ostensibly caters to students of varying levels. But if we’re to be completely honest, that actually highlights the fact that students don’t always join CCAs out of interest.
If CCAs were joined because of interest, we’d have some rather colourful activities in school (rather than the usual sports, music and uniformed group CCAs). Here are some CCAs that would be genuinely interesting for students, and might very well be able to accomplish the stated objectives of CCAs.
1. Music production
Almost every student has some level of musical exposure and ability, since Music is a mandatory subject in school. And there are many musical CCAs that give students a chance to learn how to play a particular musical instrument to a high level of proficiency. This means that many young students actually have the ambition of becoming a singer or musician when they grow up.
But what they don’t know is how much work goes into actually recording songs and producing an album. This is where a music production CCA would be incredibly useful. Students will get to learn the technical skills behind producing an album, and it’ll give them a more holistic view of the music industry (rather than just seeing the glamorous aspects).
Learning how to perform magic tricks and illusions requires multiple skills such as sleight of hand, performance artistry, misdirection, and public speaking. There’s more to it than just picking up a book about magic – which is why a CCA that teaches students about all the different aspects of magic would be fascinating. It also requires some skilful use and knowledge of Science, which would help to enhance their learning, too.
We might think of it as a tertiary-level subject, but the fact is that we all have to use psychology in everyday communications. It involves non-verbal communication, personality types, and deciphering the actions of others. Students may learn this during their Character & Citizenship Education (CCE) classes, but a whole CCA devoted to understanding psychology would be engaging for students. It would add a new dimension to their interactions with others, as well as providing them with skills that would be useful in real life.
4. Singapore cultural club
It’s not that students don’t learn about Singapore, but they usually learn about our country in such a dry and forced way that the fun is often drained out of it. Social Studies and CCE teach this to some extent, but there’s rarely a passion for Singapore’s culture the way there is for Japanese and Korean culture.
So a Singapore cultural club, one that allows students to explore Singapore’s culture the way they would in a Japanese or Korean cultural club, would be an organic way to help develop a genuine interest in our country’s history and culture.
5. Game design and development
Many schools already have computer programming as part of their syllabus, and some schools have it as a CCA, too. But as youngsters, students will probably have major objective for learning coding – to create games.
There’s more to computer and mobile games than just programming a series of instructions though. There’s game balance, being able to weave a coherent narrative/backstory, and level design, all of which are skills that are separate from computer programming. A CCA that develops this skillset will not only help codify what makes a game “fun” to students, but it’ll also help to grow Singapore’s gaming industry.
If these CCAs were more common and offered in more schools, we might very well see an uptake in passion and the love of learning. What other CCAs do you think students would be genuinely interested in?
Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.
Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches Secondary English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.