Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Context of School Based Curriculum Development in Singapore

The School Based Curriculum in Singapore.
In current context of educational initiatives in Singapore, SBCD does not mean changing schools from being places that primarily implement the externally designed curriculum to becoming places responsible for creating their own curriculum materials. Rather, it means primarily that schools have more autonomy in designing, planning, and creating educational experiences trough selecting and adapting curriculum materials in the light of their particular situations and needs. This, of course, does not exclude the possibility that schools create their own curriculum materials when there is a need (Gopinanthan & Deng, 2006:106)

The Context of School Based Curriculum Development in Singapore
School Based Curriculum Development in Singapore

At the outset, it is important to point out that there are many variations of SBCD. SBCD may typically involve creating new curricular products, but it can also involve selecting from existing curriculum materials and making various adaptations (Walton, 1978). It can be accomplished by individual teachers, groups of teachers, or a whole school staff. In addition, it can be long-termed, medium-termed, or short-termed (Marsh, 1992). Within a range of SBCD models, the one adopted in Singapore is far less radical. Instead of being skeptical of centrally based curriculum development, the Ministry holds that the existing national curriculum is relatively well-developed and effective-at least in terms of producing students who are competent in various academic subject areas. Therefore, SBCD is by no means construed as an alternative or replacement for the MoE-directed curriculum development. Rather, it is considered a necessary complement to the Ministry’s curriculum planning and development efforts so as to provide more flexibility and choices, and encourage local initiatives and ownership. It can be seen as a tangible expression of the ability-driven school system that the Ministry o Education wishes to create. In general, Singapore’s SBCD model takes the form of adapting, modifying, and translating the externally developed curriculum materials according to the school context:

( Read Historical Roots Of School Based Curriculum Development)
( Read KTSP as a Form of School Based Curriculum Development)

"Principals and teachers should be encouraged to make full use of autonomy given to schools with respect to modifying CDIS texts to suit the needs of their students. Teachers should be encouraged to actively engage in tailoring the curriculum to the needs and interests of their students. Issues relating to the translation of the curriculum into effective classroom practice can be discussed at regular meetings between Heads of Departments (HoDs) and teachers. Ministry officials (e.g., subject specialists) can act as resource persons and help teachers brainstorm for ideas on improving teaching and learning. Both the Ministry and the schools should provide a supportive environment to engage teachers to introduce and experiment with innovative ideas. (MoE, 1998)"

The centrally developed curriculum materials can include syllabi, textbooks, and resources which provide information on what to teach as well as how to teach it to students of various school ages. Teachers are expected to interpret and transform these materials to achieve curriculum objectives according to their classroom or school situations. They can reorganize or restructure the content within a particular subject area. For example, as reported in the speech by the Minister of Education, Tharman Shanmugaratham (2004), a secondary mathematics teacher, based upon a careful analysis of the current secondary mathematics syllabus and textbook, identified a “knowledge block” that links advanced and elementary topics together. Such a restructuring of content resulted in more effective learning. Teachers can also organize the content around a certain theme, engaging in curriculum integration that might require the cooperation of teachers from various departments. In short, teachers are encouraged to be flexible and creative in using the curriculum materials. SBCD also takes the form of teachers’ involvement in the “creation” of a new curriculum product. Project Work and the above-mentioned Knowledge and Inquiry syllabus are cases in point. Both are relatively new subjects, and there are no curriculum materials available. Although the syllabi of these two subjects are provided by the Ministry, schools and teachers are responsible for planning, creating, implementing, and evaluating their own materials. Overall, school-based curriculum enactment represents the primary approach to SBCD in Singapore. This is, indeed, consistent with the observation of Reid (1987) and Brady (1995) on the form SBCD would take when there is a centrally mandated national curriculum in place. As Brady (cited in Bolstad, 2004:9) suggests, SBCD would take the form of curriculum “adaptation” by individual teachers or group of teachers operating within specified parameters rather than of the “creation” of curriculum which might require whole staff involvement. 

Gopinathan and Deng (2006:93-110) coined the term ‘school –based curriculum enactment’ with reference to Singapore. They argue that teachers in Singapore can be curriculum developers within a context of centralized curriculum development. A recent Singaporean study noted that middle level leaders such as heads of departments can be important players in bringing about curriculum development.

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