Convent of Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) at Toa Payoh recently organised a symposium for English Language and Literature teachers from all over Singapore. The symposium titled “Delve, Develop, Deliver: Making English Language and Literature Teaching Purposeful” aimed to provide a platform for discussion, and sharing of research pedagogues and best practices in teaching.
The challenge for English Language teachers in today’s digital era is adapting new technologies for teaching.
I was invited to give a keynote speech along with three others (click on their names to see their speeches):
- Dr Angelia Poon , Head of English Language and Literature at NIE, said the imaginary power of Literature lies in its ability to change lives and the world, and connect students to ever-changing traditions.
- Paul Tan, Deputy CEO of NAC, read three poems, from which he talked about the joys of Literature, and how Literature can help us understand our identity as Singaporeans and the Malay world within which the country is situated.
- Nicholas Fang, Supervising Editor of Singapore News at Mediacorp, said despite the changing media landscape, which he called the “brave new(digital) world”, journalism still needs language and pictures to tell a beautiful story.
I spoke about my experience as a teacher and student, and said that the point is to impart magic. During the Q and A, I suggested, only half in jest, that reading should be made a compulsory school subject up to ‘O’ Level.
Other speakers included principal master teacher Tay May Yin, National Institute of Education academic Suzanne Choo and renown playwright Haresh Sharma. What’s great is that teachers from different schools also presented research they have done on teaching English Language and Literature. Experts from the Ministry of Education’s curriculum and English Language and Literature departments and the British Council also gave workshops. This is the first symposium that CHIJ has organised on the subject.
CHIJ is an ideal school to be organising the symposium. It is one of the very few schools where English Literature is almost compulsory at O-level. The school is right in the heart of an HDB estate, so its students are increasingly from the neighbourhood. This means that they don’t necessarily have the best English Language foundation when they come in at secondary one. Nevertheless, 100 per cent of last year’s students passed their O level English Literature and 90.8 per cent scored As, the principal Mrs Karen Tay told me. There goes the myth that it is hard to ace English Literature!
For me, the best schools are not those that draw in the top students, but those that give an education that most improves the students, no matter how good they are when they join the school. In other words, the education has made a difference.