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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Sit through a trial? All part of the job for some pupils

Schools trying to get students interested and involved in the working society
The Straits Times - April 28, 2014
By: Amelia Teng
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Sit through a trial? All part of the job for some pupils Ms Jesslyn Tan sharing her experience in helping the poor with a class of Primary 4 pupils at Meridian Primary last year. Such sessions are part of the school’s move to expose children to different interests. -- PHOTO: MERIDIAN PRIMARY SCHOOL

SOME get visits from mystery guests. Others sit through court trials or even dress up as zookeepers to feed animals.

These are just some of the fun activities schools here organise to get children as young as seven to think about what kind of work they would love to do.

Indeed, career guidance is one of the things that the committee led by Senior Minister of State for Education and Law Indranee Rajah to review polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education is looking at improving.

She had stressed earlier this month the importance of exposing students early to their interests and strengths so that parents know how to match their children's interests to career plans.

At Meridian Primary School in Pasir Ris, Ow Xiao We, 11, thought of her interest in animals, after listening to Ms Jesslyn Tan, a flexi adjunct teacher, talk about her experience of volunteering in Africa.

That was last year, when Xiao We, then in Primary 4, was having a "Mystery Lesson", started for all pupils and held twice a year. She was all fired up by the talk.

"Ms Tan's work reminded me to help all in need," she said. "I love animals and I would like to help animals which are injured or abused - I want to learn more and one day help them."

Madam Stefane Tan, Meridian's head of department for character and citizenship, said the lesson is part of a move to expose children to different interests, such as music or sports. "We want children to see people's passion."

Teachers are sent to classes they do not usually teach, which is why the school calls them "mystery" lessons. Other speakers like parents or school staff could also be invited to share their thoughts.

"We see a great need to do this because it's easier to motivate the children to learn, so that it's not just about their grades," said Madam Tan.

And aspects of job awareness are already being introduced into learning as early as Primary 1 in some schools, though the Ministry of Education's formal career guidance curriculum starts only two years later.

Besides talks, pupils also go out to observe the jobs that people do.

For example, when Primary 1 pupils at Meridian visit a supermarket, teachers prompt them to observe people they meet, from the security guards to cashiers.

"Back in class, we ask them to think about what these people do and why they're important," said Madam Tan.

At Anchor Green Primary School in Sengkang, pupils also have a taste of the real world.

To make it feel like a job selection process, Primary 6 pupils submit an "application form" to choose workplaces they want to visit.

"We want them to tell us why they're interested in that area, what makes them think they're suitable," said Madam Lee Hwee Nah, a school counsellor involved in planning these activities.

They then go through a short interview and teachers give them feedback on their presentation skills.

Since 2011, the school has arranged visits to 20 organisations, including law firms, drama companies, clinics and culinary training schools. Pupils have done things such as clean animal enclosures at zoos, sit through court hearings or try their hand at manicures.

The school took a step further last year by getting pupils to think like entrepreneurs after visiting food and beverage companies like Pastamania and Canele.

"They came back and brainstormed ideas to set up booths. Teachers helped them to think about concepts like marketing, pricing and profits," said Madam Lee. "As far as possible, we try to let them feel what it's like to be in a profession."

Career lessons a must for students

CAREER lessons have been made compulsory in secondary schools this year, with time carved out of students' timetables for them to learn things like interview skills.

While schools have always been arranging career-related activities such as workplace visits or talks by professionals, these were usually outside class time.

The new job-related lessons are part of a character and citizenship curriculum introduced this year. Under this, students use an online portal created by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to do things such as set goals and monitor their academic results.

The portal, which is for pupils as young as Primary 5 onwards, also maps out courses for students' further education and their entry requirements.

Students also learn to track their involvement in their studies, co-curricular activities, as well as projects and work experience. This helps them see how these will contribute towards future plans, such as pursuing a degree or applying for a scholarship.

They also pick up tips on writing resumes, cover letters and interview skills.

An MOE spokesman said this education and career guidance curriculum, which is carried out over four hours per year, aims to equip students with the knowledge to make key decisions after school.

In secondary schools, it is about helping students chart their academic and job pathways, while for younger ones in primary schools, it is exposing them to their interests, abilities and aspirations.

At schools like Yishun Secondary, students also get to try their hand at skills like graphic design, baking and entrepreneurship through elective modules.

Based on students' feedback, the school will offer new courses, including those in F1 engineering and fitness training this year.

At the end of the classes, students take on roles such as chefs, waiters or fashion designers to show what they have learnt.


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