We have an education system that makes our students masters in Math and Science. This was posted by Claire last week. But I believe that this comes from a larger issue. Through some research, we might have the best system that makes our students masters in Math and Science, but the education system is backward in terms of helping our students grow and mature as students.
According to PISA
Japan has a GDP of 4.9 trillion USD while Singapore has a GDP of 297 billion, according to the World Bank. According to PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment – which is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in member and non-member nations of 15-year-old school pupils – ranks Singapore as highest overall in Science, Reading & Mathematics.
Singapore is above Japan and Estonia in terms of the mean score in Science, Reading & Mathematics. What is interesting is also a positive three-year trend in the mean scores. This means we have been getting better as time goes on.
But that’s good, right?
Sure, being a nation with an education system that emphasises on Science, Reading & Mathematics might make for a successful (subjective) nation. 28% of students have a science-related career expectation, above the average of 24.5%. But our students don’t score too well on the student well-being scale.
We score about 25 out of 100 in terms of sense of belonging at school and the highest possible in schoolwork-related anxiety. We have high scores in school but our students are stressed about said school work, and this anxiety could cause a poor mental health situation.
Since this is a mental health blog, I will proceed on to present the state of health education in Singapore – with relation to our sense of belonging in schools and schoolwork-related anxiety – but another thing to note is the advantage that a student might have when it comes to access to resources and their parents’ education or career. This could very well affect the child’s ability to identify crucial health issues that even their parents might not know about.
Education Is The Solution For Ignorance
Many world issues are caused by ignorance. Racism, gun control, resistance against abortion or the LGBTQ+ community are mostly caused by a lack of proper education. While education might not be the sole cause, knowing more about the opposing side could decrease the chances of one being so ignorant that they completely remove the possibility that an opposing side exists.
Reusing an old graphic:
You are not your opinions. You have a box of opinions that you can switch out for better opinions when one comes by. But without a proper structure in place, some might not have the opportunity to find these better opinions.
They will start to think that they are their opinions and a better one simply could not exist. This is why groups like climate change deniers are still fighting their fight against climate change being real.
So, by educating people properly, it can cause a positive effect on their self-perception and sense of self, entitlement and opinion.
Current State of Education about Mental Health
Articles about mental health concerns, illnesses or education have only been popping up more as we enter 2015. Only in 2016, schools have told The Straits Times they are paying more attention to students’ mental wellness, amid a national bid to tackle the problem of young suicides. Also in 2016, “recognising distress signals is among the roles that teachers are equipped to carry out, Acting Education Minister Ng Chee Meng told Parliament.”
That’s a little late, don’t you think? (Better late than never, though) The education system has been established for well over 40 years and yet we are starting to pay special attention to mental wellness and mental health now. This comes after an increasing trend in young suicides and a large number of people suffering from mental health issues not seeking help.
So yes, we have a system that makes our students amazing masters in the maths and sciences, yet we have neglected to include any initiatives or syllabus to educate our students about their mental health, sense of self and wellness outside of the wellness in their grades.
Don’t take it from me, it is difficult for me to find any information on a syllabus on the Ministry’s website. Even as we have a ‘Health Education’ subsection, it includes insufficient, outdated information that does not equip students skills to cope with their mental wellness at any stage.
I did find a set of presentation slides that were hosted on the ACS Independent School’s website by the Ministry that ‘promotes mental health in schools’. Weird that these slides are not published in a syllabus document that is available on the Ministry’s website. Regardless…
It does present basic information on how the mental wellbeing of a student can be a factor in not only their school work, but also in their daily lives. It is important, and I think, crucial information for students who are in an age group when they go through self-discovery and may be more affected by things happening within and around them.
Final Word & My Plea
We have an amazing education system that turns many students into geniuses, being able to solve problems in reading, sciences and mathematics, allowing us to score top position in the PISA. Unfortunately, we have neglected to include a large component in students’s lives, mental health and wellbeing. As a result, students have started to stress about their emotional wellbeing and this could very well affect their school work, as well as their mental health.
While the system instills great knowledge about what is in the textbooks, it ignores the fact that our mental health is still above our studies. If we tell our students to stay home and rest while they are down from a flu, why are we not emphasising that mental health could very much affect our day to day lives as well? We have a comprehensive syllabus that includes issues of the Ten Year Series so that our students can continue excelling in their school work, but we do not make use of this system to identify students in need, or assist students in identifying that they need help, and providing said help.
We hold our schools accountable to our student’s ability to score well in the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examinations, but not in their mental wellbeing. School work and mental wellbeing can have large effects on the other, but we do not have sufficient (not to say efficient) support structures to ensure that students get the help they need in both school work and mental wellbeing. Measuring students based solely on their results might make for good reports on paper, but we neglect the same people whom we trust our future in – when they could be suffering silently.
I am an advocate for mental health awareness, literacy and wellbeing, and I know what it is like to go through school with little support from the same system that allowed me to excel in my school work and allowing me to proceed on to get my Diploma. But at this point, I think we can do so much more for the students whom we keep saying over and over are the future of our nation.
We are masters in science with a backward system that neglects non-measurable, non-academic issues like mental wellbeing. Such a pity.
The ‘Final Word & My Plea’ was published (edited) on The Straits Times (Print) (Page A19, 9 Oct 2017) as well as on The Straits Times (Digital) Forum (Link, 9 Oct 2017).
References, Links & Sources