Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Zealand Primary School experiences.

My cousin, Winnie is back to Malaysia from New Zealand for the Christmas holidays with her family. When I was at her home earlier, I started asking her about the education system back where is, which is in Auckland.

Now, Kimmy, (my niece who is 13 this year) just finished Intermediate Level is attending High School next year. I did remember at one point of time this year, (after Soo Yee had returned from Australia), she told me that her cousin (who was the same age as her) who was in NZ did not seem to get any homework or needed to do any homework in the schools there. So now I wanted to clarify whether it was true of it over there.

Kimmy is currently attending public school, and paying 350 NZD (which is even higher than the normal public schools, but that's coz they have more activities there). Winnie stated that it was incorrect to say that the students (in intermediate level, where Kimmy is at right now) do not get homework, but the kind of work they are given to do is a lot of projects.

(I wouldn't mind asking Kimmy all this, she is most capable of answering all these questions, but it was more proper to ask Winnie, as the latter had attended Chinese high school here. Winnie has currently lived in NZ for over 20 years now, and puts her the best position to make the most educated and informed comparison between both education systems.

The subjects that the students do there are not segregated into like three different subjects, but instead, the subject areas are integrated into one, by way of projects, for example, history, geography and social science into one project, say, the family tree which Kimmy had to do.

The other subjects she had to do were projects such as
-BioTechnology: where projects including making her own lip gloss or hand cream.
-Wood work
-Electronics: project outcomes was making her own radio.
- Pewter Technology (where she made pewter craft such as earrings out of mould!),
- Literacy: a Novel Analysis (say, Harry Potter, where the student had to write out the main character, the plot, analysis, and all that).
- Art Technology: design their own uniforms (for project work) as well, as painting (some portraits, which I can't remember what she was saying about).

Other subjects included in the syllabus were also Music and Movement (some kind of dance as well), even basic music theory as well. Co-curricular experiences included programs such as student exchange programme to host families in Australia, cycling around the Island on bikes and living in the Maori homes (don't know what they are called) and loads more.

According to Winnie, the list of projects were given in class, as well as on the Internet on a homepage, where each student had their own homepage, and parents (like Winnie!) can actually go online to check what are the list of projects that their children had been assigned to do. Winnie said that she used to keep watch and monitor on that page to know what kind of projects that Kimmy had to do, but she said that she had stopped doing it since Kimmy began to be more responsible for her own assignments

The kind of work that is given to the students were not the mucking type, where it required a lot of rote memory, as in our Malaysian culture required, and especially during exams, where after that, it would have been thrown out with the wind. However, the projects requires a lot of thinking and analytic skills, and had to be done and assessed invidividually and attendance is graded as well.

In fact, Winnie pointed out vehemently to me that the system is such that it prepares the student for the onset of university studies, and deadlines are given. Extensions, like at university level, have to requested even at Intermediate Level!!

To this, which I noted that a lot of the subjects seem to be relevant to real life and things that can be used in real life. In my perspective, a lot of the subjects in Malaysia are not integrated, whereby each subject is segregated to so many parts, that it hardly seems relevant to what we are doing at all!

Which comes to my next point. As I have said before, I doubt the chinese school system has changed much in the past 20 years, at least since even when my friend, Jaq has left school, which is about ten years from a chinese school. Knowing which, I'd rather send my children to a Malay school and let them have more time to pursue more things of their interest.

Of course, if I want them to learn Mandarin, I would send them for Mandarin tutelage. But most importantly, school has to be a pleasurable experience for them , and not a time where it is stressful mugging and memorizing of meanless information & data which can't even be related to them in their real lives.

From my perspective, I cannot imagine the Kimmy I see now, if it were not for the way she has been shaped by the school system over there. Kimmy (coming from a strict chinese education system) would be very much different from Kimmy (coming from an open ended education system), and I think I like the Kimmy I see very much now!!

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