School of Science and Technology sees big response to its style of education
Brand new, with no track record and yet the School of Science and Technology has seen overwhelming response to its unique brand of education.
The school will only open its doors next year, but already there's been more applications than there are places.
Jeremy Kohhad a chat with the school's principal, Chua Chor Huat, and he filed this report.
Like other secondary schools, the School of Science and Technology will offer a four-year programme leading to the O levels.
But it will focus on practice-oriented subjects, such as Environmental Science and Technology, Biotechnology and Media Studies.
It is the fourth specialised independent school here, after the Singapore Sports School, NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, and the School of the Arts.
And as its name suggests, the school will tap widely into technology.
Mr Chua explains why.
"Technology provides a very good platform and tools for them to access a lot of information, a lot of resources beyond what a traditional classroom and even what a conventional school setting can offer, or even beyond the expertise of teachers. And i think by creating relevant, useful learning experiences and activities within the classroom context, within the school environment, we think that students can actually learn in many different ways. "
As the school is seeking to combine the best of textbook and hands-on learning, applied learning will be a big thing.
So students can look forward to learning about mathematics and geography by looking at the issue of carbon footprints and the environment, for instance.
And because of this innovative approach to teaching, the teachers who are drawn from schools, polytechnics and industry, have been told to create their own learning materials from scratch.
So not only will the students be learning, the teachers, too, will be learning as they go along.
"When we talk about applied learning and real world connection, there's no way that we can have a textbook off the shelves or from the bookshops to be able to teach things in a very interesting way. So what my teachers have to do is to be able to design lesson units and draw upon various resources coming from the internet, coming from textbooks, coming from print and non-print resources, and to go also to the extent of collaborating with other departments to see where it fits in terms of the content, in terms of the context, to be able to map out suitable programmes, so that students will learn things in a very well integrated form."
Also, teachers and students alike will have to get used to a new scheme called Mobile Learning.
Under this scheme, the teacher and the students can be at different places.
But the class can still be conducted thanks to the availability of WiFi and laptops.
Mr Chua elaborates.
"The youngsters have their own mobile phones that comes with camera functions and through that they can take pictures at places where they're supposed to collect data and some information. And from there especially if they have internet access, with their laptops on, they can actually log on to the internet to upload the pictures they have captured, to upload it to a secured environment within the school compound whereby they can facilitate some discussion with people within the school compound and people who are on site."
The school also intends to organise regular Science and Techno camps for students.
Mr Chua says that during the three or four day camp, the students will have an opportunity to experience polytechnic or university life.
"The exact timing, etc, we're not quite firm yet, but we're quite confident that we can do it for all the students, and if you think about it, it's not something that any ordinary secondary school can work it out, because having a whole cohort of secondary school students to go to university at such a young age, I think it provides a great inspiration for them."
Meanwhile, internships at companies such as IBM and Creative Technology will be the norm for students at the school.
They can also look forward to assessments on an ongoing basis, rather than the usual exam or tests.
Mr Chua again.
"We are looking at a whole range of assessment strategies. The whole idea is to assess the attainment of the learning outcomes and to allow students to have a platform to demonstrate their understanding, to demonstrate their skill sets. And I think through a varied form of assessment opportunities, you actually allow students to demonstrate their different talents."
For a new kid on the block, the school is proving to be quite popular.
In less than a week after applications opened for admission under the Direct School Admission exercise, the school has received over 210 applications.
And the school is only taking in about 200 students for its first year.
"Actually i'm not completely surprised. I think parents nowadays are very well-informed and they know what are really the new demands in terms of skill sets and competencies of students especially at the future work place. And I think parents are also now beginning to realise that in order for my child to thrive or do well at the future work place, it has to go beyond just being book smart or just being able to do well for examinations."
Mr Chua also listed out his priorities in the immediate future.
"At the end of the day, I think really the school exists for the students, and I think we do our best, we're really like what you mentioned earlier on, we're the new kid on the block with no track record, and what we're concerned about is to work on our curriculum, work on our learning experiences, to bring in the first cohort of students and to work alongside with them and let the results speak for themselves."
To reach out to parents and students, the school is organising an Open House this Saturday at its interim campus in Clementi.
And to assure parents who are worried about their kids turning into techno addicts, Mr Chua has this to say...
"As long as they're properly guided, there's a good cyber wellness programme in place to be able to guide the students with more responsible use of technology, more responsible use of internet, and the dos and don'ts that they need to look out for, and what are some of the potential dangers, I think that particular device right in front of them with a good ICT infrastructure put in place will actually enable them to learn much more than a conventional classroom can offer."
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