I was having lunch with a former student who is in charge of curriculum development at his school. I was delighted that he was also committed to good teaching and learning in his role as a curriculum leader. I took the opportunity to ask him whether his school subjected students to large doses of TSA drilling. To my delight, other than some exam practice to familiarise students with the TSA assessment formats, his school did not impose additional exam drilling on the students. Yet, his school has always had an attainment rate of 90% (the territory-wide attainment for English is about 79% for P3; and about 73% for P6), although the school’s student intake was just average.
We can think of hundreds of reasons why we ‘must’ put students through large quantities of exam drilling and excessive amounts of homework. But even if good exam results are an inevitable goal, that can be achieved with quality teaching. Exam drilling is a short-cut that will produce short-term results, but will stifle students’ motivation in the long run. So, the real issue is how we can provide teachers with the space and time so that they can deliver good teaching. I admit that I’m being idealistic. But WHAT IS EDUCATION IF IT HAS NO IDEALS?