The Life of Learning

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Should we Promote Flourishing through Virtue? Should we Foster Respect through Inclusion?


Humanness and the Difficulty of Reality 8. Aristotle and the Transformation of Emotion 9. An Ethic of Cherishing Bibliography Index. Her book will be of special interest to teachers and parents who are sensitive to the singularity of… children and the daunting difficulty that their lives often present to themselves and to others… Cigman deftly exposes the misplaced confidence driving several currently favoured reform agendas. And she shows why helping young people to thrive may require us not to ward off troubling intuitions but in Iris Murdoch's words, which she quotes to 'complicate, alter and deepen' them.

This is a rare and welcome kind of philosophical writing… engaged and engaging, deeply humane and vividly persuasive. Her book … is highly original, in being centred on the 'conversation' which she regards as the essence of teaching.

Learning for Personal Development

I was in Eighth Grade, I had a good school, great teachers and amazing friends but something was missing. I was confused and disoriented, but thought nothing of it. Although my mother did, who is a teacher that worked with learning disabled children at the time. She noticed it in me, and studied it, then finally she came to me and told me her thoughts.

But my Mom insisted that I have testing done, just to see if there was something. So I finally gave in, hoping to prove to her that she was being foolish and that I was fine. I was depressed and distraught about everything, I felt so let down from my mother and from everyone including myself. The system is already well developed and I don't think we are in the building-up phase anymore. However, as it becomes more complex, we need to be clear-eyed that in this matured system, there are trade-offs within the system, and we must take sufficient bold steps to rebalance those trade-offs when needed.

First, the balance between rigour and joy - how much robustness we want in the system and hard work we require from students, versus making learning fun and nurturing the joy of learning in our students. And we know that many of us realise education in schools is at risk of becoming too stressful and maybe some unwinding is in order.

Second, sharpening versus blurring of academic differentiation - how finely differentiated we want examination results to be as a tool for placement and admission, versus blunting the distinction of results between students so that we can gauge learning outcomes without encouraging an overly competitive culture in our schools. Third trade-off, customisation versus stigmatisation - how our curriculum caters to students of different learning paces and learning needs, versus inadvertently stigmatising certain groups of students who are less academically inclined.

Fourth, skills versus paper qualifications - the importance of attaining credentials such as Nitec certificates, diplomas or degrees, versus acquiring skills that make a person effective at the job. The next phase of change in education will involve re-balancing these trade-offs effectively, decisively, and many initiatives are already under way. In , we developed the "Thinking Schools, Learning Nation" vision, to strengthen thinking and inquiry among students.

During this earlier phase of change, we reduced curriculum content by about 30 per cent, enhanced teacher training and encouraged the sharing of best practices and ideas across schools. In , we embarked on the "Teach Less, Learn More" movement as a subsequent phase to further strengthen teachers' pedagogies.

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Our aim was to help teachers better engage students and develop their critical faculties through real-life learning experiences. Curriculum then was further reduced by 20 per cent, to create time and space for more active and independent learning. The removal of mid-year examinations at Primary 3 and 5 and Secondary 3 will be carried out over two years, in and Both remain relevant and important, but to help our students meet the challenges of an uncertain, fluid future, we must remember they are the ones that will face the future.

We need to usher in a new phase of change - one that is framed based on the students' perspective.

My Life with Learning Disabilities

I call this phase of change - "Learn for Life". It also has to be a principal consideration in our school system. Why has this become so important? In the past, Singapore attracted multinational corporations MNCs to set up factories and offices here. We were the world's leading producer of disk drives. We knew what kind of talent those MNCs needed, and we teach, we educate and we prepare our students well to fill up those defined job roles. Start-ups are sprouting all over, hoping to come up with the next big thing. We are witnessing the advent of "lights-out manufacturing", where entire factories are automated.

You step into it and you don't see anything, but in the background, you have personnel with different skill sets to design the system and ensure it hums along. Today, you can check in and board the aircraft in Changi Airport Terminal 4 without interfacing with a single human, and that has totally redefined what a customer officer is supposed to do.

These innovation centres, start-ups and automated environments are creating the jobs of tomorrow. We have some ideas but not definitive ideas of what these jobs will be; what are these jobs that our students are going to take up. There is nothing wrong with having examinations and class tests, but we need to use them in suitable quantities. They are part and parcel of teaching and learning. They help teachers gauge their students' learning, and students to gauge their own learning along the way.

What we do know, however, is the shape of things to come. We know that our students need to be resilient, adaptable and global in their outlook. They must leave the education system still feeling curious and eager to learn, for the rest of their lives. These traits are not just adjectives that we tick off, one by one. It is a fundamental shift in our mindset. I came across a recent article about how the author of the article, who is a middle-aged man, was trying to learn coding. I thought it explained the concept of lifelong learning quite well.

Instead, it is about getting used to a state of discomfort. His key takeaway was not the technical coding skills that he picked up, but getting used to the feeling of constantly being inadequate. So in the article, he described what a coding coach told him: "You need to get used to the idea of being out of depth all the time. You do not solve the same problem twice. You solve one and the next level is even more challenging and once again you feel inadequate.

But there is a global coding fraternity that you must learn how to tap, and then you learn from one another, from that network. I see this attitude among many elderly learners, who are obviously lifelong learners. Many do not know English well, and are not IT-literate.

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But they are motivated to learn to use the computer, the apps on their smartphones, and embrace e-payment to minimise their trips to the ATMs. It is uncomfortable for them, but I see the determination among these members of the Pioneer and Merdeka generations. Once we recognise this broader objective of education, examination and grades are comparatively small milestones in the life journey of a child. The ability to score in an examination frankly may not matter very much later on in the life of a child.

Life of Learning

We know that students derive more joy in learning when they move away from memorisation, rote learning, drilling and taking high-stakes exams. Very few students enjoy that. It is not to say that these are undesirable in learning; quite the contrary, they help form the building blocks for more advanced concepts and learning, and can inculcate discipline and resilience. But there needs to be a balance between rigour and joy, and there is a fairly strong consensus that we have tilted too much to the former. Our students will benefit when some of their time and energy devoted to drilling and preparing for examinations is instead allocated to preparing them for what matters to their future.

In doing so, we have a few considerations.