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 MJC students on scoring As for project work - Teachers guide us a lot

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Registration date : 2009-01-03

PostSubject: MJC students on scoring As for project work - Teachers guide us a lot   Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:13 am

MJC students on scoring As for project work - Teachers guide us a lot

Despite some JCs doing better, some teachers say it's 'spoon-feeding' and inconsistent

April 23, 2009

WHY do students from some junior colleges, especially those perceived to be weaker, do better than others in project work?


That has been the buzz bandied about, not only after the release of this year's results, but in the past few years.

Answer: It could all boil down to the teachers and their methods.

So say pupils and teachers from different JCs who spoke to The New Paper.

For a start, there is the vetting process. Some students in Meridian Junior College (MJC), for example, have to submit at least seven drafts to their teacher for vetting before being finally approved and ready for submission.

This is not just a one-off step - it occurs at each of the five stages of project work (PW).

The hard work of Meridian's students and teachers paid off when about 95 per cent of this year's cohort achieved distinctions.

This means that about nine out of 10 students scored an 'A' for the subject.

This is even higher than elite schools such as Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), which had 85 per cent distinctions, and Raffles Institution (92 per cent distinctions).

So what exactly does MJC offer that gives its students the edge?

A MJC student, who asked not to be named, said his teacher would scrutinise every single draft to ensure there were no discrepancies in the data the students had provided.

'He really made sure that I didn't have any inconsistencies, and that all my facts tallied,' said the 18-year-old, who is in the second year this year.

Spoon-feeding, inconsistent?

He scored an A for the subject.

But that is not all. There is also the detailed guidance on how to do research.

The PW teachers will also tell the students where to look for material suitable for their projects.

Another second-year MJC student, Claire (not her real name), 18, shared a similar experience.

She said that her teacher was strict and very particular - even about the smallest detail.

She said: 'He was very picky about the little details and would make us re-do our drafts a few times if our work did not meet his standards.'

She added that all 20 students in her class achieved distinctions in the subject.

We are not using their real names as the school does not know that they are speaking to the media and because of the sensitivities of comparing Project Work teaching method of one JC with the other.

But not all teachers believe in this 'spoon-feeding' approach to Project Work. Although some teachers in MJC do guide their students very closely, there are others who prefer not to.

A teacher from the school said that the number of drafts submitted depends on the number of copies the students submit, and is not a school stipulation.

'The teachers also won't scrutinise every little detail in their drafts,' she added.

This seems to be the case for other schools.

A student, 18, a first year student from Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC), said that he only had to submit two drafts at each stage before it was approved by his teacher.

'Left on our own'

He said: 'Our teachers don't really give us many tips - we are pretty much left on our own. Even when there are mistakes in our work, they would just correct the more obvious ones. We are expected to correct the minor errors ourselves.'

Despite the lack of guidance compared to his MJC counterparts, the student managed to score an A.

This also seemed to be the case in Catholic JC (CJC), where only 24.1 per cent of the cohort scored As.

A second-year student from CJC, who only wanted to be known as Samuel, 18, said that his teacher would only correct structural errors in his drafts, and would leave him to check and verify the minor mistakes himself.

Said Samuel, who got a B for the subject: 'Our teachers expect the facts and figures we provide in our report to be accurate, so they don't check it for us.'

Teachers were generally not willing to comment on the issue, but one teacher said drafts are vetted based on guidelines set by the individual JCs. So does this mean that students with teachers who guide them more score better for the subject?

To a certain extent, yes.

Do parents think it is fair to have different levels of guidance?

Mrs Amy Tan, 51, whose son is in his first year at Saint Andrew's Junior College, feels that this discrepancy is unfair, especially since it is part of the national A-Level examination.

'Students would get an unfair advantage if they are lucky enough to get a good teacher,' she said.

Madam Josephine Tan, 49, whose son graduated from HCI in 2007, agreed .

She said: 'If the level of guidance provided in the schools are vastly different, then it's unfair.

'Those students whose teachers guide them very closely might be submitting work that is not really theirs - more like their teachers.'

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