mission of the Singapore ASCD, a community of educators, is to provide
leadership in instruction and curriculum development for nurturing
line with this mission, Singapore ASCD
has been sponsoring an annual
book prize of S$300 to the top student of the former Further
Professional Diploma in Education (FPDE) and the Diploma in
Departmental Management (DDM) at the National Institute of Education
since 1997. In 2007, the prize continues to be awarded to the
participant who exemplifies the highest level of learning in the new
Management and Leadership in Schools Programme (MLS).
list of past winners can be found here.
2007, ASCD also launched a new award for the graduates of the Master of
Education programme specialising in Curriculum and Teaching. The awards
are made up of
An ASCD Gold Medal of $500
This is given to the best graduate with outstanding performance in the
A book prize of $300
This is for the best dissertation submitted for examination.
A book prize of $200
This goes to the best Critical Inquiry project submitted for
The recipient for the first ASCD Gold Medal and Book Prize is Mr Jason
Matthew Lai. Mr Lai is currently a Gifted Education officer at the
Ministry of Education. ASCD caught up with Jason recently and asked him
some questions about his award-winning project and the significance of
Please describe what you do now and how the course has helped you with
your work. How have the prizes helped you or contributed to your
am currently working in the Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of
Education. My main roles are to oversee the mathematics curriculum as
well as train teachers for their role in teaching the gifted and the
high-ability learners. I also carry out research on gifted education.
Curriculum and Teaching specialisation has given me a deeper
understanding of the different aspects of schooling. In terms of
content, I now have the wisdom to apply what I have learnt in the areas
of curriculum development, educational change, teacher development and
research in my work.
March this year, I presented my paper on student voice at the American
Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference in a roundtable
session. That was an enriching learning experience for me as I got to
share my research with other curriculum workers who were also
interested in the classroom climate and school culture. I realised that
the situation in Singapore is more common than we think. Teachers are
the main factor affecting student voices, even in other education
Can you briefly summarise your dissertation and your critical inquiry
project which won prizes?
chose to explore the role and position of student voice in the
Singapore classroom for my critical inquiry project. In my study, I
collected perspectives of students from a local secondary school to
find out about their experiences in the curriculum, about the readiness
of teachers in giving autonomy to students in curriculum making, and
the readiness of students in accepting this autonomy.
project was conceptualised at the time when schools were beginning
to implement programmes aligned to the “Teach Less, Learn
More” philosophy of engaging students and being more
student-centred. However, I was curious to know how this was
operationalised at the classroom level, given the exam-oriented context
that Singapore teachers and students work in. Also, I believe that if
students were engaged, they would be more involved in curriculum
making, as in coming up with student-initiated activities. I was
unconvinced that teachers were giving students the flexibility and
autonomy in curriculum choices or that all students actually want such
results of my study show that while students in the researched
school were satisfied with the curriculum and highlighted the
importance of giving feedback to teachers about their lessons, they
thought that not all teachers were ready for feedback. They were also
not sure whether their voice would make a difference in their learning.
They acknowledged that the teacher is still the main authority in the
curriculum and that they would prefer to play a more consultative role
rather than an active one.
There must be efforts to include students in curriculum making for
their voices to be heard. Communication is crucial to building a
culture of collaboration between teacher and learner.
What do you think are urgent issues in the area of curriculum
development in your own field of specialisation (e.g. either gifted
education or Maths)?
education is an area in our education system that still generates
differing opinions and views. While teachers who work with gifted
children see the need and value of special provisions for them, there
are others who debate issues on elitism and equity. However, at the
recently held 10th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness in Singapore,
the overwhelmingly positive response of local practitioners signals a
growing acceptance of ability-based curriculum differentiation. I share
Joyce VanTassel-Baska’s view that it is urgent for gifted
children in our system to receive the education they deserve. I hope
the conference has allowed educators to see how they are able to design
and implement curriculum programmes to benefit all children.
must be an open culture of critical inquiry. Researchers should
be able to explore issues like power structures in the classroom,
teaching for social justice, equity and democracy, and to facilitate
access to these ideas.
is also a need for educators to be able to translate research
into practice. More teachers are now engaging in action research in
school and are more critically conscious. However, the scope for
research is still vast. The research that schools, NIE and MOE are
doing could be made more accessible to teachers through publications,
conferences and collaborative projects. Not only will this encourage a
more reflective teaching fraternity, it would also create sustained
communities of practice.