Students discuss current issues such as mental health and cyber health, and technology is sometimes used to help students share information more easily.
Contemporary topics such as Internet safety are covered in an updated program of the Ministry of Education on Character and Citizenship (CCE) for secondary schools, which addresses some of the complex issues facing adolescents today. Specialized CCE teachers (SCTs) are trained to support and be role models for other teachers in facilitating challenging discussions in CCE lessons and guiding students to respectful discourse and informed decision-making.
The school bag is present at one such lesson where students and their CCE teacher had lively discussions about communicating with strangers online, fraud and some hairy moments they encountered online.
Some of the texts are provocative – “I’m afraid if I say not what your parents see”, or “I wish I hugged you to sleep …” – which causes more chatter. Serangun High School teacher Michael Francis Chow waits for the giggles and whispers to subside before asking without condemnation:
“What do you think could be the consequences of such a text?” One student suggests, “They could make friends with the benefits!” Thanks to the Internet, students aged 13 and 14 know more than we think, and get to know much more than generations of teenagers before them.
It is these changes that have led to a revision of the Character and Citizenship Education Curriculum (CCE) that began several years ago, which has led to a major overhaul of the high school curriculum this year. Primary school programs will be updated later. The head of CCE’s Serangoon Secondary, Mrs. Faith Wong, notes that some topics at CCE have been updated at all levels to make sure learning is more relevant to students.
Mr Chow adds that with the new program more emphasis is placed on current issues related to cyber health, mental health, race and other areas of concern to students. “Some students bring big questions to classes,” he says, “about things like gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.”
Improved not only the content but also the way of teaching such lessons. Teachers encourage students to talk, share their views and listen to each other’s opinions, and collectively build teacher-led solutions to value-based issues. Emphasizes the thought process that helps students respectfully recognize differences and manage them to come up with an answer.
They also possess the skills to provoke and facilitate discussion among adolescents. For example, instead of giving “sample answers”, Michael displays this statement on the projection screen: “I have / have had concerns about who my friends are talking to online.” He then asks his students to move to different parts of the room based on their own answers to this: yes, no, or maybe. The chairs are dragged and the feet are stepped on.
One would think that, understanding what the lesson is about, everyone unites with “yes”, but they share equally, and Michael welcomes each group’s answers as to why they feel this way.
Welcome to your specialized CCE lecturer
Mr. Chow is one of the new specialists of specialized CCE teachers who are trained to facilitate the discussion of current issues with students during CCE lessons. To this end, Mr. Chow was able to take advantage of lessons and resources provided by the MOE Student Development Curriculum Department, as well as subscribe to headquarters-organized webinars that provide professional learning opportunities for CCE faculty.
Mr. Chow has a wonderful relationship with his 2 high school students, and that’s evident. The humanities teacher, who has been teaching at the CGC for several years as a class teacher, has no problem touching on more complex topics in the new program.
In today’s lesson on online security, for example, he talks about people who discover fake faces on social media in order to deceive others. Discussions are lively and intense; student recounts how he probably evaded fraud when he received a message from a stranger who used a Korean girl’s profile photo, and it turned out to be a fake ID, and Mr. Chow cheerfully checks the names of students who are most likely suspicious of strange texts than others.
When they discuss how some people are asked to share explicit photos, the class discusses what would be the appropriate reactions, to which Mr. Chow offers tips to help them make decisions not to be vigilant even with people they have been in contact with for some time. . s to not hesitate to seek advice from a trusted adult if necessary.
After all, his message was that they need to remember who they meet online, and always remember the safety of themselves and others.
One student jokingly replies, “I can use his photo to blackmail him!” But Mr. Chow quickly corrects this by laughing around the room, “How do you know it’s him?” It could have been a morning when teens could discuss difficult topics with adults, but not at this CCE class and not for Mr. Chow, who perceives it all in his own way.
Read more about character education and citizenship at Serangun High School here: