Doing the Right Thing, Even if No One’s Watching
Thursday, October 28, 2010
“Circle Time” provides an open, supervised setting for students to develop and practise life skills.
At Ping Yi Secondary School, it’s not a case of “big brother” watching you, or prefects and teachers waiting around the corner to catch rule-breakers and errant students. Instead, the school has developed a holistic Character Development Programme (CDP) that reinforces a commitment to good values – to the extent that students are expected to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
“Our CDP is guided by the vision and mission of developing a community of responsible and resilient students, rooted in values and equipped with skills and a heart to serve,” explains vice-principal Mrs Chan Soo Gek. “The programme is underlined by [developmental psychologist] Thomas Lickona’s spheres of character – ‘knowing the good, desiring the good and doing the good’ – and we give just as much emphasis on acquiring values, as we do academic knowledge.”
With a structured CDP that has made a visible impact on student behaviour and attitudes, the school has been recognised in MOE’s Masterplan of Awards 2010 with the Outstanding Development Award for Character Development. The other recipients were Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, Dunman Secondary School, Tanjong Katong Girls’ School and Victoria School.
A cornerstone of Ping Yi Secondary School’s CDP is that students start every morning with “Values for Breakfast”, and that focus is reinforced through lessons and other activities throughout the day.
The school archives are part of the Go East Heritage Trail and manned by specially-trained student Trail Ambassadors, who often host visitors to the school.
Building character, step by step
“Values for Breakfast” consists of a morning assembly sharing session, where a teacher or student recounts a short story highlighting a value to the entire school. The importance of this value is then picked up and reinforced by teachers during lesson time.
There are also theme-based interdisciplinary lessons for lower secondary students, to facilitate the integration of values. For example, when Sec 2 students studied the theme of interdependence, they went on the “Go East Heritage Trail”, which traverses the eastern part of Singapore where the school is located. Visiting places of religious worship along the trail yielded an opportunity for lessons on racial harmony and religious tolerance, while other experiential aspects – such as terrain, road infrastructure and Peranakan culture – lent themselves to lessons on geography and history.
The CDP also provides for a holistic view of each student’s development. Every student has a teacher as his or her Year Head, to monitor the student’s moral, physical, emotional and aesthetics development from Sec 1 to Sec 4 or 5. Students are also organised into houses, to build camaraderie across different secondary levels and give older students the chance to mentor or train their juniors.
Students in the Palm Cove CCA can pursue their interest in food and beverage, as they prepare and sell their creations. Moreover, besides CCAs and compulsory CDP programmes that teach values, socio-emotional competencies and life skills, there are elective programmes to further develop students’ skills and confidence. These are usually conducted after school or during the school holidays, and include career talks, work attachments and activities such as abseiling and excursions.
Students get involved
In particular, Ping Yi Secondary School encourages their students to be active learners and to practise the values taught to them. For example, the Palm Cove café in the school is run by CCA members, who prepare, sell and serve food and drinks to student-customers three times a week. These activities encourage entrepreneurship, a service attitude and humility, among other skills.
The school also takes students’ feedback seriously. Students are given the principal’s email address and are free to email their comments to her. Their feedback helps to determine the kinds of programmes that are to be introduced, or removed, the following year.
Having students “adopt” and decorate dustbins in school has encouraged them to have a sense of ownership of their learning environment.
A more ambitious programme is Campus Changemakers, which encourages students to
submit their project ideas to a committee of student leaders. If the committee decides that a proposal is viable, the project gets go-ahead from the school, plus seed funding of up to $1,500. Some recent successful projects have included a “Happy Toilet” programme, the adoption and decoration of garbage bins in the school compound, and fund-raising for needy students through the auction of specially-decorated, Youth Olympic Games-themed chairs.
Vice-Principal Mrs Chan credits the “passionate people” behind the school’s CDP. Just as engaging the students is important, the teachers, too, feel a sense of belonging as they commit themselves to developing effective programmes that are sustainable and can have continuity.
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