Institute of Education (Singapore)
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(PCCG) will have been implemented in all secondary schools in
Singapore, and gradual extension of PCCG to all primary schools will
have begun. Implementation is occurring in varying degrees and
forms in different schools. However, the Ministry of Education has
encouraged the adoption of a developmental, whole school
approach to PCCG. This is a preventive, holistic approach which is
intended to involve all school staff in planning and delivery, and to
affect all students so that their development across domains, and not
just in the intellectual sphere, is facilitated (Best, 1989;
the goals of the
whole school, PCCG approach is through the
infusion of content
and activities guided
PCCG into the academic curriculum.
Integration of PCCG into academic subject areas is challenging for
several reasons. First, it will nearly always require modifications of
curriculum content and traditional, teacher directed didacticism.
Second, each school must fill in the details of how integration can be
achieved, given the opportunities and constraints inherent in each
school's particular circumstances (e.g., aspects of how the school
day is structured, make-up of the staff, resources, parent involvement
and receptivity, etc.). But perhaps most importantly, teachers and
principals approach the issue of integrating PCCG into the academic
curriculum with trepidation because of a certain mystical aura
surrounding the PCCG initiative. Precisely what kinds of programme
modifications need to be explored, or what activities would actually
contribute to realizing the objectives of PCCG, often seem elusive.
Indeed, many Singaporean teachers charged with
responsibility for implementing PCCG in their respective schools
have expressed uncertainty about how to integrate PCCG into
academic classes. Similarly, educators in Britain have struggled with
problems of translating traditional pedagogical practices and
academic curricula into educational experiences that foster pupils'
all-round development in the manner hoped for in the pastoral care
paradigm (Best, 1989; Chia, 1987;
1989). This report offers
some suggestions for heightening the visibility of classroom activities
and course content that are in line with PCCG objectives as I see
them, and in so doing help to de-mystify the implications of PCCG for
Curriculum organization, course content, and teaching
strategies are likely to need revision in order to meet the apparent
new, holistic and developmental thrust in Singaporean educational
goals. We know that, in most cases, it is best to undertake curriculum
reconstruction incrementally, with evidence of small but important
successes providing reassurance and support for subsequent, and
more far-reaching change
1982). With this process in mind, it
would seem most favourable to begin the process of infusing PCCG
into academic curricula within the context of language arts.
Both PCCG and the language arts aim to develop pupils'
creative and critical thinking capacities, self-expression,
communication, and social understanding. Within both the PCCG
and integrated language arts frameworks, literacy is viewed as both
an individual and social phenomena, and as a process rather than as
a product. Considering these basic aims and premises, there is an
essential correspondence between PCCG and language arts, when
both of these are well-conceived and delivered. Thus, it would seem
that much could be gained by planning their delivery synthetically,
rather than as unrelated aspects of the school programme.
Providing opportunities for personal expression and facilitating
development of social understanding are two of the most important
means to achieving the developmental goals of PCCG. Many of the
activities appropriate to language arts classes can contribute to
these aims. For example, pupils develop their capacities for self-
reflection, creative and critical thinking, and self-expression through
writing, speaking, teamwork, and other kinds of productive activities.
Their self-understanding, social understanding, and access to
knowledge beyond their direct experience is developed through
reading, listening, observing, and team work.
The following are just a few examples of activities common to
many language classes aimed at the development of reading skills,
showing how they can be conceived and used to further the
communicative aims of PCCG.
Listening to stories: Learning to listen actively and make
meaning out of what others have to say, and relating this to
one's own experiences.
Telling stories: Learning to organize one's thinking so that ideas
can be shared orally or in writing in a clear and interesting
Sharing personal experiences: Developing confidence and skill
in telling about or illustrating something on a purely
developing the ability to interact with what other people say and
range of flexible teaching strategies should be used that
them to develop the kinds of life skills and confidence they will need
to take with them from school into the rest of their lives. Following are
some suggested characteristics of this kind of pedagogy, informed
rather than a primarily teacher-dominated didacticism.
social skills objectives,
as well as academic
objectives, in planning and delivering every lesson
during group work, etc.).
Many kinds of
such as collaborative writing
projects, small group discussions, peer review, and so on,
involving heterogeneous pupil groupings.
accommodation of differences among pupils
used primarily to correct mistakes or to evaluate pupil
contributions in terms of "right" or "wrong", but rather to reward
active participation, build confidence, encourage reflective
thinking, and ask follow-up questions that lead pupils on to the
involving individualized assessment on a
continuous, internal (i.e., in-house) basis by the teacher and the
student, based not only on acquisition of language skills but
also on the development of other personal and social
of their own progress, and pupil evaluation
they are learning (e.g., through frequent conferences
with the teacher with reference to their individual pupil profile,
keeping a journal, compiling chronological samples of their
written work in portfolios).
in which students work in pairs and small groups
and learn to respond holistically and constructively to the written
and oral expressions of their peers. (This kind of peer evaluation
is much more developmentally supportive and motivating than
the increasingly common use of "peer editing", in which
classmates are asked to find
correct each other's
spelling and grammatical errors.)
The texts by
(1 989) and Tiedt
repositories of practical approaches to language arts education that
incorporate these kinds of interactive, holistic, and developmental
synthesis of teaching in the language arts with the PCCG
passages, vocabulary lists, worksheet sentences, and writing and
discussion topics. This content must be:
(1) developmentally appropriate
calibrated to the ability level of the pupil with respect to task
responsive to the expressed needs and interests of the
presented within a meaningful substantive context
(7) presented with a rationale that makes sense to pupils in terms of
their own aims.
The thematic approach is one structure for making the most of
the essential complementarity between language arts and PCCG. In
this approach, skill-building activities such as reading, composition,
listening, and speaking all revolve around one topic or theme. A
major advantage of using this approach is that pupils experience
language arts, not as a "subject" for its own sake, or as an array of
unconnected classroom activities (e.g., spelling, composition,
literature), but as a process of using communication to extend their
grasp of issues that are personally meaningful and important. For
example, issues that are relevant within the framework of PCCG that
could be developed into thematic units include: Friendship, Gender,
Conflict, Work, Community. Themes can be as simple as "My Family,"
or as complex as "Responsibility" or "Pride". Work on themes could
extend over as little as one week (e.g., Expressing Sadness;
Sportspersonship), or over an entire school year (e.g., Other People
and Me; Environment).
Theme selection must be based on a consideration of
developmental tasks and issues that nearly all pupils at a given level
will be confronting. In addition, themes must be grounded in, or
directly related to, the particular cultural, socio-economic, familial,
and educational context of the pupils who are expected to benefit
from exploration of the theme.
The selection of themes can be done by individual classroom
teachers, on the basis of his or her assessment of expressed needs,
concerns, and goals of the pupils in his or her class each year.
Alternatively, relevant themes could be identified on the basis of
information gathered by the school's PCCG planning committee,
whose task is to conduct regular needs assessments of the student
population in order to prioritize areas that should be the target of
PCCG activities in the school.
Thematic units can also be created to provide in-depth
coverage of topics that are presented in existing language arts
syllabi. Thus, for example, the unit in the current Primary
elaborated. Students could be actively involved in reflection upon
their own and others' behaviours with reference to these dimensions,
through poems, stories, pictures, group discussions, presentations
on "good and bad behaviours", and written and oral debates about
the implications of the theme for understanding pupils' interactions in
and out of class.
Yet another approach to theme development is for a team of
teachers to work together to plan a series of thematic units, or a
single umbrella theme for the whole year (e.g., Pring, 1984). Some
agreement should be reached by all the language arts teachers in a
school about what themes will be used at each level. This
coordination will help to ensure continuity and avoid repetition of
materials as pupils move from level to level.
Once relevant themes have been identified, planning the
activities and materials for the unit can be simplified and made more
enjoyable if several teachers working at the same level pool their
ideas, information, and resources. Teachers can also adapt some of
the many "packaged" thematic curriculum guides that are available,
or extract ideas and sample units from resource books for creating
thematic units (e.g., Coody, 1983; Gamberg, Kwak, Hutchings, &
At the present time, there is insufficient research-based
understanding about the particular psychosocial needs and
strengths of Singaporean pupils at various developmental stages to
warrant proposal of a structured programme of thematic units that
could be offered for teachers of all language classes. However,
teachers can begin to work out some of the priorities for thematic
development based on their knowledge of normative child
development, the aims of PCCG, and a needs assessment of pupils
carried out in their respective schools.
Through the use of teaching strategies and thematic content
based on a serious effort to put into practice the holistic,
developmental intent of PCCG, we can provide a meaningful,
motivating framework within which pupils can acquire and extend
their language skills. Language arts can then become an important
vehicle for exploring social issues, personal experiences,
interpersonal interactions, and the nature of the learning process
itself. The infusion of PCCG into academic subject areas is
potentially fruitful conception that could help to advance new, holistic
selection of content that support and extend the all-round
development of pupils.
Bird, L. (1989).
New York: Richard Owen.
Chia, J.E. (1987). The relationship between the administrative, pastoral and
academic structures in schools and systems of profiling. Unpublished
Doctoral thesis, University of Bath,
Coody, B. (1983).
J. (1989). Pastoral curriculum: Examples from a London Borough.
Pastoral Care in Education, 7 (3): 39-43.
V., Chia, L. (1988). Pastoral Care in British Schools: Application
for Singapore. Paper presented at the Third Annual Conference of the
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Garnberg, R., Kwak, W., Hutchings, R.,
Wells, J. (1990).
Real Books For Reading: Learning to
Read With Children's Literature. Markharn, ONT. Canada: Pembroke.
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Levistik, L, (1990).
An Integrated Language
Perspective in the Elementary School. New York:
Pring, R. (1 984).
Smith, L.E.W. (1972).
Towards a New English Curriculum. London: J.M. Dent
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