Forum Letter Replies

January 06, 2009

Syllabus reviewed every six years

We refer to Ms Chan Pui Yee’s letter ‘Wastage in ‘required’ school textbooks’ (ST Forum, 31 Dec 08), which raised concerns about frequent changes in school textbooks.

The Ministry of Education reviews the syllabuses for all subjects every 6 years to ensure that the contents which our children learn in schools remain current. Principals, teachers and students play an important role in these reviews, as their feedback and suggestions are taken into account in the redevelopment of syllabuses. Changes resulting from these reviews will then be incorporated into the textbooks. Where changes are minor, MOE will work with the publishers to ensure that the amendments are communicated to the schools so that the textbooks can continue to be usable.

MOE makes every effort to ensure that children will not lack the basic resources in their school education. Hence, we will continue to ensure that schools render the fullest support to needy students to purchase their school books. We thank Ms Chan for her feedback.

Low Khah Gek (Mdm)
Director, Curriculum Planning and Development

I refer to Mrs Lee-Huan Ai-Min’s letter last Thursday, ‘2-in-1 textbooks not a good idea’. I agree wholeheartedly. Most parents of schoolchildren are frustrated with the rampant wastage of textbooks we are ‘required’ to buy each year. Other than the two-in-one textbooks Mrs Lee-Huan described, there is other evidence of wastage:

For many years, there have been incessant changes in textbooks. While I appreciate that this is because of updates or changes in the syllabus, there have been instances when only minimal changes are made on a few pages. As a result, parents have to buy the new edition, while the older one, though only a little ‘out-dated’, is no longer usable. Even if the update is necessary, does it justify the waste of resources?

Many times, books that are ‘required’ on the booklist are not used, or hardly used. This sometimes occurs because teachers do not have sufficient time to complete the syllabus. But there are also times when unnecessary books are on the compulsory booklist. For example, from 2005 to last year, Use Of The Abacus Workbook was on the booklist of Primary 2 pupils in at least two different primary schools, though it did not appear that any time was planned during lessons to teach the subject.

It is ironic that, while students are drilled on the importance of reducing, re-using and recycling, they see such blatant disregard of the environment.

It is stated in some textbooks that their paper has been manufactured from sustainable forests. While this is commendable, it would be better to use recycled paper. Otherwise, can paper thickness be reduced? Books and schoolbags will be lighter, and cost savings can be passed on to parents.

I appeal to the Ministry of Education, schools and publishers to consider the plight of many poor families who can do without such wastage. I also urge them to act responsibly towards the environment, because we have only one Earth to care for.