Happenings, News

The four-fold task of education

In a monthly newsletter to parents, ACS (International) Principal John Barrett discusses, among other topics, education, grades and school facilities, and lists what the school offers.

A FREQUENT criticism of “education”, not only in Singapore but also in the United Kingdom, is that the focus is too much on examination results.

The advent of league tables has put schools and teachers under enormous pressure to aim simply for “success”, narrowly defined as high grades in examinations. This emphasis on examination results detracts from a focus on the child, and is to the detriment of “education” in the broad sense of the word.

For me, education has a four-fold task, that is, the encouragement to think, to respect, to aspire and to praise. A famous British headmaster once defined education as “developing intellectual curiosity”. This is not all education is concerned with, but it is an important part. Students must learn to question, to investigate, to reason and to discriminate – in other words, to think.

A benefit of the small class size is to allow the student to develop an intellectual relationship with the subject as well as the staff. We must move away from rote learning and encourage intellectual curiosity. A “broad based” education starts with encouraging students to develop a perspective on human achievement in areas as diverse as literature, philosophy, history, music, art, science. Developing better questions, for example, is as important as developing better answers.

Education is also about “learning respect”: Respect for oneself and respect for others. As individuals, we must learn to value ourselves, to respect our bodies and to appreciate our talents. This is a precursor to realising that each individual has different skills and abilities, and to learning to respect the efforts of all.

ACS (International) has a special role, as an international school, in encouraging cross-cultural respect. It is an important role of the school community to recognise and appreciate the efforts of each individual.

Education is also about “encouraging students to aspire to the best”. It is the task of any school, and the objective of ACS (International) to encourage students to appreciate excellence and to aim for the highest – whether in academic study, in drama or music or on the sports field. It is also our task to inspire students to aim for the best they possibly can attain in personal standards – in honesty, goodness and kindness. As a Christian school, we aim to set before students a model of Christian behaviour to aspire to.

Education is also about “encouraging praise”. It should open the door to the appreciation of beauty, truth and love, and develop a sense of wonder. Much has been written recently about the importance of developing emotional intelligence. I believe this is crucial. Students need to come to have the humility to be able to recognise all that is worthy of praise. This is the doorway to faith in God, and, for me, is the ultimate goal of education. It is the central theme which draws all the other aspects of education together.

This educational enterprise, which we share, is a wonderful experience. However, there is no easy formula that makes it all happen. Apart from anything else, much depends upon the student. Our task, as parents and school, is to encourage, inspire, excite and advise. Our aim is, and will be, to inspire and motivate students and to encourage students to develop the self-discipline to achieve. We will not always be immediately successful. But we must and will keep trying.

The Rev Dr John Barrett is the Principal of Anglo-Chinese School (International). He is also the Vice-Chairman of the World Methodist Council.


◆ Students must learn to question, to investigate, to reason and to discriminate – in other words, to think
◆ Education is about “learning respect”: Respect for oneself and respect for others
◆ Education is also about “encouraging students to aspire to the best”
◆ Education, too, is about “encouraging praise”: It should open the door to the appreciation of beauty, truth and love, and develop a sense of wonder


Three more school houses named after ACS Old Boys

THREE prominent Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Old Boys, Tan Sri Dr Tan Chin Tuan, Dr Lee Seng Gee and Dr Shaw Vee Meng, have been honoured by the ACS Board of Governors with the naming of three ACS school houses after them.

They are the Chairman of The Tan Foundation, The Lee Foundation and The Shaw Foundation respectively.

With the addition of the three houses, all the six ACS schools, which have the same house system, will now have eight houses each. They are: Oldham House, Thoburn House, Tan Kah Kee House, Goh Hood Keng House, Cheong Koon Seng House, Tan Chin Tuan House, Lee Seng Gee House and Shaw Vee Meng House.

The ACS houses were first inaugurated in 1929 and were named after distinguished people who had contributed signifi-cantly to ACS. The aims of the house system are to promote and develop clean and keen competition in sports both indi-vidually and among the houses. Lately the houses’ competitive activities have been expanded to include community and social service, debates, arts and public speaking.

The Chairman of ACS Board of Governors, Mr Tan Wah Thong, said that these three distinguished Old Boys have contributed much to the development of all the ACS schools. “We are very grateful to them and are extremely happy to bestow on them the honour of naming the three school houses after them,” he said.