According to the Singapore Youth Resilience Survey, it was reported that school was a source of stress for secondary school students at 55% as compared to parent pressure at 28% in 2011. If school stress is the source of stress for most secondary school students, it can affect students mental health. For example, stress can trigger depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviour and more.
In 2017, a study was conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The study interviewed 540 000 15-year-old students from 72 countries to study the relation between well-being and achievement in Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test (Davie, 2017).
Through this study, it appeared that 15-year-old Singapore students anxiety level is higher than the OECD average.
Hence, as Singapore secondary students has the highest anxiety level as compared to OECD countries, it indicates that Singapore students mental well-being are being affected.
The purpose of this paper is to propose a change in Singapores secondary school curriculum that focused on fostering skills to acquire knowledge in class such as a cooperative learning environment where students will work in smaller groups to study instead of students listening in class and increase the time frame where students take their O and N level exam from 2 hours per paper to 6 hours.
This change of exam time frame can help students to think better without being pressurized to complete the paper within 2 hours.
Through the OECD study, it was reported that 48.6% of Finland students will feel anxious even if they have studied for the test.
The percentage is much lower than the OECD average of 55%. This shows that the school teaching method affect the way the students feel before taking the test. Cooperative Learning was implemented in Finland and it is effective as shown in the statistics. Hence, it is proposed that Singapore need to implement Cooperative Learning curriculum for all secondary schools.
Ministry of Education (MOE) can implement Cooperative Learning curriculum policy for all secondary schools and let students to work or discuss in groups of 5-6 for 30 minutes after every topic the students have learn during lesson. For example, the teacher in-charge will allow students to work in group to discuss about the topic they had learnt before lesson end. Then, in the next lesson, 1 group will share with the class on what they had learnt from the previous lesson. This will continue for the rest of the year and all groups will get to share with the class. This ensure students gets to share their ideas among one another to build their critical thinking skills and avoid feeling stress due to competitive pressure to do better than their classmates.
By increasing O and N level exam time frame allows students to think better to test their understanding and apply their knowledge without having an anxiety or pressure for not completing the exam. In Finland, all 18-year-old students are to take their matriculation exam and every subject allocates six hours to finish the paper. Students are then able to perform well to complete the paper at their own pace. This also allows more time for the weaker students to do well for the paper and reduces the amount of anxiety and stress the students feel about having poor grades.
Changing the current secondary school curriculum to a Cooperative Learning curriculum allow the students to work in smaller groups that will help them to move away from a competitive learning environment. If having cooperative learning for all secondary schools is implemented successfully, secondary school students anxiety level will decrease and they are able to perform quality tasks. This will prevent secondary students from mental health that will lead to them having depression, self-harming behaviour and many more. As can be seen, Finland has adopted cooperative learning and they are one of the few countries that has low students anxiety level with 48.6%.
In Pakistan, a study was conducted on 105 students from Govt. Senior secondary school to test out the effectiveness of cooperative learning on academic anxiety level. The 105 students were divided into half where the first half of the students are broken down into smaller groups while the second half was taught in a lecture setting for over a period of 40 days, 60 minutes per day. The outcome exhibit that the first half of the students has a mean score of 10.72 for academic anxiety as compared with the second half of the students with a mean score of 12.93. This study displays that cooperative learning can reduce the students academic anxiety. Hence, if Singapore implement Cooperative Learning curriculum, it can reduce secondary students anxiety level.
From changing to 2 hours to 6 hours per paper except listening and oral examination for O and N level exam will prevent students from feeling stress and anxious during the exam. With longer exam time frame will allow students to test their understanding and able to apply what they had learn in class. Shorter time frame will pressurize the students as they will focus on completing the paper and this will remove the exhilaration away from learning while hindering the ability to learn effectively.
As 6 hours per paper for taking an exam seems long, it will allow students to think better as they are able to take a nap, drink, eat some snack before finishing the paper without having an anxiety or stress during the exam.
By implementing Cooperative Learning curriculum will allow students to work in a more friendly environment to learn and reduce the academic anxiety level than a competitive environment where students will feel anxious and stress to emerge as a few top students. With a longer exam time frame will allow students to take as much time as they can to complete the paper without being pressurized.