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Monday, September 28, 2009

Principal has done the right thing


Letter from Ong San San

I REFER to "Let teachers motivate ..." (Aug 31). I have three children and empathise with Mr Roland Ang. Yet, I think the school his daughter attends has done right in engaging neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioners to motivate its students.

In this challenging society, we must improve at the speed of light if we want to see or improve on results. Motivational speakers will help students to stay positive, think through what they want to do in the future and give them confidence and courage to work towards their goals.

My child tells me her co-curricular activity teacher talks to her about her future and shares his experiences in life with her. This motivates to do better in her studies.

NLP programmes are costly and not all are fortunate enough to be able to attend them. They are not a substitute for a teacher but will enhance a student's learning process.

From TODAY, Voices – Tuesday, 01-Sep-2009

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NLP has issues, problems

Image of the human head with the brain. The ar...Image via Wikipedia


Letter from S Ganesamoorthy

I REFER to "Let teachers motivate ..." (Aug 31). Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as a methodology has lots of hidden issues and problems.

As principals are increasingly inviting these speakers to talk to their students, there is a need to be circumspect and look at the issue of NLP from the broad perspective of its use in education.

NLP practitioners receive their so-called master's certification by attending a short course or via online master's certification.

NLP is also not accepted into the fold of psychiatry, psychology or even sociology or social work, and does not contain the academic rigour of being accepted as a field of discipline in its own right.

The originators of NLP are themselves not agreed on the objectives and targets that must bind the NLP process.

There is certainly an obligation on the part of the Ministry of Education to ensure that the methodologies adopted to instruct our students pass the acid test of evaluating NLP as a subject in its own right.

Besides, there is an urgent need for our educational/para educational, counselling, psychological and medical agencies to evaluate and validate the methodologies adopted by NLP practitioners and hold them accountable.

It is also worrying that these training providers, who are invited to train students at an enormous investment of time and money, also conduct courses and seminars on "short circuits" to becoming millionaires.

As we celebrate Teacher's Day, let us pay tribute to the many who have mastered their skills to make a difference in their students' lives and reassert their pre-eminence in the lives of all students today and in the future.

Let us empower our teachers so that they will empower our students.

As stated so succinctly by Haim Ginott, the teacher, child psychologist and psychotherapist who pioneered techniques for conversing with children that are still taught today:

"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather.

"As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a student's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a student humanised or de-humanised".

From TODAY, Voices – Tuesday, 01-Sep-2009

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Let teachers motivate ...

Primary School in "open air", in Buc...Image via Wikipedia


But principal uses motivational speakers to boost school's results

Letter from Roland Ang

RECENTLY, I received an SMS from my daughter's school asking me to sign up for a paid workshop to help parents understand their children - to be conducted by some neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioners.

My daughter told me that the school had also engaged the same people to counsel and motivate them as her school principal was not happy with the overall mid-year result.

The purpose of the NLP-trained motivational speaker, they were told, was to help them achieve better results.

Private organisations use NLP-trained motivational speakers to enhance sales targets and customer service, notably in the insurance and time-share industries. Their relationships are purely commercial. However, that cannot be said between schools and motivational speakers as the latter have no stake and vested interest in any school.

Schools should leave the teaching, inspiring and motivating of children to parents and school teachers rather than relying on external trainers to enhance their overall school results just to maintain their school ranking. Is education all about results and nothing else?

Miss Ho Peng, the director-general of Education at the Ministry of Education, said in a speech recently at the Teachers' Mass Lecture as well as the formation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which are powerful platforms for teachers to learn from one another, that it gives her great fulfilment when teachers move on to greater responsibilities and, in turn, help to develop others.

I think this is a move in the right direction for teachers.

There are many advertisements in from NLP entrepreneurs. Their punchlines are about helping those who sign up for their courses to attain financial success, or to "get rich fast".

Legally, this is not wrong, but morally these people are capitalising on the weaknesses of people with a desire to get rich fast without the need to work hard.

Such courses may lead to an erosion of the work ethic in the gullible young, especially during this economic downturn when many are unemployed or desperate to recover losses from bad investments.

If parents want to send their children to accelerated learning programmes, they do so at their own prerogative. But I hope schools will avoid engaging NLP practitioners merely to enhance their students' results. Rather, they should keep faith and trust in their teachers to inspire and motivate their students.

Our children are human beings and not commodities.

From TODAY, Voices – Monday, 31-Aug-2009

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Brainy kids - born or made?

A human brain.Image via Wikipedia


Experts say that parents and caregivers play an important role in developing a child's intelligence

Eveline Gan

AT AN age when most of her peers were figuring out how to use the potty, 18-month-old Janelle Kuah underwent private enrichment classes that involved memory-training and speed-learning.

Now aged 4, Janelle has memory skills which probably exceed that of many adults. She is able to memorise 50 different images and recite them in sequence at lightning speed. Her ability to pick up new words, as well as phrases in different languages and dialects, is just as "amazing", said Janelle's mother, Chua Ann Nee.

"The lessons aren't cheap, but I feel the training definitely helps with her brain development. She's faster than most of her peers in nursery," added Ann Nee, who forks out about $65 for an hour-long session.

But is it really possible to develop a child's intelligence?

The answer, according to experts Today spoke to, is yes.

"It is not a new idea to train and improve intelligence. Intelligence theories have always divided intelligence into two components - the part you're born with, and the part that can be learnt," said Dr Joanne Staunton, a cognitive psychologist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre's Singapore Baby and Child Clinic.

Psychologists Today spoke to said intelligence can be measured using standardised intelligence tests, administered only by trained psychologists (online IQ quizzes are not reliable). Regardless of age, the average IQ for any person is between 90 and 110, said Dr Staunton.

However, said the psychologists, you should only have your child's intelligence tested if you suspect your child has learning difficulties, or has experienced difficulties at school.

At KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), IQ tests are only conducted for children who have been found to have developmental delay and learning problems.

According to Ms Frances Yeo, principal psychologist at KKH Psychology Service, the human brain is not developed completely at birth and continues to develop from childhood to adulthood.

"Appropriate interventions, training and schooling will help the child to develop cognitive skills," said Ms Yeo.

"On the other hand, illness, head injuries or any medical conditions that affect how the brain develops can 'derail' learning development."

But before you rush headlong into enrolling your child in brain training enrichment courses, consider this.

New research has shown that strong loving emotional attachments with adults - such as with parents or caregivers - can shape infants' brain development positively, said Ms Therese Tan, a committee member of the professional development team at Association for Early Childhood Educators (Singapore).

"It was found that the enriching responses and positive cues that babies experienced with such relationships facilitated neural (brain nerves) activity," added Ms Tan.

Besides enrichment courses, Dr Staunton added that there are also plenty of day-to-day activities parents or caregivers can do to develop a child's IQ.

Ms Jocelyn Khoo, executive director of The Shichida Method (S) Pte Ltd, which focuses on brain training in young children, believes that a well-rounded childhood - comprising a wholesome diet, parent-child bonding, social skills and physical fitness - is just as important as the training.

"A parent must not get too caught up with developing a child's intellect and pay less attention to other parenting aspects, such as providing love and being patient. Doing so might create hidden stress in children, thus leading to reduced learning capability," added Ms Khoo.


Cognitive psychologist Dr Joanne Staunton suggests a list of five things parents and caregivers can do to develop their child's IQ.

1. Teach your child to approach things in a step-by-step manner.

2. Help your child to categorise items by discussing their similarities and differences.

3. Teach your child to follow instructions. For instance, tell your child to "draw a circle". Gradually, get your child to follow instructions in an incremental manner by increasing the instructions, such as "draw a square and a circle".

4. Show your child how to complete patterns. After teaching your child a sequence, such as numbers one to 10, encourage your child to find a missing number.

5. Develop your child's language skills. This can be done by reading to your child, using new words or simply asking your child questions.


From TODAY, Living – Weekend, 29/30-Aug-2009

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't read this while driving

Walkway near the QuadImage via Wikipedia

I've heard it said before: we are now able to multitask, but not fully concentrate. We know a mile wide, but we understand an inch deep. This is the paradox of our time.


WASHINGTON - The people who multi-task the most are the ones who are worst at it.

That is the surprising conclusion of researchers at Stanford University, who found multi-taskers are more easily distracted and less able to ignore irrelevant information than people who do less multi-tasking.

"The huge finding is, the more media people use the worse they are at using any media. We were totally shocked," said Professor Clifford Nass of Stanford's communications department.

The researchers studied 262 college undergraduates, dividing them into high and low multi-tasking groups and comparing such things as memory, ability to switch from one task to another and being able to focus on a task.

Their findings are reported in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When it came to such essential abilities, people who did a lot of multi-tasking didn't score as well as others, Prof Nass said.

"Is multi-tasking causing them to be lousy at multi-tasking, or is their lousiness at multi-tasking causing them to be multi-taskers?" Prof Nass wondered. "Is it born or learned?"

In a society that seems to encourage more and more multi-tasking, the findings have social implications, Prof Nass observed. Multi-tasking is already blamed for car crashes as several states restrict the use of cell phones while driving. Lawyers or advertisers can try to use irrelevant information to distract and refocus people to influence their decisions.

In the study, the ability to ignore irrelevant information was tested by showing participants a group of red and blue rectangles, blanking them out, and then showing them again and asking if any of the red ones had moved.

The test required ignoring the blue rectangles. The researchers thought people who do a lot of multi-tasking would be better at it.

"But they're not. They're worse. They're much worse," said Prof Nass.

The high media multi-taskers could not ignore the blue rectangles. "They couldn't ignore stuff that doesn't matter. They love stuff that doesn't matter," he said. AP


From TODAY, World – Wednesday, 26-Aug-2009

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