In today’s ST’s commentary, Deputy News Editor Santokh Singh wrote a very interesting article about MOE’s new policy in emphasing soft skills for students. Soft skills such as communication and the ability to work with others through PE, Music and Art, and most probably other humanities subject like Lit and History.
I was lucky to be educated in Nanyang in the late 70s. Then, the school gave us many opportunities to aquire soft skills without having to attend any lessons. In many ways, the girls had to work together for class unity.
Every class in Nanyang, from sec 1 to sec 4, were allocated a plot of land to clean. Other than that, we had to clean our own classroom and maintained our own assigned toilet cubicle. The girls had to divide the tasks between themselves. Every morning before flag raising ceremony, we took turns either to sweep up the dead leaves in the school yard, or clean the classroom. At the end of the year, awards were given to the class with the cleanest classroom or plot. In sec 1, my class won the third prize for the cleanest classroom.
Sport days were another event that called for class unity. We had to field in athletes for the different events. I was chosen to run the 4x400m relay in sec 3. Our school had no running track and we had to train at Chinese High after school. Those who were more athletic took it upon themselves to be coaches and trained us the proper technic of passing the baton.
Each National Day, the classes had to put up a talent show for competition. The concert was the highlight of the school’s annual events and often attracted CHS boys, alumni and other visitors. Most classes put up dances, but there were a few choirs and a play or two. We had to prepare for the concert before the June vacation. Class meetings were held and those with dance experience or background were expected to contribute either as choreographers or lead dancers. Sometime, things did not proceed as planned. In sec 1, one girl who claimed to be a bellarina could not deliver what she promised and at the last moment, another girl had to step in to help. Dancers were chosen and those who were not dancing had to help sew costumes. All the girls had to contribute to a class fund to help defray the cost. We had to search for tailors, make ups, shoes and time for practices. The most memorable part was to negotiate with the teachers to let us off to practise our dance during lessons. Most teachers were quite understanding, especially the language teachers.
In sec 1, my class put up a Mongolian dance. I remembered at the very last moment, I was still trying to sew the sequinnes onto my costumes, and trying to make the headgear. At around midnight, I finally sort the help of my neighbour, the late Auntie Rose, who helped me finished all the sewing.
In sec 2, my class put up a Korean dance 苹果丰收 (Apple Harvesting). We were estatic to win the second prize and my classmates felt that the win could have been because my English teacher, whom I was a favourite of, was one of the judges. Because we were one of the winners, we had to put up an encore performance for the school’s anniversary concert.
In sec 3, our dance item was to the song by Queens called In the Navy. Morden dances were easier as we could just buy the costumes off the rack. Berats and white gloves were borrowed from NPCC members. My 19-year-old Aunt E and her secretary school classmate were our make-up artists. That year, my sec 1 sister took part for the first time.
In Sec 4, we decided to put up a Chinese dance. We knew the school frowned on Western dances, as no western dance had ever won the competition. A classmate’s friend from Nanyang JC helped choreographed our dance. My late form teacher 张雪芬老师 helped to pick a name for our dance – 花舞绸飞庆升平. She told us, a good name is half the battle won. My English teacher, Mr Goh Kow See, sponsored dry ice for the special effect. Mum was our make-up artist. Mostly, sec 4 classes put up the best shows, since the girls had already aquired the necessary experiences. We won the third prize. My sister’s class re-enacted my sec 2 Korean dance 苹果丰收 and also took home a prize.
What did we take away from all these? Class unity, communication, initiative and impromtu lessons on music, dance and sewing.
Sadly, the talent show were canned in subsequent years, as schools competed for rankings and bandings. I don’t think Nanyang girls need to do anymore cleaning nowadays, whether is in the school compound or classrooms. Even Andreas’ school did away with cross country race when he was in sec 2, something he regretted, since he won a trophy in sec 1, something both his mother and aunt also acheived while in Nanyang.
I’m all for soft skills, but do we really need the teachers to teach that?