Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"What our Biology students are learning" - a 2008 update

Warren Tan of The Warren, recently provided an update on his biology experience in JC (= "high school") in the comments section of Brandon's 2007 post, "What our Biology students are learning". He was responding to Brandon's query, "What do you find most interesting about biology, and do you find that what you learned in school fulfills that?"

I reproduce his comment here to highlight his update on the 'A' level biology scene:

"Me personally, i like microbiology/cell biology. I was also very fortunate that in my secondary school(and later JC1), i was chosen to participate in research programme in that field.

So at least for me, i do find H2 biology interesting. (most of classmates don't however)

Our batch was the "transition of syllabus" batch. We barely touched on molecular biology in secondary school, and many of my us found it hard to adapt to the new focus in H2 biology. (it was better for me, due to my research exposure, but i do empathise with my classmates)

I fully agree that system biology and ecology is important, and the lack of coverage in the current H2 biology could be a liability. The syllabus assumes we had covered sufficiently in sec/pri school. Nevertheless, i think keeping in touch and expanding existing knowledge is important.

SPA was the greatest complain me and my classmates had. Because, each assessment is important, the college had no choice but to chose experiments we can do well in, over anything else. We end up memorising standard answers 99% of the time.

Also, our teachers explained that experiments can be expensive and tedious to prepare. As Junior College, funds are limited.

Until funds specially are set aside for "Poly/Uni level" experiments, and until they would be duly recognised for assesment, it may be hard to move beyond osmosis experiments. (at least for the mainstream students). Research and H3 students had more opportunities and exposure.

In conclusion, it may not be that the syllabus is too skewed. But that, opportunities for an expansive biology education are too few and far in between. Not many people can qualify for H3 subjects. The idea of SPA may need to be revised.

The situation may be better for the the next few batches, since they are under the new syllabus since secondary school (unlike us whom are the transition batch)"

Link: "What our Biology students are learning," by Brandon Seah. The Biology Refugia, 01 Apr 2007.

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