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没有不能教的孩子 — 莱佛士女中前校长李卡美
Every Child Can Learn
By Lee Xiao Wen
Photos courtesy of Mrs Carmee Lim
Published: EduNation, Issue 1, Jan-Feb 2013
One lazy afternoon we drove up to a quiet place along Stevens Road and walked into a house with an obviously well-tended garden. Mrs Lim met us at the door and welcomed us like old friends. She would later whisper conspiratorially to me, "Oh, I love the garden. I plant all kinds of herbs - and my favourite is the basil!"

Mrs Lim is perhaps best known for her role as the principal of Raffles Girls' School (RGS), a position she held from 1988 to 1999. Post retirement, she has, amongst many other things, picked up oil painting, received her Master's in Early Childhood Education, published three books and founded two early childhood companies.

The energetic retiree - a misnomer if there ever was one - tells us about her days at RGS and the things she has been keeping herself busy with post retirement.

Her Request to Head RGS

Mrs Lim earned her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and Pure Mathematics from what was then the University of Singapore on a teaching scholarship, and started teaching in Crescent Girls' School immediately after graduation. She later taught in RGS (1969-1977) and went on to be the principal of Woodsville Secondary (1977-1983) before joining the Ministry of Education as an Inspector of Schools. When she heard that Mrs Chee, then principal of RGS, was retiring, Mrs Lim asked to head the School - a request that the Education Minister at the time, Dr Tony Tan, was happy to approve.

As an old girl of RGS herself, Mrs Lim felt that she ought to give back to her alma mater in whatever way she could. "RGS always had exceptional students - all supposed to be high fliers. I just wanted to broaden the programmes RGS offered to give the students more opportunities to explore areas in the arts, sports and social work," revealed Mrs Lim.

"I think I fulfilled what I set out to do during my 12 years with RGS. Many of my students went on to study abroad, for example, and volunteered to do community service in under developed countries around the world. I know this because some of them came back to seek funding to continue doing community service in places like the remote parts of Africa during their university years."

During her tenure several alumnae chose not to follow the traditional academic route after leaving RGS and instead made names for themselves on the local music scene: singers like Kit Chan, Stefanie Sun and Corrinne May, as well as performing artistes like Emma Yong, who just passed away in 2012, Rani Singam, a successful jazz singer, and keyboardist Ruth Ling. In that sense, RGS has indeed flourished in the arts since Mrs Lim's tenure as principal.

Avant-garde Changes

Under Mrs Lim's leadership RGS became independent in 1993. The autonomy gave the School free rein to implement many of the ideas that had been percolating through her mind.

The first thing she did, prior to independence, was to organise an in-house workshop for all the staff to decide where they wanted the School to go and what they wanted the School to be. The sense of ownership this gave to those who were going to implement any changes was a powerful tool in their success.

The shared vision that they came up with was that every RGS girl should aspire, strive and dare to be an active agent of change in the world and that she should use her talents and gifts to make it a better place for us all. The School's mission statement was accordingly crafted to reflect this commitment to developing the whole student and her desire to give back to society. And the values that they singled out were the four Ps - people-centred, passionate, principled and professional.

Because the School was looking at new approaches they had to have the parents, the students and the teachers sharing a common vision, and that was not easy. "Changing mindsets was the toughest of all," said Mrs Lim. "For instance, when I declared that there would be no mid-year examinations, many opposed the idea. Even the students wanted these examinations."

Mrs Lim implemented other novel changes, too - one of which being the eight-day timetable. The benefit of this was that it would help to minimise the interruptions caused by public holidays to the students' work schedule. The cost, however, was the counter-intuitive nature of the new system and the consequent difficulties that both the girls and their teachers experienced when they tried to follow it. Sadly, it was therefore dropped.

Mrs Lim also suggested having subject homerooms instead of classrooms, so that each homeroom could be decorated with objects related to that subject. She felt this was important because she firmly believes that one's surroundings influence one's learning. Of course, the price was a little inconvenience as students had to keep moving for their lessons.

Another of Mrs Lim's suggestions was to combine history and geography and integrate them both into the social science curriculum. She did this because she believes that history, geography and economics are intimately related. Initially, the affected subject teachers were resistant to the idea but within a year they independently voted to make the proposed change themselves.

"I always felt that once RGS became independent, we had a lot of leeway to attempt new things. If they didn't work out, it didn't matter. It would have been a valuable experience," explained Mrs Lim.

Brain Research

"I first turned to brain research because I was concerned that some of the girls were not coping in the upper secondary levels and their grades were deteriorating as a result. I wondered about the reasons why they weren't doing well, and thought that it might be because we weren't teaching to their respective learning styles. I therefore started looking into brain research and how it can be applied to teaching and learning. This was how I came to develop an interest in brain development in early childhood."

Mrs Lim firmly believes that all students can learn - it is just a matter of finding out how they learn. Our brains have 100 billion neurons and our bodies have seven senses - the usual five plus the vestibular (for movement and balance) and the proprioceptive (which oversees the brain-muscle feedback loop). The secret of learning, she believes, is to use as many of these senses as possible in order to get the neurons to fire and wire up.

When she was Principal of Woodsville Secondary School she volunteered to teach Science to a class of Normal (Academic) students. Thinking hard about how best to do this she hit on the idea of using soccer as a way of demonstrating Newtonian mechanics.

"A good teacher is one who knows how to engage her students, and who can inspire them to get excited about learning," she said. "In a nutshell, Every Child Can Learn - it's about getting the brain to wire up. Once you get them excited about learning, their neurons will wire up."

Multi-sensory Early Childhood Programmes

After Mrs Lim retired, she started two companies - Jumpstart Kidsports Pte Ltd in 2000 and Aoede Music? Enterprise in 2006 - because she has always been a passionate advocate for music, movement and gymnastics for children. Current research shows that such activities contribute significantly not only to cognitive, social and emotional development, but they also improve self-esteem.

"The capacity of the infant brain to absorb new learning is phenomenal. Appropriate early childhood programmes not only help the child's brain develop in a timely fashion, they also contribute to physical, emotional and social development. Therefore we should expose young children to as many experiences as possible. The more they are stimulated, the better they are able to learn the appropriate responses," Mrs Lim said.

Jumpstart Kidsports offersa multi-sensory KidzGym programme for pre-school children while Aoede Music? aims to give children the "Gift of music for a Lifetime" by integrating music with technology to make music-making fun and enjoyable. Aoede Music? is a two-year programme currently available at PAP kindergartens. There are four main areas of instruction - vocal, instrumental, rhythm and musical ensembles, and composition.

In addition to her role as founder and chief education officer of both companies, Mrs Lim is also Mentor Principal at MindChamps, a mind development institute that trains and helps students learn better. In this role she runs courses in brain development and child psychology as part of the 200 hours of training that all the teachers from MindChamps have to undergo regardless of their qualifications.

Pre-school Rankings and Statutory Board

According to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit to benchmark early education across the world, commissioned by the Lien Foundation in 2012, Singapore was placed 29th out of 45 countries, and Mrs Lim was not surprised.

"There is a huge disparity in terms of the quality of teachers across our kindergartens - school fees also range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars," she explained.

Mrs Lim elaborated on her concern about the quality of our pre-school teachers. "The government must really step up on their training and get more people excited about being a part of early childhood education," she said. In the meantime she suggested that the newly created statutory board for pre-school education could look into recruiting teachers who love children, or are good in music, sports or art. "These individuals can be trained to become specialists, even though they don't have the minimum requirement of five O level passes. They could then be given opportunities to upgrade their skills, training and qualifications."

Mrs Lim was certainly excited about the 2012 National Day rally announcement. "Early childhood encompasses the first eight years of everybody's life. Quality education in the early years has lasting effects on learning and motivation so I hope the new statutory board will look into not just the pre-school programme up to the age of six but also the Primary 1 and 2 curriculum as an extension of the early childhood programme."

Parenting and Teaching Advice

When asked what advice she would like to give to parents and educators, Mrs Lim said, "As parents we must recognise the uniqueness of each child, because every child is different- and we must be creative in coming up with strategies to nurture that child."

"As educators, one of the most rewarding affirmations is to know that we have made a positive difference in every student's life. In the book Journey of the Heart: The Call toTeaching, E. Grady Bogue shares these thoughts on making a difference: 'Teachers are people who know the quiet but potent power of compassion, who know a moment of caring can turn a life to a new path, who know that beyond love the next most enriching human emotion is the excitement and touch of wonder that comes with learning.'"
 


焦点人物 > 没有不能教的孩子 — 莱佛士女中前校长李卡美
没有不能教的孩子 — 莱佛士女中前校长李卡美
文:潘星华
图:李卡美提供
刊载:《新学》, 第1期,2013年1月-2月
1998年10月莱佛士女中董事部在报上刊登聘请校长的广告,邀请年届三四十岁,有教育理想,干劲冲天,有领导才能的男女申请这份有挑战性的工作,翌年底上任。莱中董事部在广告中对未来校长的要求,基本上是寻找"另外一位现任校长李卡美"。

快人快语、充满活力的李卡美自1988年4月1日起出任莱佛士女中校长,至1999年底退休,12年的光景,带给莱佛士女子中学一片生机和阳光。1992年至1995年,她率领全校师生,连续四年稳坐中学排名榜榜首,创造了新加坡女生胜男生的纪录。但是她其实一向反对排名,她认为教育除了学术成绩,还有道德、品行、为社区服务等多个领域,必须德智体群美兼备,缺一不可。在她掌舵下,莱中也曾四年连续登上全国最佳体育中学(女子组)的宝座。

李卡美不断求变的创新意念,为莱佛士女中精益求精。她推行的许多新制度给予了这所名校无穷创意的天空。例如废除年中考试、实行"八天制"、推行"浮动"课室制,通过电脑教学,实行"未来教室"计划,成为新加坡第一所"虚拟学校",大力推动学校电脑化等等。

李卡美是客家人,祖父从惠阳过番南来,在马来亚靠近怡保的小镇美罗落脚。父亲年轻时在一个殡葬队伍学吹喇叭,过后到新加坡来,加入养正学校,靠自学成为教音乐和英文的老师,举家住在校内。父亲晚上在学校礼堂练习弹琴,给李卡美立下了勤于自学的好榜样。那年当学校买了新钢琴,旧琴搬进了李家,李卡美就像父亲那样,凭着对音乐一往情深,无师自通把钢琴学好。李家人多,虽然经济拮据,却不影响李卡美八个姐妹的深厚感情,屋里总是充满音乐声和欢乐笑声。

李卡美曾是中学数理科教师、教育部视学官,并担任12年莱佛士女中校长。2003年至2004年她出任校长学院第一任执行董事。退休后她致力于幼儿教育,获得主修学前教育的教育硕士文凭。她的专长是把音乐与体操应用在幼儿教学上。她曾主催多项有关大脑开发、学习、创意思维以及运动技能学的专业培训活动,并出版了三本关于幼儿游戏与音乐的书籍。

她接受本刊的专访,从自己毛遂自荐出任莱佛士女中校长谈起。谈话的内容虽然和从前当校长的时候不同,但精神一致,"将来"在她的眼前仍是一片憧憬。她年逾七十,仍然生气勃勃,岁月并没有在她脸上留痕,有的只是她终日跳韵律操、打太极拳、歌唱、舞蹈、画画、授课,练就的一身干练。

毛遂自荐出任莱佛士女中校长

上世纪八十年代末,李卡美听说莱中杨菊芳校长要退休,于是决定离开在教育部当了四年视学官的职位。她认为自己身为莱佛士女中的校友,有回母校贡献力量的责任。她主动去向提学司(现称教育部教育总司长)黄庆新毛遂自荐,获得当时的教育部长陈庆炎博士批准。

谈到当日动起这个念头,她说:"莱佛士女中的学生一向非常优秀,我只想在拓宽课程方面尽一分力量。我觉得莱中还可以在艺术、体育、社区服务方面给学生更多机会发挥。在我回去工作的12年,基本上完成了我想做的工作。比如,有莱中毕业生趁到外国留学,假期里到非洲去做义工。莱中毕业生如流行歌手陈洁仪、孙燕姿,爵士歌手莱妮辛甘、歌唱家符美芸,担任孙燕姿和张惠妹演唱会键盘手的林雅慧以及2012年不幸因病去世的舞台剧演员杨爱曼,都在艺术表演领域有卓越成就。南洋理工大学荣誉校长徐冠林告诉我,南大华文通讯的创办者是莱中毕业生而不是特选中学毕业生,这些表现都让我感到欣慰。我告诉学生,我宁可你成为杰出的记者,也不愿你成为平庸的医生。"

华人家庭一般认为"万般皆下品,惟有读书高",要成功游说莱中的优秀生往艺术方面发展并不容易。李卡美是通过自己在学校经常创作歌曲,以身作则来鼓励学生。她还鼓励学生多参加校外比赛来增强信心。她说:"弹琴的林雅慧,就是经常参加比赛得奖,才决定朝这方面发展。她去了美国著名的现代音乐学院百克里音乐学院深造,并于2011年在伦敦考获现代音乐硕士文凭。我问她,父母可赞同她去美国学音乐?她说妈妈是支持的。

"前年担任新加坡国庆庆典演出的艺术总监谢敏也是莱中校友。她是策划国庆庆典的第一位女性艺术总监,有非凡的创造力和想像力。我问她是怎样说服母亲让她去英国学戏剧?她说,她和母亲讨价还价,说如果学不好,愿意重回法律学院学习等等。

"2012年不幸病逝的杨爱曼在1994年获得颁给英国以外全世界A水准考试英国文学成绩最优秀的安格斯罗斯奖。她在伦敦大学修读英国文学考获第一名,毕业后再修读舞台表演。这些孩子要转往艺术领域发展,除了热忱,还需要下很大决心。

"我经常鼓励学生要尽量发现自己的'热衷',认识自己,了解自己,勇于追求自己的'挚爱',实现自己的梦想。创新大师肯·罗宾森曾说:'只有挚爱才能改变生命'。虽然很多父母不接受这样的观点,但是最终他们还是会同意的,需要给他们一些时间。我要求家长认同每个孩子都是独立的个体,必须了解孩子的独特性。教养孩子不能照本宣科,应该要根据个别情况加以变通。一般来说,现代父母比较开放,比较愿意接受孩子的意见。"

改革莱中

李卡美出掌莱中,很快碰上莱中成为"自主学校"的好时机。学校有了自主权,能让她大胆放手去进行改革。1992年底莱中自主前夕,她和全体老师开了一次探讨莱中从政府学校转型成为自主学校的未来发展方向的重要会议。这个教务会议后来被认为是最成功的。当日举校得到的共识是要培养身心健全、学业顶尖,还要能力争上游,努力奋斗,把自己的天赋贡献给社会、国家和世界的学生。这是学校自主后的愿景和使命,以及一个有四个P的价值观:以人为本(People-centred)、热忱(Passionate)、有原则(Principled)及具专业素养(Professional)。

李卡美说:"要老师、学生和家长和校长有同样的愿景、使命和价值观并不容易,我必须锲而不舍地去改变他们根深蒂固的思想。比如我要废除年中考试,就遭很多人反对,连学生也说不考试不行。

"我用'四个R'方法去说服他们。这四个R是理由(Reason),研究(Research),共鸣(Resonance)和陈述(Re-representation)去告诉他们'为什么非要这样做?有什么研究依据?我作各方陈述来引起他们的共鸣',从而有了共识。我必须不停地应用脑研究的最新发现去向他们解说,人除了学术才智,还有音乐才智、动觉才智、处理人际关系和自我内省的情绪才智等等,这些才智的培养不必靠考试来审核。"

这个共识让师生在学校的大型集会如校庆、教师节、毕业典礼上经常唱戴安娜·罗丝的歌《紧紧相守》,表达"只要我们携手并进,我们的理想美梦永远不会消逝"的心志。后来她去参加莱佛士初级学院的庆典,莱中毕业生看到她,还会和声唱起这首共同的歌,显示大家的心连心。

在改革的过程中,李卡美承认有些措施因为"太前卫",教师和学生无法接受,被迫无疾而终。其中如"八天制"、把历史和地理人文科目合在一起上课,都遭到教师反对和学生的怨言。

她说:"我的态度是学校既然有了自主权就应该尽量把握机会去作新的尝试。如果反应不好,不能被大家接受,不要紧,就回复旧样,算是赢得了经验,没有什么不好。"

没有教不好的学生

李卡美绝不认同"某些学生就是没有办法学习"的话。

她说:"什么样的学生都能学,问题是怎样教?人的大脑有1000亿个神经细胞,必须靠学习把味觉、视觉、听觉、嗅觉和触觉等'五感'与'听说读写想'的能力接通起来。"她谈起在辅文中学当校长的经验。辅文中学是一所只有10个班级的邻里学校。为了教一群普通课程学生学习科学,她富创意地把男生带到操场去,通过踢足球的动态,教"力学"。她再以男生代表金属元素,女生代表非金属元素,让一个男生拉一个女生或两个女生的手来理解金属元素活泼或不活泼的化学原理。

她说:"上了这样的课,学生永远不会忘记踢球和手拉手的道理,原本说也说不清楚的科学原理,他们一下就理解了。所以,不能说学生聪明或笨,只看教师怎么教。很多看来像笨的学生,会突然在有办法的好老师指导下,开了窍,从此变聪明了。

"所以,我认为重点不在学生的天资,而在怎样把他们脑筋里面的神经细胞与'听说读写想'的能力接通起来。只要他们喜欢,有兴趣学习,这个接通的工作就变得很容易。所谓'开窍',就是突然头脑里面的东西都连接起来了。所以,我经常对学生说:'你行的'。我坚信每个学生都有学习能力,只要老师有办法教。

她非常同意美国教育专家博格撰写《心之旅:教书的使命感》一书所说:"教师了解同情心对学生的身心有着无形而强烈的影响力;教师知道即使是片刻的关怀也足以让一个人找到新出路;教师深切明白除了关爱,学习带来的乐趣最能振奋人心。"她认为教育工作者最大的成就,就是对孩子的一生起着正面作用。

她谈起新加坡知名企业家,街头服装品牌77街的创办人周士锦读书时期经常被罚站在门外(standing outside) ,是个"outstanding"(站在外面而非杰出)的学生。她说:"这些本质优秀的学生经常受考试折磨,考不到好成绩。我认为考试是有技巧的,而且是可以学习的。所以,我在莱中指导学生掌握考试的技巧。考试只是人生的一瞬间,前途不应该受这一瞬间影响。"她经常鼓励学生讨论"这条题目考官要求什么样的答案?",考试时要懂得妥当回答,才能得到最高分数,而不是胡乱回答,无端失分。

从脑科学研究到幼儿研究

从莱中退休后,李卡美先后于2000年和2006年开办了Jumpstart Kidsport以及Aoede Music? 两公司,对鼓励小孩学习动感音乐和体操很感兴趣。她认为这些活动对儿童的认知开发、社交情绪发展很有帮助,还能增强孩子的自我肯定。

李卡美从研究脑科学到踏上研究幼儿的道路,和莱中有些学生到了中三,数学和科学的成绩莫名其妙开始下滑有关。

她说:"这批学生中一进来的成绩很不错,为什么两年后成绩会纷纷退步?这让我极其困惑。我于是开始了研究她们的路程。我读了大量脑科学的论文,很多适用于教学的理论引起了我莫大的兴趣。我聆听了脑神经学大师如艾力克·詹森,派翠西亚·伍尔富,卡拉·韩纳馥等人的讲座,他们给了我很大的启发。我明白了幼儿时期是脑发育最重要的时刻,这让我踏上了研究幼儿之路。

李卡美目前是MindChamps教育中心的校长导师。她用竹子的生长代表幼儿教育的理念。竹子并不粗壮,长得挺拔修长,为什么却能抗震避风?这全是因为它有一个根深蒂固的地下茎基础。她因此深信要教育好一个人,必须打好在幼儿时期的基础。幼儿脑袋的吸收能力很强,适当的学前教育不仅帮助小孩的脑部发展,而且对其在体能、情绪和社交技巧各方面,都有正面影响。让幼儿有不同的体验,激发愈多,适应和反应能力会愈好。

新加坡的幼教问题

2012年一项关于学前教育的全球调查,新加坡在45个国家排名第29。这个名次让样样要争第一的新加坡人感到震惊,李卡美却不惊讶。

她也参与了这项由连氏基金委托"经济学人信息部" (Economist Intelligence Unit)进行的调查。这项45个国家的调查,有29个经济合作发展组织国家(OECD)以及16个其他国家和地区参加。调查以学前教育教师的素质、学费以及幼稚园、幼儿园的数量作为考核标准。

李卡美认为新加坡学前教育的学费差距太大,政府可以考虑给家长发"学校券"来解决。有了这张"学校券",家长可以免费把孩子送去一般的幼稚园,稍有能力的家长可以在"学校券"上再加一点钱,选进收费比较高的幼稚园。

除了学费,她认为新加坡幼师的素质也是一个大问题。如何提升教师待遇,吸引更多人参加幼教行列,是刻不容缓的。新加坡还有很多幼师没有受过训练,因此培训的工作必须尽快展开。她指出教师的爱心比学历重要,学前教育应该招聘喜欢孩子,或在音乐、体育、美术上有专才的教师。只要经过适当的培训,这些人都可以成为专业的幼儿教师,无须硬性规定要有五科O水准会考及格。

去年9月教育部长王瑞杰宣布政府将成立一个法定机构来专门负责学前教育事务。李卡美欢迎这项决定。她认为学前教育应该涵盖人生的第一个八年。优质的学前教育对一个人的学习态度产生深远影响。她希望这个法定机构在检讨和规划学前教育时,不止于幼稚园,而能同时延伸到小学一年级和二年级,产生一个连接性的效果。

退休后勤学华文

李卡美退休后勤学华文,周末经常到报业中心聆听华语讲座。她立志学华文是受莱中一群优秀的华文教师影响。

她说,莱中的华文科主任林振南当日领导了一群很有创意的老师,用许多新颖有创意的教学法感染学生学习华文。例如,用思维导图来引导学生学习集体写作。让学生把各自创作的文章段落贴在墙壁上,用流利通畅的华文和华语,自由而且尽情地书写、畅谈。这个教学法让去观课的李卡美大受感动,由此激发了她后来要把华文学好的心志。
 

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