Upon arriving in Victoria Junior College, we are hit with many hard truths about JC life. To many, one of the most devastating of all would probably be the realisation that there would be a new subject, Project Work. Unlike other (more orthodox) subjects in the syllabus, Project Work is completed in J1, an initiative to shift away from the incumbent education system and develop 21st Century thinking skills in students, such as critical thinking, collaboration and communication. While it may seem more interesting than conventional subjects, Project Work quickly becomes a burden to shoulder, with project work group mates acting as crucial comrades-in-arms.
That Thursday, every J2 of the 2014 batch waited with bated breath to receive the first of the string of A level results — results that might even set the tone for their attitude towards studying and the major As this year. At 11.45am, all J2s were released from their lessons and sent to the battle hall, armed with well-wishes from their friends and juniors. The atmosphere in the hall was tense, with anticipation written on many students’ faces. Before releasing the results, the head of the PW department briefed them on the performance of the cohort and their respective classes, further heightening the rising tides of emotion, such that everyone soon hit their tipping point, and wanted their results right THEN. The realisation that the cohort had achieved a 65% distinction rate, a dip from the previous year’s results, tightened the tension.
After what seemed like an eternity, the supervising tutors approached their classes and left many anxious as they started pointing out students that they wished to talk to, and it seemed to address their fears that they had indeed received undesirable results. They were then given pep talks to console them and encourage them to move forward. A student from 14A11, who did not get the grade she had really wanted, said that “[she] was really disappointed as [she] could no longer get the perfect score, but [she] felt better when [she] was given more advice and was reminded that it would be more important to pick [herself] up and focus on [her] other subjects instead, to eventually get better rank points for [her] As.” For others, their good results still held the promise of a perfect score. Results proved then to be of utmost importance to every single J2, though everyone agreed that they had received so much more than that from their PW journey.
“I learnt how to work with other people in the sense that I learnt to adapt and capitalise on each member’s strengths”
- Jillian, 14A14
“PW is more about team skills than independent learning”
- Darren, 14S54
“It’s really the experience that counts! And it’s fun to get to know and interact with people in class that you might not usually interact with.”
- Cheryl, 14S54
“I picked up many critical skills… like more realistic creativity skills, (since many aspects of the subject) required creative modifications to magnify the impact”
- Ron, 14A11
“I learnt the importance of knowing how to smile and stay calm through hard times”
- Yushan, 14S37
“It’ll be good to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, and see how the group can capitalise on each other’s good points and make up for each other’s weak points… and to work on cohesiveness within the group”
- Cara, 14A12
Learning how to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses for a fruitful and engaging project is indeed a key element of the subject. Project Work is essentially experiential learning, and it allows students to pick up skills outside those that are taught in lessons through their own experiences. The call for greater interaction between different types of people is an added bonus that will no doubt be invaluable in the future workplace. Cara’s advice is also definitely worth noting, as PW is a highly group-based project, and conflicts would hinder progress.
PW: Burden or Helpful?
Amidst the plethora of dedications to the various PW groups that appeared on my Instagram feed that day, the Victorian Press approached various students for their opinions on this seemingly insurmountable task — now completed. Though many surfaced their views that Project Work had indeed been fulfilling and enabled them to gain deeper insights into the issues they had chosen, the general consensus was towards the burdensome nature of the subject, which had been a long and arduous journey taking up an entire year. Many also reflected that it was hard to work within a group as there were often disagreements that could impede progress. Adena from 14S41 pointed out that “there were times when Project Work seemed like a burden especially if group discussions were unproductive, or too much time was spent on components of [the subject] such as the Written Report. Yet in the long run, it definitely helped [her] mature and impacted [her] positively.” Despite the primarily distasteful image of Project Work presented to fresh J1s from their seniors every year without fail, it must be acknowledged there are still invaluable lessons to be gleaned from the experience.
Jillian from 14S40 pointed out that Project Work had benefited students to some extent, “but making it a national exam subject defeats this purpose as students chase grades rather than soak up the lessons intended for them to learn.” Indeed, quantifying soft skills and compartmentalising them into a thinly veiled examinable subject may ironically backfire when students chart their progress merely by grades on a paper.
As this competitive, ever-changing and fast-paced world becomes increasingly globalised, the 21st century skills required to discover multi-faceted solutions to complex problems is more pressing than ever. It is to the merit of our examination syllabus that it aims to inculcate these skills in us. However, we must also take into consideration more nuanced ways of teaching the more cynical of us these soft skills, for Project Work to be more effective in developing us into global, critical thinkers of the 21st Century. Only then, can we emerge, ready as the next generation of leaders, to deal with this world that is in constant flux.
(For more tips on handling PW, check out the article also out this week- “PW Survival Guide 2K15”)
Angela Ang 14A11
Fiona Lee 15A11
Yeong Su Ann 15A12