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At Beatty Secondary, history lessons help students prepare for the future

SINGAPORE — Two students, one dressed in a bus driver’s uniform from the 1960s, perch on stools at the front of their classroom. The other student kicks off the “talk show” by asking her classmate what it was like being a bus driver when Singapore first gained independence.

At Beatty Secondary, history lessons help students prepare for the future

Secondary Two students from Beatty Secondary School, roleplaying a bus driver from the post-independence period (left) and a talk show host (right), show what old bus tickets used to look like. Photo: Louisa Tang/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Two students, one dressed in a bus driver’s uniform from the 1960s, perch on stools at the front of their classroom. The other student kicks off the “talk show” by asking her classmate what it was like being a bus driver when Singapore first gained independence.

This is part of Beatty Secondary School’s efforts to make collaborative problem-solving a part of the curriculum.

Over seven weeks during history lessons, Secondary Two students worked together in groups for a research project on notable personalities in Singapore’s history. They began by gathering information from various sources, such as the Internet, library books and field trips.

They uploaded findings onto a shared space such as Google Drive and used Google Docs to work on their script for the five-minute talk show. During the presentation, students role-played characters who lived during Singapore’s post-independence period.

Secondary Two student Abdul Mateen Kamal, 14, said such collaborations allow students to play to their different strengths. He enjoyed writing the script while other group members preferred editing or writing the footnotes.

While there were challenges, such as some members not completing their work, it helped that everyone was doing what they enjoyed, he said. “It increased my interest in history,” he said.

His classmate Sadhana Pugazhanthi, 14, said the project provided “a lot of opportunities to bond” with the rest of the class. “Everyone could play their part… get sources differently. We could put into action what we learned, rather than writing down and memorising all the facts,” she added.

Google Drive made it “easier to collaborate and ask for opinions”, said Airianne Lim, 14.

“This project helps us think critically as a group and find solutions together, and it also enhances our communication skills,” she said.

History teacher Goh Hong Yi came up with the initial idea for the project in 2014, inspired by her own history lessons in university. Such projects could improve students’ communications and research skills, she said.

“The role play is a good way to get students to engage with historical facts, apply their knowledge and skills, and work together to come up with a believable life story,” said Ms Goh.

Collaborative problem-solving is increasingly important as society changes, and the school has placed more emphasis on it in the past few years, said Mr Ling Khoon Chow, principal of Beatty Secondary. For instance, this year, Secondary Three students were involved in the planning of their own expedition-based camp.

Mr Ling added: “In many things that we do today, it’s about working in groups and being able to collaborate. These are important skills for students to have – if they can experience this in school, this will put them in good stead for the future.”

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