Programme for Active Learning (PAL)

In 2009, the Ministry of Education (MOE) supported the implementation of the Programme for Active Learning (PAL), which sought to achieve a holistic primary education that went beyond providing pupils with content knowledge to equip them with the skills and values to thrive in a rapidly advancing globalised world.1 Targeted at primary one and two pupils,2 PAL officially commenced in January 2010 as a pilot project in 12 prototype schools, and had been extended to all primary schools by 2017.3 The programme provides various avenues to nurture character development and growth of new interests and skills among pupils.4

Implementation of PAL
The implementation of PAL was proposed by the Primary Education Review and Implementation Committee (PERI) in 2009.5 PERI was an 11-member committee led by then Senior Minister of State (National Development and Education) Grace Fu and comprised members from MOE as well as the public and private sectors.6 The PERI committee was appointed in October 2008 by then Minister of Education Ng Eng Hen to assess the strengths and limitations of the primary education system, and recommend priorities, programmes and resources required to advance primary education.7 In its deliberations, the committee consulted and sought the views of various stakeholders, including representatives from the Management and Advisory Committees in schools, principals and vice-principals, heads of department, teachers, parents, students as well as members of the public and drew from its committee members’ collective experiences and insights of education in Singapore and beyond.8

A summary of feedback obtained from the various stakeholders revealed strong support towards the provision of a holistic primary education that developed pupils in both academic and non-academic areas. As a result, the PERI committee proposed two key recommendations: (1) to balance the learning of knowledge with the development of skills and values through the introduction of more engaging and effective teaching methods, holistic assessment criteria and emphasis on non-academic aspects within the curriculum, and (2) to provide more resources in terms of manpower, funding and infrastructure to support these changes.9

PAL was among the various initiatives introduced by the PERI committee, in line with its aim to achieve a holistic primary education by placing greater emphasis on non-academic aspects within the curriculum.10 The programme encourages learning beyond the classroom by providing pupils at the lower primary levels with opportunities to try out activities in Sports and Outdoor Education, and the Performing and Visual Arts. The committee believed that education at the lower primary level should focus on building pupils’ confidence and desire to learn, and hence recommended PAL to be introduced to primary one and two pupils. PAL aims to promote the all-rounded development of pupils in five learning domains (cognitive, moral, social, aesthetics and physical) and enable students to cultivate social-emotional competencies.11

PAL provides diverse educational experiences by merging classroom learning with outdoor activities to encourage interest and inquisitiveness among pupils.12 Each school allocates two hours of curriculum time a week to conduct modular activities in Sports and Outdoor Education, and the Performing and Visual Arts.13 Schools are given the autonomy to design PAL classes according to guidelines set by MOE.14 They are also given funds to purchase relevant equipment and engage trained coaches, instructors and service providers approved by MOE to conduct quality PAL programmes.15 MOE provides facilities such as band rooms, dance studios and outdoor running tracks to facilitate the organisation of the activities.16 PAL offers more than 54 modules and some of these include puppetry, singing, gymnastics and outdoor skills.17 At least two to three modules are conducted in schools in a year, with each module lasting seven to 10 weeks.18 By the end of primary two, pupils should have completed a total of six modules.19 Once the pupils reach primary three, they can choose to either continue with PAL until primary six and/or pick a core Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) where they can specialise in a particular area of interest.20

PAL has been well received since its introduction to the primary school curriculum. In 2010, Senior Minister Grace Fu reported that many pupils who underwent the programme had provided positive feedback. The pupils were seen to be enjoying themselves, given the variety of opportunities to explore new ventures and discover their interests and talents.21 Many students were also noted to have increasingly exhibited leadership qualities and become more vocal during lessons as well as more attentive towards the needs of others.22

Liviniyah P.