Monday, 7 March 2016

Join The Current {Part I} Engaging Our Children in Current Affairs

Join The Current {Part I}
Engaging Our Children in Current Affairs

The importance of current affairs and information literacy for our children.

     1. Curiosity!! 

Sparking curiosity about what's happening around us is the primary reason why current affairs are important for our children. Our children need to grow up wanting to know and should be aware of what is happening in their family, community, country and in the world. Moreover, being aware is not enough. As parents, we can encourage the children to start thinking about the different issues and engage them in a conversation on their thoughts or how they can contribute. 

      2. Topics for conversation

Moreover, current affairs are important because they can serve as a common topic for conversation within family or children among their friends. My daughter is always eager to share with us or with her friends on what she has read. 

      3. Develops a sense of identity and awareness

Having an awareness in current affairs will further develop our children's sense of identity and character An individual who has a strong sense of self awareness would eventually become a citizen who will care and want to contribute to the community, nation and world. 

      4. Ready source of reading material

The newspaper is a ready and wonderful source of reading material. There are many well written articles and hence, it serves as a fresh reading material daily. Moreover, thanks to "Today", we can get a free copy of newspaper everyday. 

      5. Developing a balance opinion

With so much information flowing through this digital age, there are many different opinions and perspectives to so many different issues. Hence, it is important to teach children to read up on the issues from different sources before forming an objective opinion. This is where children can learn about the reliability of the sources and then to decide whether to trust its opinion or not. 

Should current affairs education be left to parents, teachers, or the children themselves?

Current affairs education should start at home and schools should support as well. Eventually, the children themselves must learn to read up and take an interest. 

As the saying goes " Education starts at home". 
We want to encourage the love of learning. Learning about our environment and what's happening around us is basic because it affects our lives. For instance, issues such 'Our transport system', 'Terrorism', 'Aging population' directly affects our daily life. 

Parents should be the primary source of information. This is because, many a times, current affairs can have many perspectives. So for my young children, I would like to provide my perspective first and be the primary 'influencer' to them. 

But of course, I welcome other perspectives as they can widen the horizon for the kids. This is where schools and teachers play an important role. They can generate interest and provide alternatives perspectives which will encourage the children to think deeper into the issues. 

In fact, I am so thankful this year that my P3 girl, Natalie has a wonderful English Teacher, Mrs Soh who spends time talking about current issues to the class very frequently. My daughter then comes back and share with me about what the issue is about and what she thinks about it.  

Therefore, current affairs should become part of our lives. Parents, teachers and children themselves must work together to learn about current affairs, to develop a balance/objective perspective and perhaps to think about how we can help, contribute or do our part to change things. 

How we can incorporate current affairs education into out-of-school learning?

1. Flipping through the newspaper daily. 
The newspaper is a quick and effortless way of scanning through current affairs and getting the gist of what's happening. 

Just by flipping through today's Today(7 Mar 2016), issues such as 'Keeping a healthy lifestyle', 'The power of social media influencers', ' Jobs for senior citizens, mums and students' and what's happening in our neighbouring country pops up. 

Keeping it simple at the start .
--> Read an article, followed by a short discussion. 
At the start,  I encourage my daughter, Natalie to flip through the 'Today newspaper' quickly and I taught her how to scan through the headlines to look for an article that she is interested in to read. After reading, I will ask her what the issue is about and what she thinks about it. At first, her common reply is "huh? I don't even understand." So, I will take time to read with her and explain to her. As time passes, she got used to reading reports and could understand better. 

--> Cut it out and write down your thoughts, once per week.
After she got used to reading articles in the newspaper,  I actually got her to cut it out and paste the article onto a notebook and encourage her to down her thoughts. I wanted her to practice writing and also to see if she would have a different opinion later. Moreover, writing down means we can always come back to the topic later. She is encouraged to cut out and write down her thoughts for at least 1 article per week. 

--> It becomes a habit.  
Nowadays, Natalie would simply pick up the newspaper and read. She definitely reads more than an article a day. She is very eager to report and share with me what she has read. The themes that she reads about has widen. Previously, she sticks to very short articles - usually about schools or social media. 

So, start slow, small and simple. Once it takes off and becomes a habit, it becomes easier. 

2. Sharing my views with her. 

Sometimes, if I come across an interesting issue or video (normally on my smartphone), I would get her to read or watch it as well.  We will then exchange our views and have a discussion. For instance, some time ago, there was a video of a social experiment done to trick girls via online chatting apps to come out and meet up. The girls' parents were kept in the loop of the experiment. When the girls turned up, they were shocked to see their parents instead of the young boy that they were suppose to meet. Many parents at the start of the experiment were confident that their daughters will not be tricked, but all were disappointed. Hence, this became a perfect video for me to talk to Natalie about the dangers online and online predators. 

3. Watching news or documentary on television. 

I turn on the news on channel 8 sometimes. This kills 2 birds with one stone as firstly, they are expose to mandarin and secondly, they get to watch the news. 

Moreover, there are many documentaries and interesting programmes on Channel NewsAsia. They explore many different themes like food waste, poverty or even lives of foreign workers. 

4. Learn through Play -  SingaPlorers

SingaPlorers is a card game on Singapore's Nation Building. 

As the Chief game Architect, I designed this cooperative game where the players have to play cards to support each other in overcoming the challenges that Singapore faces. In playing the game, the players will experience working cooperatively, negotiating or even sometimes have to make small sacrifices to overcome the constant challenges and work together towards achieving peace and progress in Singapore.

The game focuses on these 4 main challenges:
  • Building a national identity and fostering social cohesion
  • Safeguarding our homeland through defence and security
  • Declining and aging population
  • Limited resources
SingaPlorers aims to help players to understand that the success behind Singapore is a result of the constant work and cooperation of all Singaporeans. Also, in playing SingaPlorers, players will see the cause and effects of events or policies Singapore have adopted. Players will learn about Singapore’s past and present challenges in a fun and engaging way. 

Read about what other mummies and I have done to raise our little ones to become Singaporeans (do scroll to the end when you enter) . 

Here are some other suggestions to get your children interested in current affairs. 

About Join The Current

Join The Current is a literacy campaign pioneered by four NTU undergraduates who share a vision and a belief that curiosity about world affairs can help the new generation of media­savvy children build resilience to traverse their lives as global citizens and leaders.

This campaign is launched as part of a final year project from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

It hopes to engage children aged 10 to 14 ​to develop an interest in current affairs and inform parents of the importance and relevance of current affairs.

Through the campaign, the team hopes to create a national conversation around young students developing a curiosity for current affairs, thereby shaping future generations of active citizens and an informed public.

Find out more about them their Join The Current Website or join them on their facebook or instagram.

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