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3 Oct 2002
The New Paper (Singapore)

By Ann-marie Tan

3 Topics, 2 Continents, 1 Classroom - Neighbourhood Schools Win Asia-Europe Online Project Award

PIONEER Secondary School principal Tan Chor Pang is one happy man. His school is now among the best in Asia and Europe when it comes to fostering strong cultural relationships between the two continents.

It was one of four Singapore educational institutions which won the Asia-Europe Classroom (AEC) award at Tampere, Finland on Sept 12. (See report below). Pioneer Secondary's was a combined effort with the German School in Singapore and Kreisgymnasium Neustadt, a school in Germany.

The three schools shared the prize money of US$2,500 ($4,470). They participated in a year-long project called the 1st Asia-Europe Classroom Meeting Point, which featured three topics.

Said Mr Tan: 'Students learnt by collaborating with other students rather than just through textbooks.'

The project involved online exchanges on Genetically Modified (GM) Food and war atrocities, as well as contributions of poems and short stories.

Said Pioneer teacher Ms Britta Seet, 25: 'A German teacher initiated the idea of using poems to help facilitate literary and cultural exchange, while we proposed GM food and War Horrors.'

The Poems and Short Stories section had exchanges rich in local culture. One poem sent from here was called Beautiful Singapore and another was on the West Coast. War Horrors consisted of comments on World War II pictures from the participants.

According to Ms Seet, the section on GM Food was relevant as life sciences is fast becoming very important in Singapore.

This section had a three-day debate, with Singaporean students going online from about 3.30pm to 4.30pm which was 9.30am to 10.30am German time for the Neustadt students. A few months before the actual debate, the Secondary 2 students learned argumentative writing skills and researched the topic.

Said Johanna Tong, 14, from Pioneer Secondary: 'It was difficult at first. But after researching the topic, I changed my opinions. I found the live debate interesting and really enjoyed countering what was said with the info we found.'

MADE FRIENDS
Added her schoolmate, Colin Peh, 14: 'I even made friends with a German student called Pete. We sent greeting cards to each other even after the project was over.'

Mr Tan said the project, in which a total of 150 students from Pioneer and the Singapore German School took part, ended on June 22. He added that it allowed students to learn and work with partners from different cultures.

Said Mr Tan: 'It is good to learn about collaboration and partnerships at a young age. This is indeed a worthwhile programme and it is interesting for the students to learn while having fun.'

LEARNING ONLINE
THE First AEC International Teachers' Conference was organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the Ministry of Education, with the support of Raffles Girls' Secondary School (RGS) last year.

The conference initiated the projects, which required participants to produce online learning platforms. Three of the seven projects that came up won the Asia-Europe Classroom (AEC) award. Four Singapore institutions were involved in the winning projects.

Besides Pioneer Secondary, the winners were St Joseph's Institution, RGS and Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The awards were given out in Tampere, Finland, during the Second International Teachers' Conference last month.

Representatives from various schools on both continents attended. Each winning project won a cash grant of US$2,500.

The prize money is shared among the participating schools.
(http:// www.gymnasiumneustadt.de/Singapore/index.htm)