School Education in the 21st Century

When I was growing up, our school education was simple. The teacher stood at the front of the class and spoke and the students listened. If any student was having trouble learning in school, they received extra classes. They could be remedial lessons, tuition, or anything that repeated the instruction to help them grasp the concepts of the material taught in school. There wasn’t a lot of thought given to the way we learn or how we learn best. The teacher taught and the students learned – it was as simple as that.

old school education

Image Source: Pinterest

Education in the 21st century has changed. We have learned so much more about the brain:

  • There are differences in the brain between the various stages of development from early childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
  • These differences in the brain can affect our children’s learning.
  • There is evidence showing what methods are working and what aren’t.

So what is neuroscience saying about the brain, learning, and what we should be doing in school? There is a terrific article from Edweek that highlights all of this which I highly recommend reading in its entirety. These are the salient points:

What we SHOULD do in school:

school classroom design

Image Source: Pinterest

What we should NOT do in school:

  • Teach largely through lectures and textbooks because this method does not engage the adolescent emotional brain which is important for learning.
  • Publicly post grades and test results because it shames and humiliates students in front of their peers (because teenagers value peer opinion very highly).
  • Lock students into a set academic program aimed at driving them towards specific college/university programs because it robs them of the chance to decide what interests them most.
  • Removing or cutting back on physical education  and recess opportunities in order to increase time devoted towards academic studies.

What is your school doing?

So what is your school doing? Are they making changes or are they still stuck in the 20th century style of education?


Supporting Handwriting Development

These notes are from a series of workshops from our school – this particular series was on supporting your children’s handwriting development. There are some annotations and additional resources which I have added.

Supporting Emerging Writers

  • Be a writing role model – If they see you write for a purpose, watch the process, listen to you talk about the writing process, they will be inspired to write too. Have writing implements available all over the home to catch them when they’re inspired!
  • Writing for a purpose – Provide a reason for your child to write – shopping lists, labelling, sending postcards/invitations, replying to notes from fairies/superheroes, writing secret notes, etc.
  • Fine motor development – Before a child can mark make, they need sufficient fine motor skills to be able to do so with increasing control and skill, even at the earliest level. 
  • Talk! – Talk before, during and after your child is writing. Encourage them to begin to make marks with a previously thought out purpose. Prompt them as they write. Ask them to talk about their mark making in as much detail as possible, modelling and extending when possible. Before children can be writers, they need to be talkers! A language rich environment is crucial. Verbal storytelling, recounting the funniest part of their day..make time to talk.
  • Value every mark your child makes – We need to foster a love of writing/mark making at the earliest ages. Value, praise, display and take time to hear about your child’s emergent writing.

Fine Motor Development: 

When we talk of building fine motor skills, there is often mention of activities like playing with play doh, stacking building blocks, and cutting with scissors. Two activities that are particularly good for strengthening the fingers are:

  • Playing the piano requires considerable fine motor dexterity because each individual finger is required to strike a note with precision and control in order to play the music accurately.
  • Playing LEGO also requires significant fine motor strength to compress pieces together to form a firm lock between the blocks.

Supporting Handwriting Development: Why teach cursive handwriting?

handwriting practice - cursive

  • By making each letter in one movement, children’s hands develop a ‘physical memory’ of it, making it easier to produce the correct shape.
  • Because letters and words flow from left to right, children are less likely to reverse letters which are typically difficult (like b/d or p/q).
  • There is a clearer distinction between capital letters and lower-case letters.
  • The continuous flow of writing ultimately improves speed and spelling ability.
  • Provides a tool that allows children to put thoughts on paper quickly and easily.
  • Reduces erratic spaces between letters and words.
  • Improves reading skills.
  • It’s easier to go straight to cursive rather than teaching handwriting twice – printing, then relearning cursive.

More about teaching cursive handwriting in the 21st Century.

Ways to help with cursive handwriting at home

  • If your child is beginning to learn cursive, try the multi-sensory approach, for example;  tracing the letters  in the air using magic ink, in sand with a stick or on another person’s back with their finger. You could also try chalks on the patio or shaving foam on a tray. Another one that G2 likes to do is writing with “bubble soap” on the shower screen.
  • Play Boggle and write the words using Cursive writing
  • Practise spellings using Cursive writing. It helps to learn spelling patterns when children learn them joined up. Make writing fun and positive.

Cursive Writing Resources:

These are from Sparkle Box:

Cursive Handwriting practice sparkle box

Cursive Handwriting - Sparkle BoxCursive Handwriting - Sparkle Box

Make your own handwriting worksheets.

Recommended Apps for Handwriting

Cursive Writing Wizard


  • Trace using 26 animated stickers and sound effects
  • Once tracing is complete, your child can interact with them on 4 games that animate letters
  • Trace any word, like your child’s name – the app is customisable
  • Your child can collect stars in 5-Stars play mode
  • Detailed reports provide you with information on what your child has done, including the ability to replay and export the tracings to view your child’s progress
  • You can create your own word lists (and record audio for each word)
  • Multiple parameters allow you to customise the app according to each of your children’s current education level (e.g. letter size, difficulty, show/hide model, allow to stop between key points, etc.)
  • Comes with 2 popular US fonts (ZB & DN) and 1 french font
  • Teaches upper and lower case letters, numbers, and word lists
  • Plays letter sounds which can be customised
  • Allows for unlimited users

Crazy Cursive Letters


  • Choice of cursive style letter e.g. a choice of style of the letter r.
  • Personalised feedback to tell your children which letters they are totally awesome at and which letters they could focus on practising.
  • Allows practice of single letters in cursive style.
  • The 100 most frequent words to try in cursive style.
  • Multiple Players allows you to the progress of siblings or even a class of up to 10 players.
  • ‘My Words’ section allows to you to include words for spelling practice.
  • A phonics based approach to support the writing practice.
  • Left / right handed adaptation
  • You can also use Crazy Cursive to help learn a new language! Select from American English, UK English, French, German, Italian or Spanish words and phonics.

Related Articles on Handwriting:

Review: Trinity San Yu (Mandarin Program)

I am generally a proponent of allowing the children to choose what they want to do for their extra-curricular activities, but there is one subject I cannot compromise on – Mandarin. Having grown up all my life being shamed for my lack of Chinese-speaking skills, this is one “sin of the mother” that I cannot pass on to my children. Like it or not, they must learn this dialect from their mother tongue.

Although the boys learn Mandarin as a subject at school, I was concerned that the progress of every alternate week was insufficient exposure for language mastery. While that might suit the dabbling learner, I wanted the boys to have more. So I sent them to Trinity San Yu.

Why Trinity San Yu?

Trinity San Yu is operated by the same group that runs Trinity Kids Malaysia – the preschool that G2 attended. Given our positive past experience with the school, I went straight to them with a great deal of confidence in their program. Anyone who is familiar with Trinity Kids Malaysia and its proprietor, Daisy Ng, will know that their reputation speaks for them.

For those unfamiliar with Trinity Kids Malaysia, the following overview provides some terrific insights into the teaching philosophies behind this exceptional program.

Trinity San Yu

Trinity San Yu

At Trinity San Yu, they believe that the mastery of Chinese goes beyond speaking Mandarin. Children attending their program will be equipped with a solid foundation for Chinese primary schools in Malaysia and inspired with a lifelong love for the Chinese culture. Through their unconventional approach to learning Chinese, children in this program will be exposed to Chinese history, Classic Literature, Traditions, Character building and dynamic opportunities to build spoken proficiency.

Trinity San Yu offers three levels:

  • Beginner level: from 3 to 4 years old
  • Intermediate level: 4 to 5 years old
  • Advanced level: 6 to 7 years old

Age listings are recommendations only. Children will be assigned based on the level of their capability and readiness. Trinity San Yu intends to offer higher levels as students progress through to upper primary and early secondary.

Classes run on Tuesday and Thursday:

  • Beginners: 3 pm to 5 pm
  • Intermediate/Advance: 3 pm to 5:30 pm
  • Available on Tuesday and Thursday

Trinity San Yu recommends that students attend 2 days a week (particularly for Intermediate/Advanced classes) to gain the necessary time exposure and social interaction for in-depth language learning. Parents need to be aware that learning objectives may be compromised with a reduction in time exposure.

Coming soon! Trinity San Yu will be offering more classes at their Publika venue! Stay tuned for more news…


Overview of the Program

Trinity San Yu is structured like a Taiwanese style school, adopting the Beijing Chinese syllabus. Apart from Chinese as a subject, they offer Speech & Drama, Mathematics, Arts & Craft, Music & Movement, Gym, Culture & Classics, and Practical Life Skills to complete the curriculum through a Chinese medium.

The Chinese language has a long and culturally rich history. Chinese and English have very different orthographic systems. Unlike English, Chinese is not alphabetic nor phonetic. Chinese is made up of complex group of compound characters, radicals and strokes, therefore learning Chinese imposes a different set of cognitive demands on the student versus learning English. The initial effort required to learn the building blocks of the Chinese language is comparatively higher, particularly so for children from non-Chinese speaking families. – Daisy Ng

Trinity San Yu

The Objectives of Trinity San Yu

  1. To offer a rigorous foundation to the Chinese language.
  2. To promote written and oral proficiency.
  3. To offer opportunities to learn beyond the written and spoken aspects of the language.
  4. To cultivate an interest in the cultural aspect of the language.

About Trinity San Yu Curriculum

Trinity San Yu offers a robust curriculum that goes beyond mastering the linguistic aspects of language learning. They also seek to inculcate an appreciation for the broader aspect of Mandarin. They seek to achieve this by:

  1. Increasing class duration which increases the level of exposure a child has to the language.
  2. Blending both classrooms and non-classroom experiences, offering a dynamic rhythm to the class schedule that helps the brain to stay switched on.
  3. Encouraging the brain to operate in Chinese during the program through an interactive teaching style with social opportunities for the child to actively think and converse in mandarin.

Trinity San Yu

Who is this Program for?

Trinity San Yu is appropriate for:

  • Children who will be attending Chinese primary schools
  • Children who are not from Chinese speaking families
  • Child seeking to master a written and oral proficiency in Chinese while cultivating a love for it

Trinity San Yu

Trinity Kids Malaysia Contact Details

Level 5, The Verve Shops
8, Jalan Kiara 5, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-62116658