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Teacher Case

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Today I did something out of the ordinary, and I spoke to primary 6 students at Jiemin Primary School for their careers' day talk session. They invited me to speak about teaching, and so I spoke about 'What is Knowledge, and Why do I teach?', and this is what I said:

"What is knowledge? Now all of you are in primary six so obviously I am much older than you; and when I was your age there were many things that you see today that werent even around: There was no facebook, no internet, no handphones, no Iphones, no Ithis, no Ithat. Back then we were still using blackboards and chalk, and back then even the phones had dials on them which most of you may have never seen.

But even then, teaching was the same as it is today, and the aim of teaching is to impart information so that we can produce knowledge - together.

So this is what I want to start with: What is knowledge?

Now, you need to realise that books do not contain knowledge, no matter how sophisticated they are. Maybe by the time you get to secondary school books will be reduced to tiny microchips that you can download. Maybe by then the technology will be so sophisticated you can download everything on the net. But even so, books do not contain knowledge per se- they only contain information.

So how do we get knowledge? Where do we find it?

We find it here, in school, in class. Because knowledge, you see, is something we produce together. We produce knowledge when we discuss together, and ask questions together. Thats why we say that knowledge is a social thing. Books in themselves cannot do anything. We need to read them, and more importantly we need to discuss and question them.

Why do we need to question, you ask? Well, think of all the books you are reading now. How did all that information get into those books you read - books on geography, physics, literature, etc?

That information is the result of generations of scholars asking questions. Sometimes we need to keep asking even if we think we already know the answer. Hundreds of years ago people thought the earth was flat; or that the sun went around the earth, and not the other way round. Today we know better- but why? Because someone asked. Because someone questioned.

To question, to ask, to be curious to know- this is the first step in getting knowledge. We need to ask all the time, and in the process we all produce knowledge. Even you, though you may not realise it. As you are asking me questions now, you are also engaged in knowledge-production. And thats what your teachers and I are trying to do: we are inviting you to think, to ask questions. Thats why knowledge is social, because we develop it together; including all of you in your classes.

And you know whats great about knowledge-seeking? Its



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