Recently I was interviewed on a topic about medical research. There has been a recent shift in many research organisations in the world to focus on cost-cutting and quicker process (ie taking short cuts) to reach the interim end points of showing whether a new drug will work or not in human before proceeding to conduct large scale trials to show how safe and effective the drug is.
The reasons for these “short-cuts” methods are to save cost and to get the results quicker, without severely compromising on the long term results. If the interim result is good, ie the drug maybe beneficial to the population, then the company will put in more resources to do the other necessary studies.
The interviewer asked me, in my opinion, will all medical organisations move towards this new model, to do research faster and cheaper? My reply was “The organisations and the researchers need to have a strong basic foundation knowledge before they can decide which projects they should take the shortcut and which one they should not, as only with a strong foundation, one can make the right decision”.
This is very similar to how we prepare our children for exams. Some parents insist their child to learn everything, from first page to the last when preparing for the exams. This will unfortunately takes a lot of time and in the end, their child may not focus on the right topics for the exam. Some parents and tutors take the “shortcut” way, by focusing on the past year exam papers, try to “predict” which are the questions that may come out in the exam and then prepare for these questions.
Which method is better?
It will be good to have a combination of both. If your child’s foundation is not strong, by focusing on the “shortcut” method, he/she maybe able to do well initially (eg Primary 1, 2 and 3), but when he/she reaches Primary 4, 5 and 6, his/her weak foundation may be a bigger problem then, as without a good foundation, he/she may not be able to handle the more difficult questions.
On the other hand, if you insist your child to study from the first page to the last page all the time, you maybe wasting precious time on some of the less important topics and do not have sufficient time to prepare for the key topics.
Thus, it is important initially to build a good foundation, after that, you can then try the “shortcut” method, to focus on the quick and easy way to prepare for exams using the past year papers.
To do this, you need to observe and find out what are the key foundation areas which your child is lacking and needs to build up and what are the “shortcut” he/she can take for last minute study before exams.
It is very similar to for example building a house. Initially you need to build a strong foundation so that your house does not collapse under bad weather. Once you have a strong foundation below, you can choose to focus on building the external aspects of the house quickly without worrying about the foundation.