What the world has to learn from Singapore’s education system
“There is more than meets the eye in the detailed, strategic outlay of Singapore’s education system”
While governments across the globe engage in discussions about reforms in their respective state education policies, Singapore seems to have gone a step ahead to execute reform actions in its academic establishments.
Singapore evolved from a third world country to becoming one of the top-choices for expats. It has gone from strength to strength ever since its independence and has unsurpassed ratings for the quality of its schools.
There is a heavy investment in education, a good 20% of its national budget is spent on this sector. People are its greatest resource and its adult literacy rate is 97%. The average Singaporean student is 10 months ahead in English and 20 months ahead in Math than students of other first-world countries. Highest performing students in international education rankings are Singaporean and they are especially proficient at Science and Math. Students also ace the international exams as rated by the leading international study TIMSS.
Some of the policies that the Ministry of Education and the Government of Singapore have adopted rival some of the best school systems in the world today. The government continually reviews syllabi to remain flexible and guarantee the quality of education.
Classrooms are highly-scripted and uniform across all school levels and subjects. Curriculums are focused on training practical skills that help them work solutions out to real-world problems. Classes are specifically streamlined to engage the problem-solving skills of students. Exams are given strict importance to and classes are oriented around them.
” There is more than meets the eye in the detailed, strategic outlay of Singapore’s education system”
School years begin in the first month of the year and end in November. They contain two semesters with two terms each. When academic pressure was reported as being a major risk factor for stress and other psychological problems, the government stopped listing top-scores. The Ministry of Education has decried announcing ranks of students to discourage unhealthy competition among students. Report books do not show the students’ position in the class.
The government of Singapore adopted a learning strategy called ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ to focus on the quality of education, and not quantity. Parents are actively one of the primary stakeholders of students’ education. 70% of parents sign students up for extra classes. Teacher-student ratios are sufficient to ensure quality in the individual learning experience. Local bookstores dedicate ½ the stock of books to the educational and academic genre.
“Singapore adopted a learning strategy called ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ to focus on the quality of education, and not quantity”
Students of ages six to eight are not assessed on examinations and are motivated to inculcate self-learning. The Ministry of Education is continually on a mission to reduce stress and the traditional focus on marks. Singapore ranks third globally in time spent on homework. Mid-year exams were removed from certain boards to free up time and space in schools. Students are encouraged to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world by becoming lifelong learners.
Some other things to consider in this academic ecosystem are the cost of education, the rigid curriculums, and the low tolerance for low performances that bring down averages. But these policies have only enriched job prospects, quality of life and education, and bettered earning and living standards.
Global educators recognize the rigours of the fourth Industrial Revolution and the demand for non-cognitive and socio-emotional skills like leadership, creativity, enterprise conscientiousness, resilience, and perseverance which contribute to individual career growth. Cross-cultural dexterity in a ‘glocal’ world is another important asset of this city-state with almost 40% of its population being expatriates.
There is an emphasis on the joy of learning and the holistic development of children with a reasonable balancing out of global educational trends that focus on grades and marks. There is more than meets the eye in the detailed, strategic outlay of Singapore’s education system. It has been one of the first countries to experiment boldly with its policies and reach the forefront in the global stage.
About the author: Aileen Brent is a freelance STEM Education Coordinator for undergraduate and graduate levels, a start-up blogger, and a mother to an 8-year-old super-curious daughter.