Singapore may be a small island country with a population of 5.6 million. However, when it comes to the quality of education, Singapore never ceases to surprise the world. In 1965, when Singapore became an independent country, it had limited resources. So they started developing the only available resource they have – their people. That was only the beginning.
Over the years, Singapore has evolved as a country and has become one of the finest trading and financial centers in the world – all of this just by relying on their workforce. And it is clear as day that the country’s education system has a major part in it.
Where does Singapore education system stand?
Singapore has managed to get the top rank of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, commonly known as PISA. This assessment happens once every three years to evaluate the 15-year olds in the participating countries. The evaluation is, however, done in only three categories – maths, reading and science.
Interestingly, the students in Singapore are roughly three years ahead of their American counterpart in maths. Not just that. Singaporean students also excel at different levels of education – be it at the graduation level or at the elementary. In fact, if you look at the enrolments at the world’s finest universities, you will find students from Singapore for sure.
What makes Singapore education system better than any other country in the world?
The world of education has a lot to learn from Singapore in terms of education. However, the students in other countries are more reluctant to try something ambitious like the pupils in Singapore. While there are a number of reasons behind the high quality of education, a lot of the people believe it is because Singapore prefers the traditional pedagogy, where teachers lead the class.
However, a majority of the countries in the world are promoting "progressive" teaching that encourages the children to learn by themselves, which does not always work best for the students. International studies suggest that the traditional approach taken by Singapore is actually a better way to convey knowledge to the students.
Besides the academic brilliance, Singapore has also excelled in personal skills. In fact, in 2015, the students from Singapore also came first in a new PISA ranking, which was designed to evaluate the collaborative problem-solving skills. Interestingly, the students scored better in this test than the tests for reading and science.
Singaporean students are also reported to be happier than the students in Finland. Interestingly, educationalists take examples from Finland to achieve better results with cuddlier methods of teaching. You can imagine where Singapore stands in this. However, the Singapore education system is not content with this and is thinking of other measures to improve creativity and reduce the stress of the students. In the light of that, students in Singapore will no longer be ranked as per their exam results.
How can other countries match the level of the Singapore education system?
Countries, which are willing to reform their education system for the better, should definitely learn a few things from the Singapore education system. Here are a few suggestions.
The problem with most countries is that they often enact uncoordinated reforms, while Singapore always looks at the whole system as one. In fact, Singapore invests heavily in education research. They even test the reforms before enacting them. And when they are tested, the results are monitored quite diligently before being rolled out.
Singapore education system pays close attention to the process of applying new ideas and results in schools. They focus on carefully developing textbooks and worked examples, which is often seemed like an outdated approach in western countries. With these so-called outdated approaches, they try to reform the education system.
It has already been established that Singapore has a distinctive approach to teaching, especially in mathematics. The UK and the US have started working towards adopting that approach in their education system. The approach is to stress on a narrower, yet deeper curriculum, and to ensure that the entire class progresses through the syllabus.
The approach also outlines how the students who are struggling to cope with the syllabus should receive compulsory extra sessions to help them keep up with the rest of the class. An analysis done in 2016 showed that the Singaporean approach adopted by England had produced positive results. However, it was not very successful.
Lastly, every country should focus on developing excellent teachers, instead of pushing the students beyond their limits. In Singapore, they conduct 100 hours of training each year to ensure the teachers are acquainted with the latest techniques. The government also provides with enough funds for that.
Also, brilliant teachers get the responsibility of teaching bigger classes, while mediocre teachers get to teach small ones. The master teachers, who want to serve but does not want the bureaucratic burden of running schools, can train their peers. All the teachers are also subject to rigorous annual performance assessments.
The education system of Singapore is not exactly flawless. They have their own shortcomings as well, for an example it is not a great way to teach the students by separating the high achievers from the low-achievers and sending them to different schools from the age of 12. The results of this strategy are unproven and are often linked with the stress during exams.
The good thing about the Singapore education system is that the government itself is very much involved in improving the education system. Interestingly, the director-general of the ministry of education knows more than 80% of the head teachers by their names. This shows that the ministry can keep a tab on what’s happening in the education system.
Apart from the aforementioned three traits of the Singapore education system, the other approaches are not very compatible with the other countries. In fact, a lot of teachers' union and even the parents across different countries aren't supportive of big classes. So the gap in implementing the Singaporean approach in the education system of other countries is always going to be there.
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