Singapore is one of Asia’s success stories. The country has transformed itself from an underdeveloped country to a modern industrial economy. During this revolution, the education system of the country was also not left behind. Today, the school system of Singapore is known and considered the best worldwide. And this is not only restricted to high schools but also at the university levels, with the National University of Singapore being the highest ranking in Asia and outperforming renowned institutions worldwide.
It’s no secret that this success can be attributed to the fact that, from the start, Singaporean education has played a central role in the developing economy of the state. For starters, it has the highest achieving students in international rankings, according to the OECD’s Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA). Moreover, Singapore is named among the top-rated countries for math and science, others being Finland, Canada, Estonia, and Ireland. So, why is Singapore’s school system the best globally?
1. Education is a priority in economic development
Post-independence from the British, Singapore has surpassed some of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Asia, and North-America to be a world leader in education. This was possible because the state views education as an ecosystem. Meaning that for the ecosystem to thrive, the school system should be at the forefront and vice versa. Thus, for a reform to be effective, the whole system from top to bottom must be reformed, so that people can respond to the changes as well.
For instance, the universal state-funded education system reform, which promotes the ideals of meritocracy is among the main reasons behind the country’s achievement of its development vision.
Additionally, education reforms such as ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation, which encourages creativity, innovation, and lifelong learning has made it possible for the Singaporean system to be a world leader. Moreover, the school system is continuously reformed to meet both local and international standards.
The central aim of these changes is to shape the education scene to match the abilities and interests of students, thus providing them with flexibility and variety.
2. Curriculum focuses on teaching specific subjects and problem-solving skills
Singapore’s school system encourages project work and creative thinking. As a result, classes focus on equipping students with particular problem-solving skills and knowledge in specific subjects. The goal of the curriculum is to provide students with practical knowledge and skills that will help to solve challenges in the real world.
Moreover, authorities in Singapore are more hands-on and are continually reassessing and improving the school system to promote student performance and wellness. For instance, sometime in 2017, students reported rising levels of stress and psychological issues resulting from academic rigor. In response, the education authorities stopped listing top scorers in examinations to ease the pressure from students. Additionally, the country introduced a Teach Less, Learn More strategy, which inspires teachers to focus on quality rather than quantity of education.
3. Conducive culture
In Singapore, parents play a fundamental role in their children’s education. Moreover, all kids are considered to be equally smart. What this means is, for most Singaporean parents, effort is more praised than inherited ‘smartness’.
Moreover, students are held accountable for their own success and strategic thinking with practical application. Thus, while parents may sign up their kids for extra classes outside the regular school hours or during holidays in Singapore, it’s entirely the child’s responsibility to succeed.
Nonetheless, the Ministry of Education emphasizes parental engagement to ensure the values taught in schools are reinforced. Thus, there are two platforms, the Parent Support Group (PSG) and annual meetings in every school, to encourage parent participation in school activities.
4. Accountable systems
Any first-rate school system must have good leadership and be backed by a professionally capable team. The critical components of the Singapore education system are the teachers. The country targets teachers from the top 5% of graduates who must undergo training at the National Institute of Education (NIE). Additionally, Singapore has significantly invested in its teaching force, which has increased the status and prestige of the profession to attract the best graduates.
The NIE, which is the only institute that prepares all teachers in the country, plays a crucial role in developing a high-quality task force. This single course guarantees quality control and that all new teachers can handle a classroom in the 21st-century digital learning age. To ensure this, NIE has even created a new teaching model dubbed the “Teacher Education Model for the 21st Century”.
5. Precise education goals
Among the distinctive characteristics of Singapore’s school system, is its clear articulation and identification of the desired results of education. Such grounds streamline the creation of national curricula, adoption of various pedagogies while ensuring high levels of preparation and professional development of teachers. Additionally, these goals promote a connection between the conceptualization and implementation of policies following the national education vision.
6. Differentiated learning pathways
Singapore’s education system is designed to provide students with varied learning outlooks and preferences using various teaching profiles. In fact, the serving Minister of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in a statement asserts that education aims to “maintain a range of excellence and encourage all young people to find their passion and climb as far as they can.”
From the age of six, students join an elementary school for 10 to 11 years, which is followed by secondary school for 4 to 5 years. Afterward, students have the option of two vocational learning pathways, polytechnics, and junior colleges, that both lead to university education.
What’s clear in these differentiated learning pathways is the acceptance that each student learns differently and has specific strengths. Thus, this system is tailored to promote various learning capabilities to encourage each student to achieve their best at their own pace. This ensures that all students get equal opportunities in the real world.
Singapore’s school system is an educational superstar for countries globally. This is primarily because of the country’s first-rate education system and its culture. It’s no secret that the world can learn so much from Singapore’s school system to improve its education sector.