What Makes Singapore’s Education System a Success?

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Singapore is one of Asia’s best success stories. After gaining independence from Britain and Malaysia, the third-world country turned into an economic powerhouse within 50 years. The secret? Singapore focused on improving its education system.

A Brief History of Education in Singapore

After being a sovereign state, Singapore developed a “survival-driven” education system. This aimed to educate the people so the country can have a skilled workforce and lower unemployment. However, this method was not designed to help prepare children for globalisation.

In 2005, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the “Teach Less, Learn More” initiative, which aims to better engage students and prepare them for the real world. Until now, the Singaporean educational system follows this pedagogy. As a result, Singapore continuously places on top of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)’s triennial survey for its students’ proficiency in reading, mathematics and science.

So, how exactly did Singapore’s education system succeed? Here are some of the reasons:

1. Education is treated as an investment

Singapore’s main economic asset is its people, which is why investing in them through quality education is a priority for the government. All school activities, including sports and the arts, are well-funded.

In an interview with Holdsworth Center, the National Institute of Education (NIE)’s Associate Dean Dr Pak Tee Ng said that Singapore treats education as an investment rather than an expenditure.

2. The government made teaching attractive

When a profession is highly respected, it attracts top talent. This is why Singapore values teachers and invests in them as well. The MOE recruits prospective teachers from the top third of the high school graduating class. Then, they receive training on the country’s curriculum at the NIE all the while receiving a stipend equal to 60 per cent of a teacher’s salary.

When the trainees graduate and turn into professional teachers, they can land a job in one of the schools in the country and even overseas. Just like the top international schools in Singapore, some schools in other countries hire foreign teachers to meet the diverse requirements of their education system or curriculum. Teachers are offered different professional development opportunities that allow them to assume other roles and earn more.

3. The curriculum focuses on problem-solving


The curriculum used among schools in Singapore is uniform and the teaching is highly-scripted. This is to ensure the previously-mentioned “Teach Less, Learn More” initiative. But more importantly, the curriculum encourages creative thinking. Because of this, classes focus on enhancing students’ problem-solving skills that they can apply to solve challenges in the real world. The students’ proficiency in different subjects is tested through different exams, both in-school and national ones.

What’s more, the curriculum also focuses on innovation and lifelong learning. This encourages students to find what they’re good at and passionate about. It also instils the virtue that learning doesn’t end in the classroom, which is why about 70 per cent of parents enrol their children in extracurricular activities outside of regular school hours.

All of these and more make Singapore’s education system superior among Asian countries and even the West. With these pedagogies, Singapore is able to produce competent students and graduates that help make the country more prosperous.

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