How Singapore leads the world in education
For any family with young children, the quality of local schools has always been an important consideration when deciding where to settle down. But in the 21st century, that means more than whether to choose this town or the next. The world has become a smaller place due to globalization, and more people than ever before are opting for an expat lifestyle.
Like many sectors, the education industry has become an ever-more competitive marketplace over recent decades. Gone are the days when our children get what they are given and put up with it. Today is all about measurable KPIs and league tables, and it is here that East Asia in general and Singapore in particular consistently stands head and shoulders above the rest. So, what is their secret, and are there lessons that educators in the rest of the world can learn?
The Singapore system
For a country that is among the most modern and contemporary on the globe, it might come as a surprise to find out that the teaching system is highly traditional. For all age groups, it follows a strict curriculum and uses methodologies that might seem somewhat old fashioned to Westerners.
Children are educated through teacher-led instruction, making full use of textbooks and work sheets. There is little in the way of open discussion or the Western trends towards broader thematic understanding over and above knowing the right answers.
For expat parents, this potentially raises the concern that while being educated in Singapore might produce great grades for their children, it will not necessarily send them into the world ideally equipped to think laterally. In other words, will it really prepare them for the rigors of the 21st-century?
That is where the choice of international schools in Singapore can bring the best of both worlds. Singapore has one of the broadest demographic mixes of any nation, and is often recognized at a melting pot where the best of a variety of cultures come together. This is perfectly demonstrated by the Teach Less, Learn More initiative, which has been rolled out across the Singapore education system.
The aim of the project is to encourage educators to incorporate technology and modern methods that promote the quality of learning, alongside the existing world-class traditional education and examination preparation techniques.
Education is all about lessons learned, but perhaps the secret to Singapore’s success is that those behind the education system are as ready to be educated as they are to educate. While many a country might be happy to enjoy its place at the top and present itself as a benchmark, Singapore is constantly reaching out and seeking to adopt best practices from the rest of the world.
It is easy to forget what a young country Singapore still is. The educational establishment only came into being 50-years ago, and over those years, it has been in a state of constant development and improvement. In using the best of the old and new, it aims to equip today’s students with the knowledge, skills and outlook to be ethical citizens of the world. Surely this is a viewpoint from which educational systems the world over can take inspiration.