A country’s long-term success is only as good as its educational programs. No nation can succeed in bettering itself without an educational system that strives to empower its youth with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to replace, and perhaps even surpass, its previous generation. With this in mind, the analysis of the world’s best educational systems will prove to be beneficial in not just understanding the essentials to good schooling, but also in providing insight for external nations considering the adoption of new educational methods.
Over the recent years, Singapore has risen to become a fascinating area of study in understanding the fundamentals of a world-class educational system. The country has consistently ranked among the top scores for the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). An assessment that aims to capture global proficiency in mathematics, science, and English based reading, the PISA provides a relatively accurate report of the effectiveness of each participating nations’ educational system. With Singapore’s prominent rankings and reputation, the country provides an excellent opportunity to understand the components that lead to an effective schooling program.
Compared to newly emerging methods of independent learning, Singapore relies on the traditional model of education with teachers placed at the head and are entrusted with the instruction and assessment of their students’ capabilities. Balanced with the use of research supported worksheets, assignments, tests, and textbooks, the system ensures that students gain not only adequate instruction but practice in skills essential to each course.
Educationalists will often criticize that academically rigorous programs, similar to those in Singapore, tend to decrease happiness among children, potentially leading to higher rates of depression. In addition to being a common concern for parents, these arguments further elaborate that such issues could eventually lead to an increased number of suicides. Sadly, this is common in many Asian educational systems with Japan being one of the most notable. Statistics now suggest that 1 out of every 4 Japanese students suffer from depression as a result of a demanding workload from school. However, this is simply not the case for Singapore.
According to various studies, Singapore’s students have reported high levels of happiness, even outranking children in Finland. Unsatisfied with these evident successes, the country still continues to adapt to new research on child development and learning. In fact, Singapore is currently undergoing changes to its system to improve creative thinking and reduce stress for its students.
This brings up another fundamental to what distinguishes Singapore from most typical educational systems: its attitude towards research. The country places heavy emphasis on education research, an attribute that has led to much success. Before any changes occur to a syllabus, studies accurately and diligently asses whether these changes would prove beneficial to the system as a whole. Even after the implementation of certain educational reforms, results are heavily monitored ensuring that the government not only understands what techniques work best but also why. This, in turn, provides insight into more advanced techniques, resulting in a more efficient educational system
Furthermore, Singapore places extra emphasis on the proficiency of its teachers, who receive over a hundred hours of training on the latest educational techniques ensuring that they are more than adequate at their jobs. Additionally, it is important to note that Singaporean teachers play a large role as they are often assigned to classes of 36 students compared to the international average of 24. To compensate for this, the government pays them much more handsomely than their North American counterparts.
Lastly, Singapore’s educational model focuses on the skill sets of the collective rather than the individual. Through a variety of assessments, teachers identify the students who find difficulty in certain subject areas and assign those students mandatory extra sessions. Not only does this refine the understanding of those who are initially weak in a certain skill area, but it also ensures that the class as a whole has a solid grasp of the subject.
It is important to note that no system is flawless, and this certainly applies to Singapore as well. The system is notorious for its separation of high and low achievers at the mere age of twelve. This places an unusually high emphasis on exams in middle school and students often find themselves cramming intensely from a young age. This separation is not backed by any studies suggesting it improves the quality of education.
As the field of education goes through a variety of developments, it is crucial that the international community takes note. Singapore serves as an important lesson as to what an effective educational model looks like. Although the system is not flawless, foreign nations have the opportunity to study the system’s benefits, and perhaps even apply some of Singapore’s techniques to their own domestic educational programs in the hopes of bettering their future generations.