What makes Singapore schools so effective?

Singapore’s education system is considered the best in the world. We didn’t say this, the Economist did. We have consistently ranked at the top of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Our pupils are roughly three years ahead of Americans in maths. Singapore does similarly well in exams of younger children, and the graduates of its best schools can be found scattered around the world’s finest universities.

But what is it that makes us so efficient, effective and successful?
1. Investment. The Singaporean government invests heavily in education. Take a look at the curriculum of any school. The government has a program where it puts money into the accounts of each child for them to use in activities. And the actuates themselves are very well funded. 

2. High standards, no-nonsense. All schools are held accountable to these standards and they must be met without fail. And because much of the curriculum is centralised, there is no quarrel over the content of the teaching. Educators can carry out their work independently and efficiently.

3. Teachers are respected. Although this is more of an Asian trait rather than a Singaporean trait, it does help the profession. Together with a good pay and training package, it is actually on par with many private schools around the world. 

4. Singaporean students are better behaved and more respectful. This is a matter of culture. Students in Singapore are better disciplined, but then so is the entire country. Attitudes like this affects learning and development. Western schools are known for classroom disruptions, ideological promotion and poor behaviour generally. 

5. Parents co-operation. Where there are behavioural and discipline issues, the parents are involved. Schools also do not generally shy away from corporal punishment (such as caning). Parents are held accountable for having their children behave in school. It may not be as free and liberal as the West, but it certainly more efficient, useful and productive.

6. Parents have a stake in their children. The “kiasu” behaviour of wanting to keep up with other children in class has led to the much criticised practice “tuition”. Although schools say that their curriculum is sufficient (and it is) kiasu parents often push their children further and faster though extra-curricular education.

7. Singapore’s main asset is the Singaporean people. Investing in its people has been a winning formula for Singapore and the government takes education very, very seriously. Not just children but they have strategies and frameworks that cover each Singaporean well into continuing education in adult-hood. It is a government that invests, is willing to try out new ideas (such as the SkillsFuture funding) and pro-actively encourages each Singaporean to sharpen their minds.

8. Portable skills. Singaporeans understand the need for skills and this is adapted to at a very early age. They are encouraged to try out and participate in a wide range of activities in-tandem with the curriculum such that they may develop these skills for the future.

9. Tracking. Students are closely tracked and those who develop at at slower pace are given more attention by teachers. Students who are faster are also encouraged to progress further. There is something for everyone but the important thing is that the system wants to know who is faster, who is slower and how to allocate resources to the correct student.

10. Meritocratic. Singaporean schools are completely transparent about and objective in terms of grades and entrance into the top secondary schools. These are based completely on merit via the results of the PSEL: a nation-wide standardised test. 


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