Understanding the singapore Education System

study in singapore

Understanding the singapore Education System

The education system in Singapore is based on the British systems and puts a lot of emphasis on testing. Schools are ranked no how well students do on standardized tests. The government places a strong emphasis on practical skills such as science and mathematics. Singapore students usually excell in international tests. Singapore puts a lot of emphasis on education because it is widely believed that people are its only resource and these people have to exceptional if Singapore is to survive and prosper. The city-state thrives on innovation and gears education towards the latest needs of society and economic prosperity. Despite the criticism leveled against it for being regimented and test-oriented, the Singapore education system is quite creative. Singaporean teacher consistently rank high in teaching surveys and are commended for their innovative teaching methods.

Asia One reported: “A nation with a scarcity of natural resources, Singapore has devoted much effort toward nurturing an elite citizenry based on a merit system. Examinations are held to screen excellent students when they are in fourth and sixth grades of primary school, fourth grade of secondary school and second grade of junior college. Parents are frantic, as the door to a university will almost certainly close if their children fail but one examination. Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 92.5 percent; male: 96.6 percent; female: 88.6 percent (2000 census). 57.8 percent of Singaporeans have secondary school diplomas or even higher qualifications.

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Education expenditures: 3.3 percent of GDP (2012), country comparison to the world: 132 Public expenditures on education totaled 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product for school year 2004–5. In 1987 some 4 percent of the gross domestic product ( GDP) was devoted to education. The government's goal for the 1990s was to increase spending to 6 percent of GDP, which would match the levels of Japan and the United States.[Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Goals of Singaporean Education

The government frequently referred to Singapore's population as its only natural resource and described education in the vocabulary of resource development. The goal of the education system was to develop the talents of every individual so that each could contribute to the economy and to the ongoing struggle to make Singapore productive and competitive in the international marketplace. The result was an education system that stressed the assessment, tracking, and sorting of students into appropriate programs. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989*]

Educators forthrightly described some students and some categories of students as better "material" and of more value to the country than others. In the 1960s and 1970s the education system, burdened with large numbers of children resulting from the high birth rates of the previous decades and reflecting the customary practices of the British colonial period, produced a small number of highly trained university graduates and a much larger number of young people who had been selected out of the education systems following secondary schooling by the rigorous application of standards. The latter entered the work force with no particular skills. *

Major reforms in 1979 produced an elaborate tracking system, intended to reduce the dropout rate and to see that those with low academic performance left school with some marketable skills. During the 1980s, more resources were put into vocational education and efforts were made to match the "products" of the school system with the manpower needs of industry and commerce. The combination of a school system emphasizing testing and tracking with the popular perception of education as the key to social mobility and to the source of the certifications needed for desirable jobs led to high levels of competition, parental pressure for achievement, and public attention and concern. *

In the 1980s, education was not compulsory, but attendance was nearly universal. Primary education was free, and Malays received free education through university. Students' families had to purchase textbooks and school uniforms, but special funds were available to ensure that no student dropped out because of financial need. Secondary schools charged nominal fees of S$9.50 per month.

Education and Singaporean Identity

More clearly than any other social institution, the school system expressed the distinctive vision of Singapore's leadership, with its stress on merit, competition, technology, and international standards, and its rejection of special privileges for any group. Singaporeans of all ethnic groups and classes came together in the schools, and the education system affected almost every family in significant and profound ways. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989*]

Most of the domestic political issues of the country, such as the relations between ethnic groups, the competition for elite status, the plans for the future security of the nation and its people, and the distribution of scarce resources were reflected in the schools and in education policy. Many of the settled education policies of the 1980s, such as the use of English as the medium of instruction, the conversion of formerly Malay or Chinese or Anglican missionary schools to standard government schools, or the attempted combination of open access with strict examinations, were the result of long-standing political disputes and controversy. *

In the determination of families and parents that their children should succeed in school, and in the universally acknowledged ranking of primary and secondary schools and the struggle to enroll children in those schools that achieved the best examination results, families expressed their distinctive values and goals. The struggle for achievement in the schools, which often included tutoring by parents or enrollment of young children in special private supplementary schools to prepare for crucial examinations, also demonstrated the system of social stratification and the struggle for mobility that characterized the modern society. It was in the schools, more than in any other institution, that the abstract values of multiracialism and of Singaporean identity were given concrete form. *

Education System in Singapore

Elaine Ee wrote in CNNGo.com, “Singapore's Compulsory Education Act makes it mandatory for children to receive their primary education at a Ministry of Education, or MOE-approved, school. After primary school, education options start to free up and students are left to pursue their education in any way they wish from their first year of secondary. An increasing number of homeschoolers -- many with parents who hold strong convictions or whose kids are not benefiting from the MOE system -- are emerging among secondary school students. [Source: Elaine Ee, CNNGo.com, August 11, 2011 +=+]

“Beyond secondary school, options fan out, with MOE-related junior colleges, polytechnics, institutes of technical education as well as myriad other private institutions for students to choose from, such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Shatec Institutes. But because the MOE system is so pervasive and ingrained, and because of the Compulsory Education Act, it’s often MOE’s way or the highway, so the pressure is on to get it right, from the start.” +=+

“Once our kids are in the all-consuming system, the path to doing well involves jumping through a series of well-defined hoops called assessments and exams. Miss one and play catch up. School examinations channel our children onto more or less set paths at relatively early ages; and while there are more paths to be channeled into, switching (particularly up) is difficult and rare. In 2009, for example, 38 percent of students in Secondary One had to enroll in the five-year O-level program because they did not qualify for the regular four-year program, and about 30 percent of those dropped out. That percentage has remained about the same for the last 10 years. +=+

Linda Darling-Hammond wrote in Time, “When visited Singapore's National Institute of Education, the nation's only teacher-training institution, nearly all the people I spoke with described how they were investing in teachers' abilities to teach a curriculum focused on critical thinking and inquiry--skills needed in a high-tech economy. To get the best teachers, the institute recruits students from the top third of each graduating high school class into a fully paid four-year teacher-education program (or, if they enter later, a one-to-two-year graduate program) and puts them on the government's payroll. When they enter the profession, teachers' salaries are higher than those of beginning doctors. [Source: Linda Darling-Hammond, Time February 14, 2008]

“Expert teachers are given time to serve as mentors to help beginners learn their craft. The government pays for 100 hours of professional development each year for all teachers. In addition, they have 20 hours a week to work with other teachers and visit one another's classrooms. And teachers continue to advance throughout their career. With aid from the government, teachers in Singapore can pursue three separate career ladders, which help them become curriculum specialists, mentors for other teachers or school principals. These opportunities bring recognition, extra compensation and new challenges that keep teaching exciting and allow teachers to share their expertise.” [Ibid]

Education Obsession in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “The preoccupation with the paper chase is a national trait. During recessions, the government often increased the education budget rather than reduce it. At home, families spend tens of thousands of dollars a year for special tuition or extra classes for their children. The word tuition is probably the first word a Singaporean kid hears as soon as he or she learns to walk. And as he grows up, it seldom leaves him; even undergraduates here get tuition. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, July 30, 2011]

“It is not surprising to see long lines of parents huddling overnight outside popular tuition centres, waiting to enrol their children when the centres open. With this frenetic local preoccupation and tens of thousands of foreign children coming here to study, allocation of places has become a hot potato. [Ibid]

In 2001, AFP reported: “A recent survey showed parents in Singapore spent S$320 million (US$185 million) a year, or about S$1 million dollars a day, on extra tuition to boost the academic performance of their children. But another survey found that 33 percent of 9-12 year-olds considered life not worth living because of the fear of academic failure. [Source: Agence France Presse, March 2, 2001]

“A Singapore woman was recently jailed for nine months for caning and kicking her nine-year-old son when he asked for homework help on the eve of an exam. The mother was said to have been furious with her son for not paying attention in class. Reports in 2000 year of excessive punishment, including a nine-year-old caned by his mother for only getting 83 percent in a science exam, led Education Minister Teo Chee Hean to issue a public plea for parents not to belt children who do not meet exam expectations.” [Ibid]

Education Pressure in Singapore

Parents in Singapore pressure their children to do well on tests so they can get into the best schools. There is a lot of pressure on students and teachers to produce top scores. Preschool children bring home spelling homework and stress over trying to get into elite schools like the Henry Park Primary School. Parents take part in lotteries to get their children into top school and breakdown if they don’t succeed. Some kids carry backpacks filled up to 10 textbooks, each weighing 700 to 800 grams, Kids carry so many heavy textbooks some school introduced portable electronic devices in the pre-iPad early 2000s—with digitalized textbooks and screens they can write on—to lighten their load.

In 2001, attention was focused on the issue of school stress after a 10-year-old girl committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of her apartment block because her Chinese language grades weren’t high enough. By all accounts she was a cheerful girl with top grades. A few months earlier a 12-year-old girl lept to her death after her father found that she had doctored her grades. Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, The Singapore education system produces “enormous pressure on the children. More and more pupils, as young as kindergarten and primary classes, are seeking help from psychiatrists for study or exam blues. On Mondays, this "school refusal" illness appears for more and more pupils in the form of a tummy ache, headache, nausea, fever or dizziness, according to a research conducted by a government hospital. It is not a physical sickness. The children are so desperate to avoid school that the symptoms of these ailments appear at the start of the week. The spotlight on Singapore's high-pressure education system followed suicides earlier this year of two girls, aged 10 and 12, because they did not perform well in examinations.[Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, December 2, 2001 >>>]

“Surveys of nine- to 12-year-olds in the city-state have found one in three say life is not worth living because of the fear of academic failure. Five percent of all pupils in Singapore are now said to suffer from "school refusal," and the Health Ministry recently brought in an Australian expert to study how Singapore's school system impacts on the health of children. Dr Jill Sewell, a child health specialist at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, spent a week visiting hospitals and talking to children before making recommendations to the ministry. "These (school refusal) pains can be very real. But underlying these physical symptoms is deep anxiety," Dr Sewell said. >>> “In another controversial development, a secondary school caned 41 boys for skipping tests in one month recently. An enraged parent, whose son was reluctant to go to school after being caned, told the Straits Times: "I believe the school's counselling programme is a complete failure if the principal has to resort to caning." But the principal, Saminathan Gopal, stood by his decision and described the punished students as recalcitrant, and that "they were irresponsible and did not turn up for an important test." Each boy received two strokes on the buttocks and was sent for counselling later. Seventeen girls were sent for community work for skipping the tests as well. While the Education Ministry gives principals the discretion and authority to cane students, it allows only a maximum of six light strokes on the palm or buttocks, and does not allow girls to be caned. >>

“To critics, this use of corporate punishment instead of counselling does not augur well for efforts to promote thinking students. Not all parents condemn this strictness. One parent, whose 16-year-old son had overslept and missed five tests, said: "Missing tests is ridiculous. He should be caned, and if he misbehaves again he should be caned again."

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