… (Thinking aloud, during my visit to one of the top most universities of the world, The National University of Singapore, (NUS)! ……………….)
AFTER just finishing reading autobiography of Lee Kuan Yew, the Founding Father of Singapore, and its First Prime Minister for three decades, titled “The Singapore Story”, I have come to realize that reason behind Singaporean success story is ITS HEAVY EMPHASIS ON EDUCATION, both its quality, as well as quantity. Science, Mathematics and English are the main subjects of focus. Religion is strictly personal matter of every individual, and state has nothing to do with it. Singaporeans fervently celebrate all major festivals of every religion, and take supreme pride in diversity of their country. Unlike Pakistan, all quality education is PUBLIC EDUCATION in Singapore, as they do not believe in hierarchy in learning. Elite, especially BUREAUCRACY, are compelled to send their children to public schools, colleges and universities, with the result that Singapore’s public education system is second to none in the world. The foremost reason of Singapore’s best Education System is that Singaporeans can’t opt out of it, because everyone (especially the rich and powerful) has a stake in making it successful. It is not, like in Pakistan, where the rich and powerful send their kids to private schools or the suburbs and then de-fund or neglect the largest school districts. Here are some of the other reasons for Singapore’s successful education model: (A) The Singaporean government invests heavily in education. All activities – including the arts, sports, environmental awareness, camping and awareness of nature – are all very well funded. (B) The Ministry of Education sets very high academic standards and holds all schools accountable to them. No excuses from teachers and principals. You don’t have protests from parents, teachers and students about political correctness or Creationism…There is no debate whether or not global warming is happening… C) The teaching profession is highly respected and attracts top talent. Teachers are very committed, work incredibly long hours and receive professional development opportunities. (D) Culturally, Singaporean students are much more respectful and more self-disciplined than those in many Asian countries, and therefore there are fewer classroom disruptions due to unruly students. (6) Parents care about the behaviour of their children. If and when students have behavioural issues in school, the principal is involved, and in rare and extreme cases, corporal punishment may be meted out by the school. (Yes, you’ve heard about caning) In addition, parents are held accountable for having their children behave in school. It is not like in Pakistan, where parents’ default mode when their child is being disruptive or disrespectful in school is to be defensive, argue with the school, threaten to sue the school, accuse the school of this and that… (E) Parents urge their students to do well academically. The oft-criticised practice of having parents supplement the schools through “tuition” (after school supplementary courses) reflects, more than anything, the fact that parents have skin in the game in wanting their kids to do well in school. (F) As cited in other responses, Singapore and Singaporeans recognise that Singapore’s main economic asset is the Singaporean people. Investing in its people has been a winning formula in the past – catapulting Singapore from a backwater trading post to a global financial centre in one generation. The engine behind this growth is the combination of a thoughtful government, making decisions on behalf of the people and a hard-working, smart and well-educated population. From their experience, Singaporeans know that doing well in school provides a direct route to financial security. (G) Singaporeans are proud of their history and tend to be highly patriotic – so doing well is not only for their own individual gain but also for the good of their country. (H) Tracking. Students who, for whatever reason, are not thriving are tracked lower and therefore don’t drag down the pace of the faster learning students. Students who thrive in the classroom are constantly challenged and given opportunities to stretch themselves further. Highly promising students are given tons of opportunities to compete for academic prizes. (I) Meritocratic. There are some exceptions to this, but in general, Singaporean schools are completely transparent about and objective in terms of grades and entrance into the top secondary schools. For the most part, these are based completely on merit (results of nationwide standardised tests). I believe that there is plenty of valid criticism of the Singaporean system, but the system has been very effective at identifying and nurturing the most elite academic talent and ensuring that those who are not at the highest levels are also well educated. Crux of the matter is that, in the Singapore education system, no talent is wasted and no resources are wasted. Singapore is a modern miracle. It is a very small country, with its only resources being its people. It literally imports everything. However, it is extremely prosperous and inviolable merit of the education system is a large part of it. CAN WE IN PAKISTAN LEARN FROM AND REPLICATE SINGAPOREAN EDUCATION MODEL? OR IS IT TOO MUCH TO DREAM?