Is Singapore's Education System That Great?

By Caspar

It's been widely regarded that Singapore has a world class education system with highly qualified teachers in all levels. According to The Learning Curve report published by education firm Pearson, Singapore currently ranks third within the global context. Yet, as a 15 year old student, I clearly do not think so, mainly because of an over-emphasis on results and the impact of tuition.

Firstly, the over-emphasis on results is one of the flaws of our education system. A consequence of this is the lack of proper moral instruction of us students in school. Let me share with you all a story. This happened in a high school(and JC) which is regarded as one of the best in Singapore. There were 2 same-age students, lets call them A and B.

A committed a very serious crime in school, one that would place him in jail for years had he been a grown-up. He stays in the school IP stream, which FYI, is a stream only for the very best students in Singapore.

B cheated in a test, and he was removed from the IP stream.

Now what's the difference between A and B? Well it happens that A was in another 'higher' stream, the Gifted Education Program, hence he was DEMOTED to the IP stream. In a nutshell, this difference in punishment is meted out according to their academic abilities. It is also worthwhile to note there was absolutely no addressing of this incident by the principal and the teachers. This inevitably results in students thinking excellence in academics will more than compensate for one's lack in moral ethics, which clearly does not. While there has indeed been reforms done by the MOE to reduce the emphasis on academics, I think it needs both teachers and principles to come together and discuss what steps to take next, and tread ever so superficially such as simply abolishing the announcement of top scorers.

Secondly, the impact of tuition in Singapore. There is a common misconception among Singaporeans that tuition is for the academically weaker ones. In Singapore, tuition is not an optional item on the menu, it's a must, if you can afford it. I've been attending tuition since Primary 2, and I can't say I hate it, because I NEED it. Once in secondary school, you learn everything by yourself(at least, that's for the elite schools). If you can afford the top tuition chains, then tuition is where you really do your learning, while you attend school solely because its compulsory. There are lots of students who simply sleep in schools and attend tuition classes, yet their results turn out pretty fine. School is redundant. Anyway, many teachers fight for a spot in top schools, simply teach for a few years, then leave and set up their own centers. And you can't blame them.

Immersion programs are even held in some centers. It's not our education system that's brilliant, it's the quality our tuition provides that's brilliant.

There are so many hidden flaws of our education system, but the achievements of our top scholars, including those PRs who had their primary education in foreign countries, are papering over the cracks. If you can afford international schools, let your child enroll in it. Get them out of the rat race and endless focus on academics early, it'll be the best decision you'll ever make as a parent. I wish mine did.

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


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