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Singapore's 21st-Century Teaching Strategies (Education Everywhere Series)

By cultivating strong school leadership, committing to ongoing professional development, and exploring innovative models like its tech-infused Future Schools, Singapore has become one of the top-scoring countries on the PISA tests. For more articles and videos about classrooms around the world, visit our global learning resource page.
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Singapore's 21st-Century Teaching Strategies (Transcript)

Adrian: I think it is important to make school fun. And when school is fun, you don't get kids waking up in the morning and saying, "Do I have to come to school again?" So we embrace technology, because it helps us make learning more engaging. I believe that when kids are engaged, when kids are interested, that's where learning takes place.

Ho: The kids are really from a very different world now. And really to reach out to the kids, you need to be savvy with technology. If you are not savvy with technology, you're going to lose the kids in the school.

Teacher: What you want to do right now is, okay, think of the Socratic questions.

Adrian: Ngee Ann Secondary School is a typical school in Singapore where we take in students with different academic abilities, and we have about 1,512 students in this school. And they all come from the neighborhood. We've got students from the age of 13 to about 16. Many students want to come to this school because of its strong program, especially in the use of IACT, Infocom Technology. And the teachers here are known to produce very good teaching materials, and very innovative teaching ideas to engage the students in the classrooms.

Lee: In the early 1990s, the teachers really are the monopoly on knowledge, and they are the one that comes to the class to deliver that knowledge so that the students can acquire them. But today, knowledge is no more a monopoly among the teachers. Because students can get knowledge from a myriad of sources. And hence, the role of the teacher today is facilitation. That means facilitate students where they could get the right knowledge, how they could synthesize things, how they could discern the information that they get.

Teacher: Velocity defines the rate of change of the sense of time. Is it true or false? So I want you to Tweet me answer. So this is how you Tweet. This is the format that you need to Tweet. So you put in "at" sign, "votebytweet 1.”

Adrian: We look at technology very meaningfully. And we see how can we leverage this technology to make a very significant impact in the classroom instruction. I'll give you an example. In a classroom of 40, it is really impossible to get 40 students to ask 40 questions at one go. When we use the instant messaging tool, we open 40 windows to 40 kids. They could ask 40 questions at the same time, and the teacher could see their thinking on the technology tool that they use. And kids get more excited, because they are using the tools that they are very, very good in using. Not just a pen and pencil.

Ben: Okay, so same thing, we will have two students at every terminal. If you have any issues through the terminals, raise your hand, and I'll come to you. Okay? All right. Let's go.

Ben: What the students are doing, they are currently exploring this Second Life Art Gallery, which the school has set up. And the works that are shown in this gallery is actually made up of local works. They have been done by local artists. Of course, of all the online platform is very, very useful because it's something that really engages the students. They will be chatter [inaudible] on there about the works using the elements, principles of design. As well as reading other students comments as well. If they want, too, they can actually leave notes for other students to read.

Student: [speaking foreign language]

Adrian: We're [inaudible] with Wiki, with your Facebook, your blogs, you find that it's a very participatory culture. It calls for a lot of collaboration. They no longer become just a consumer of knowledge. They actually produce knowledge.

Patricia: What is one of the things that you have discovered so far?

Student: The electron has a tendency to lose their actions.

Patricia: I find that students themselves are often on Facebook, so instead of looking at Facebook as a distraction, I would rather use it to engage them. So even like when they're stuck with a certain question, they post up the question to the class, and you see responses, and they are learning from each other, which I think it's better, because there's more interest and motivation for them to learn, rather than, "Okay, I'll tell you to do this. And I'll tell you to do that.”

Adrian: I would say that the teachers in this school, myself included, we scan the globe for best practices.

Teacher: Now, all that you are [inaudible], you will use the [inaudible]. Okay? Using that hook-up, I want you to see some of the things that will help you.

Deepa: We are in the process of watching a model lesson that's being run by my colleague here. And her process of us watching the lesson is to gain some kind of points from her lesson, and also to provide our feedback. We discuss it to come up with a better lesson. Because definitely learning grows with sharing and communication, and there's definitely in school for improvement for any lesson.

Teacher: All right, first of all, I understand that the purpose of this Skype session, we want to confirm the suitability of the pretest. Is this the common agenda that we have?

Teacher: Yes, a common agenda, yeah.

Teacher: Yeah, that's right, yeah.

Teacher: Okay.

Teacher: It might be we can think about it is if we give it to the children as is, some of them might actually come up with the idea of the steepness of the slide.

Muneira: There's always something new to learn. You're never at a standstill. You're always moving ahead, pushing boundaries, trying to discover new things, new ways of teaching. So it's exciting, because even if the pedagogy is sound, there's always a technology that's always challenging us. And we always have to find new ways to connect with the kids. And to challenge them.

Adrian: So I think we do look at how the world has changed. And teaching cannot stay stagnant. So the teachers recognize the fact that they cannot teach the same way that they are taught ten/twenty years ago. That they have to be very adaptive in their matters. And when they do that well, they know they're going to engage the kids. And when you engage the kids, that is where real learning takes place.

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  • Producer / Director: Stephen Brown
  • Director of Photography: Robbie Stauder
  • Second Camera / Audio: Joseph Rivera
  • Editor: Matthew Beighley
  • Consulting Producer: Miyako Ikeda
  • Video Programming Producer: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: Zachary Fink

Produced in partnership with the Pearson Foundation.

Education Everywhere Video Series

This series takes a look at high-achieving education systems and model schools around the world to see what makes them successful. This series is a co-production with the Pearson Foundation; visit their "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education" page for more information.

Singapore Fast Facts

  • When Singapore gained its independence in 1965, most of its population of two million people were unskilled and illiterate.
  • The government invested in education, and by the early 1970s, all children had access to lower secondary education.
  • In 2009, the first year Singapore participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, its students placed near the top for all tested subjects: fifth for reading, second for mathematics, and fourth for science. See all 2009 PISA scores.
  • Teaching is a highly respected and well-compensated profession in Singapore. All teachers are trained at the country's National Institute of Education (NIE).
  • All new teachers are paired with experienced teachers for mentoring, and peer feedback is built into the schedule.
  • Teachers are entitled to 100 low or no-cost hours of professional development each year.
  • There are approximately 522,000 students attending about 350 schools in Singapore's education system.
  • Class sizes are large, especially at the secondary level, averaging 36 students per class.

Watch more videos in the Education Everywhere series:

Or visit our global learning resource page for more resources.

Source: Singapore: Rapid Improvement Followed by Strong Performance PDF report by the OECD, from the Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Singapore page by the Pearson Foundation.

Comments (12)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

John Stallcup's picture
John Stallcup

In Singapore sixth grade students are working on solving math problems that 95% of US students don't attempt until the 8th grade at the earliest. There are 40 students per classroom, the parents speak three different languages at home, the textbooks, teachers guides and related are all printed in English and are paperback, their supplemental math program is which was developed in India. A well thought out, well executed very effective process.

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