George Lucas Educational Foundation

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.
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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.

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.

Comments (13) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Annette Loubriel's picture
Annette Loubriel

I love the design of the classrooms. I can notice the round tables, no separate desks, lots of display boards.

Jan Seiter's picture

Singapore is essentially a rich city state. To continue to equate or somehow compare their effectiveness to the US is not in any measure useful to the real discussion of needs in the US. The use of Singapore as metaphor/exemplar is just muddying the water.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

I like the idea that Singapore schools highlight, let students become the creators of their own knowledge! This strategy requires a teacher to give up some control by letting the students self direct their learning. Of course this requires some training in metacognitive skills such as reflection and self-regulation. I wonder how much such schools spend teaching these skills?

Annette Loubriel's picture
Annette Loubriel

[quote]I like the idea that Singapore schools highlight, let students become the creators of their own knowledge! This strategy requires a teacher to give up some control by letting the students self direct their learning. Of course this requires some training in metacognitive skills such as reflection and self-regulation. I wonder how much such schools spend teaching these skills?[/quote]
I will tell you what. The jargon that comes with the academic discussion of education matters is sometimes more grandiose than the mere concept they attempt to explain. Metacognition... oooah! It is the awareness a person has of his/her own thinking.
What happens with the Singapore student is that his mental process has not been corrupted by an educational system. Remember that these students don't know anything other than experimenting, exploring, thinking about what they see. Their science and math classess have always been like that since kindergarden. They love school. It is a place they go to play. And through that playing with nature, figures, blocks, problems from everyday life, they happen to learn naturally. In the process, and since kindergarden, they are naturally driven to think about their thinking because it is something they have to do to interact within their group in the process of solving problems. Singapore children are invited to think and analyze from very early grades. I have used Singapore Math and Science with my kids at home. I buy the books, including the diagnostic tests, directly from Singapore. I suggest that if you are serious about learning about the curriculum you should take a look at their DIAGNOSTIC TESTS. You can find these materials at SGBOX.COM. When you see the questions that are given to students from a very early age, you will understand. I heard someone mention something about money. Let me tell you. Singapore books are the simplest most inexpensive books I have ever seen. Singapore today is a result of the education revolution that they performed when they were not being succesful. Now they are succesful country as a result of a results driven and focused education system.

Mario Patiño's picture
Mario Patiño
NBCT, science educator

[quote] The jargon that comes with the academic discussion of education matters is sometimes more grandiose than the mere concept they attempt to explain. Metacognition... oooah! It is the awareness a person has of his/her own thinking.
What happens with the Singapore student is that his mental process has not been corrupted by an educational system. [quote]

Not being professionally trained as a teacher [ changer], I was overwhelmed by the jargon many of my peers used in everyday conversation. Education has its own language but it doesn't take much to understand once you do a little reading and institute the jargon into practice. After learning the jargon, nobody wanted to talk to me anymore. Weird eh? In relation to metacognition, it is more then what you shared in your post Annette. If students are unable to "self regulate [<---jargon]," "self directed learning" is not possible since these are skills that must be taught. I have never been to Singapore, nor have ever had a taste of its education system yet in the discussions I have had with Singapore teachers [@ national conferences], I wondered why they were here if their systems are so solid? When I was a science researcher it was rare to see the countries that perform well on international test attend international technology expositions. Is this a correlation? This brings me to the keynote discussion at ISTE 2012 in which Yong Zhao addressed major ideas related to the success of Singapore, Finland, and China on international assessments. He highlighted that in relation to international assessments, our students don't do to well. They haven't done well "forever;" the American system of education has been "broken" since the 1960's yet it is the American system of education which has produced the most creative and innovative thinkers over several decades." He reviewed data on patent filings and it was clear that for however "bad" our education system is, some things work out that other countries such as Singapore have been unable to accomplish. Sure their students score higher than ours, but where does that go? How are these generations of "smart" students applying their knowledge? This is the evidence I am waiting for. I'll leave you with one image, my younger sister is obtaining a degree in neuro science, most of her class was filled with international students [none from Singapore or Finland, most from China and India]. If our system is so "bad" why do they come to the country with the "worst" education? '

If you want to see Zhao's presentation here it is

lesliekandy's picture
Leslie from St. Anthony's Girls' College Kandy, Sri Lanka 094 713276431

What is your web address?

Jackie Baptist's picture

Ngee Ann School is a Microsoft World Tour School

and Alvin Tan a teacher from this school was recently in Barcelona with 1,200 other teachers receiving 4 days of incredible professional development.

Microsoft in Education Global Forum is a professional development event attended by 1,200 of the most innovative educators and school leaders from over 75 countries around the world.

Learn more:-

for direct information write to

Alexandru Covtun's picture

It looks realy awsome, hope it'll be posible sometimes in our country to! Generaly, all the information provided in this video is true to life, as many students become more and more dependent of their smartphones and tablets, and insted of punishing them we can use their dependence, by introducing new teaching metods that will facilitate learning throug technologues! For the end, as a EFL teacher I'd like to share with the readers of this post a link to a site fore people pasionate of foreign language learning/teaching. It's .

SoonToBeTeacherAshie's picture

Teaching wasn't really a profession i want. But because of many encouragements that i get from my former teachers, i fell in love with teaching. And now i am dreaming and hoping to become a successful teacher and give justice on my teaching. i'm praying that someday god will make a way for an opportunity to be a teacher in Singapore. I just hope this will be granted... And i also hope that my country would focus more on education too, like Singapore.

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