George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the West?

Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the West?

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This might not be the best forum for a discussion of this nature, but I thought that it was far too interesting to not post. In Australia, Singapore's education system is often held up as an example of how Australian schools should be run, notwithstanding the differences between the two countries and educational systems.

This article, from Professor Hogan, discusses this proposition: One of the things Hogan writes is this:

In general, classroom instruction in Singapore is highly-scripted and uniform across all levels and subjects. Teaching is coherent, fit-for-purpose and pragmatic, drawing on a range of pedagogical traditions, both Eastern and Western.

As such, teaching in Singapore primarily focuses on coverage of the curriculum, the transmission of factual and procedural knowledge, and preparing students for end-of-semester and national high stakes examinations.

And because they do, teachers rely heavily on textbooks, worksheets, worked examples and lots of drill and practice. They also strongly emphasise mastery of specific procedures and the ability to represent problems clearly, especially in mathematics. Classroom talk is teacher-dominated and generally avoids extended discussion.

I found this fascinating - because it is so clearly at odds with our accepted understandings of what 'good practice' is here in Australia. So why are schools in countries like Australia looking for other approaches, when it appears that Singapore (and other countries) succeed with quite old-fashioned approaches?

I've got my own thoughts on why that might be the case, but I was curious about other educator's points of view.

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