Singapore “Walks the talk”

Singapore

What can Singapore, an island city-state, the smallest nation in southern Asia with population of about 4.5 million people  teach the world about education?
Visits to schools, attending the principal’s conference and listening to the prime minister’s speech revealed to representatives from all over the world that this 700 sq km nation can teach us a great deal about education!

I believe that the key is in leadership; Leadership that has :

  • proactive approach
  • planning for the future (not tomorrow’s future but years to come)
  • vision in tune to the current state of affairs and..
  • leaders who “walk the talk”

In 1965 when Singapore attained independence, the state of education was described as very poor. Nowadays, 44 years later, Singapore is the leader in TIMSS results in Math and Science.

The ICP Principals conference in Singapore this July was attended by education leaders and principals from around the world. (Out of which South Africa had the greatest representation.)
In the conference Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the actions taken by government to improve the state of education. Following are some notes from his speech.
LEE HSIEN LOONG

The government of Singapore in a mission to recover the education system had started with understanding that “outcomes expected from education reform are not ONE mountain peak but a mountain range”.

Initial action was to strengthen the ministry of education by bringing in caliber people – “a generalist is not a specialist”.

Thereafter actions were taken to establish teachers’ careers as a meaningful one. The following actions were taken to do so:

  • Teachers’ salaries was raised by 15% (principals by 1/3)
  • Training teachers would receive salaries
  • Benching teachers’ salaries to the private market
  • Career development to create external paths for promotion by Leadership track, further training qualification opportunities.
  • Performance evaluation. Promotion based on merits
  • Bringing teachers’ unions on board (there are four teachers unions in Singapore)
  • Providing autonomy to schools. Schools are free to innovate in methodology, enrichment activities and resources provided. Schools are provided each with budget.
  • Initially class sizes were not reduced so as not to compromise on quality teachers (only recently has the DOE started looking at reduce class size from 40 to 30)
  • By 2015 the aim is that ALL teachers to be graduated (by enhancing professional development)

The following statement by the prime minister has attracted applause from audience and acquired my admiration to this leader:

“Political leadership role is to shield the education system from politics”

Visiting schools, talking to principals and teachers, meeting with the Singapore teachers’ Union (STU) which is the largest teachers’ union in Singapore was proof that the “talk is being walked”!
Next post I will share the amazing people, sites and actions that we have had the privilege to meet and see.

(Special Thanks to ORT SA and JADE education.)

P1020342 Art dispaly of learners’ work at Huamin Primary school Singapore

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4 Responses

  1. Fantastic!

  2. It is and has always been, education first because it is so hard to come by. So glad you arrived in Singapore and you had a safe journey. Wish we had the opportunity to meet.

  3. Dear No: 4

    Well done on these reflections. We need to send them to the Minister of Ed.
    I could not agree more.
    What an uplifting experience!
    Would love to see your school in action too. Your passion rubs off. Love to all
    Will download my pics today. Apologies that I have taken so long , arrived back from London today.
    Your friend
    Liz

  4. Great to know personally that Singapore’s education system is held in high regard. Hope you had a enriching experience during your stay in the Lion City. From the interactions i had with all of you, or as Jack calls, Tribe, your passion for improvement in education clearly emanates.

    I do hope you will be introduce/adopt or adapt what you may have learnt. It certainly will be idealist to assume that the journey to improvement will be easy. I am sure you will need to adapt your learning to unique systemic & cultural underpinning of your education system.

    One further step education leaders can undertake, to kind of create on the ground changes and improvement, is to have your teachers undertake Work Attachment in Singapore schools.

    Hope to meet again.

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