The Development of Education in Singapore Since Independence Associate Professor Goh Chor Boon and Professor S. Gopinathan National Institute of Education Nanyang Technological University Singapore
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Key Questions: • How is Singapore’s educational development to be understood? • What were key challenges & how were these met? • How did policies change over time to meet new needs? • How were economic & social cohesion needs met? • How is Singapore planning for the future? • What experiences in the development of Singapore’s education system are relevant for African countries
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • The challenge & response framework. • Need to understand both the value & limitations of comparative studies & transfer of education policies and strategies between countries. • Importance of realistic assessment of needs, strong political will, obtaining the support of key stakeholders- parents, teachers, employers, community leaders, etc. • Commitment to equal opportunities in education.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Immediate post-war context • Ethnic divisions • High Unemployment • Political Instability • Poor infrastructure (e.g.) Health, Housing, Education. • Singapore between 1945- 1959, had all the features of a ‘failed colony’. The political challenge was to build a viable state that had legitimacy. A merger with Malaya which would create a bigger market was to be the solution.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • The colonial education heritage was one of • Four medium of instruction school system. • Low investment in infrastructure. • Inappropriate curriculum. • Education was poorly linked to emerging economic needs. • Poor teacher training infrastructure.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 Singapore (1965-1978): Building the state ; investing in education. • Failure of merger (1963-1965) led to Singapore’s independence in 1965. Singapore faced enormous challenges- political, economic, social & educational. • Political – to build a Singapore nation in which citizens unite, contribute and have opportunities ‘regardless of race, language or religion’.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Economic- to transit from an entropot economy to an individual one via Export-Orientated Industrialization (EOI). • Social – to strengthen unity between the ethnic groups • Educational – to build an education system appropriate to emerging socio-political needs
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • In order to make the economic transition successful, Singapore needed • A labor force with relevant industrial skills. • A language with which to communicate with investors & to seek export markets. • Political will & skill to deal with social issues.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Survival-driven Education (1965-1978) Key Features: • Equal treatment for all language streams. • Adoption of bilingual education policy (English and the Mother Tongues). • Expansion of access to education.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Survival driven Education (1965-1978) Key Features: • Emphasis on relevance in the curriculum: • Languages, Science & Mathematics. • Moral & Civic Education. • Investment in Vocational & Technical Education: • All Male Lower Secondary Students Had To Offer Technical Subjects. • Upgrading of teacher education via the establishment of the Institute of Education in 1973
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • ‘Textbooks for All’ policy. • Intended both to equalize opportunities and because good instructional materials are key to educational quality. • In 1965 the education budget was distributed as follows: • Primary Education 59% • Secondary Education 27% • Tertiary Education 14%
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Overcoming Systemic Stress: Efficiency Driven Education (1978- 1997). • System had become inefficient with high wastage rates, low levels of literacy & numeracy, increasing gaps between labor market needs and school leaver skills. • In part this was due to more & more students opting for English-Medium education but without home support for language learning. • Singapore’s economy had grown & diversified but the education system was unable to supply the skills needed in the economy.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Responses: • Introduction of Streaming • Beginnings of curriculum differentiation to meet needs of pupils with a wide range of home experiences, support, abilities and aptitudes • Establishment of a Ministry of Science & Technology to spearhead the development of high end technology, science, research & development skills.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Results: • Singapore had created a system of ‘high averages’ with high levels of post-secondary participation in further training and education • 1991: Improving Primary School Education. • 1987 : Towards Excellence in Education. • Lower attrition, more students having vocational technical opportunities and closer education-economy, fit was achieved. • Outstanding results for Science, Mathematics & Language Education (TIMMS../IAEA)
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Responding to Globalization: Building an Ability Driven Education (1997- ) • Globalization, rise of China as a source of cheap labor, advances in automation, increased importance of data & information in economic activity, increased use of information & communication technology, greater importance of innovation and enterprise necessitated economic and educational rethinking. • Cultural globalization was putting pressure on identity formation, civic and moral values.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • Could an efficiency – driven system meet the needs of a post – industrial economy and new socio-cultural needs? • New initiatives in the late 90s • Thinking Schools Learning Nation • IT Master Plan • National Education
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 TSLN to introduce critical and creative thinking, more diversity in curriculum , greater structural diversity (independent & autonomous schools, school cluster scheme) greater resourcing to encourage bottom up innovation, improvements in teacher education and service and working conditions.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 IT Master Plan: to exploit the potential of information and communication technology to give students access to new information sources and make anytime, anywhere learning possible. National Education : designed to better acquaint students with their own history, to strengthen civic commitments, and protect and defend Singapore’s core values
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 Critical Success Factors: Lessons for African Countries • Singapore’s leaders recognised the importance of undoing the colonial legacy of differentiation with more inclusive, equal treatment policies • There was an acceptance of the need to take unpopular decisions eg. retention of English • Key national priorities were identified and resources allocated. Enhanced human capital skills were seen as crucial to the economy leading to appropriate investment in different stages of education.
The Development of Education in Singapore Since 1965 • A pragmatic rather than an ideological approach to policy was adopted: • Early recognition that education system while essential works best when aligned with other sectors like the economy, community support and depoliticisation of education