PETALING JAYA: Singapore’s students have emerged as the world’s smartest thanks to mathematics and science, subjects that feature prominently in their education model.
In an article in FUU Online, a financial media portal that provides insights on financial market news and business trends, the city-state’s superior education system was credited for Singapore’s 15-year-olds clinching first place in a survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among kids of 76 other countries last year.
FUU Online quoted the Financial Times as saying this was because mathematics and science were given emphasis in Singapore’s education model, and even humanities students were required to study maths and at least one science subject for their A-levels examinations.
The Singapore model began in the 1980s, the portal said, when a group of teachers visited Canada and Japan, among other countries to study different teaching methods.
Influenced as well by Jerome Bruner, an American educational psychologist who wrote the book The Process of Education, the group replaced the old method of memorisation, with problem-solving skills instead.
They also recommended a limited number of subjects that were studied in greater detail at the primary level as opposed to a wide range of subjects with relatively narrow coverage that was more akin to the US practice.
Teachers too began to play a key role in education and the government devised specific career paths for them so they could attain highly specialised skills in their chosen fields.
The three “tracks” for teaching training implemented were: Teaching Track (that allows for the professional development of teachers); Leadership Track (that specialises in administrative jobs with the aim of assuming a leadership position in school); and the Senior Specialist Track (for those who want to develop deep knowledge and skills in a particular subject), FUU Online said.
So productive has this education model been that the UK (taking 20th position in the OECD survey), has decided to emulate Singapore.
“This scheme, which will cost £41mil (RM223.45 million), will initially train 700 teachers in ‘maths mastery.’
“Students will use textbooks such as Inspire Maths and Maths No Problem, which are modelled on similar material used in Singapore,” FUU Online reported.
Singapore however is continually refining its education model, and is now focussing on establishing a more balanced system with greater focus on “all-round development”.
This invariably means students are encouraged to participate in outdoor activities as well, besides being offered subjects that develop their emotional and physical health.
Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s education assessment programme however said Singapore should also focus on developing “curiosity, creativity, and leadership” in its students to complement their academic excellence.