Hello friends, In continuation of the education series, I’d like to analyze the education system in Singapore in this article.
A country, which is always viewed at the top, whenever we talk about education level in Singapore. Because in this article, I’d not only compare the education system in Singapore with the system in India but also with the system of Germany.
Come, let us see
20% of what the Singaporean government spends on various things. 20% of government expenditure is spent only on education. The direct impact of this is visible in a lot of things. The first is the school infrastructure- the kind of schools that have been built and the facilities that are present. Another is the student-teacher ratio. The student-teacher ratio in India is around 25 to 30 that is, for every 25-30 students, there is 1 teacher. In some states, like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, this figure crosses 60 In Singapore, the same ratio lies between 10-15. The impact of this is also perceptible on the students’ capabilities.
For example, PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings. PISA test is primarily a test that is conducted for students in different countries across the world. IT judges them on subjects like Maths, Science, and Reading to gauge the performance of the students, and then later, rankings are calculated. To discover that the students of which country are the best in these subjects and are the most intelligent and most knowledgeable, Singapore is almost always seen at the top in the PISA test rankings almost every year. It is noticed on the Number 1 or the Number 2 rank.
Talking about India, India last trialed this test in 2009, and India’s rank was second last out of 73 countries in 2009 which tells us how good Indian students are in Maths and Science. However, there was a lot of controversy in this test. And ever since, India did not take part in this test in 2012 and 2015. But despite all this, Singapore’s education is similar to Indian education in some aspects.
Do not these lines sound familiar? You must have heard these in your homes that if you do not study then you might grow up to become a sweeper. So the culture around education in Singapore is greatly alike to the Indian culture. There is a lot of pressure from the parents their too. Tuitions are extremely common. A newspaper conducted a poll in 2008 which found that 97% of the students studying in Singapore attend tuitions of some of the other kind. Accompanying this, it is extremely common for the schools to give tremendous amounts of homework unlike many European countries like Germany, Finland. A lot of homework/schoolwork is not given in these countries. The students are not forced to this extent. In Singapore, marks are given a lot of value as well- just like in India. One interesting fact is that Singapore has a compulsory education. Every Singaporean citizen born after 1st January 1996 has to mandatorily attend school and if he does not do so, then it would be a criminal offense for his parents.
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Talking about the Singapore school system, then class 1 to class 6 is a primary school. At the end of class 6, the students have to appear for a Primary School Leaving Exam, that is, PSLE. On the basis of the results of this exam, the students are split into three streams from class 7- Express Stream, Normal Academic Stream, and Normal Technical Stream. Express Stream is the stream of the highest level. The students that perform fine in the PSLE would be assigned the Express stream. The others would get Normal Academic and the ones that did not perform well would be allowed the Normal Technical. If you recall, this is very similar to the German Education system. After the fourth class, the students in Germany get the choice of going to three schools. One of them is Realschule, another is Gymnasium, and then there’s Hauptschule. Keeping in mind the student’s ability, they are suggested that they should choose one of the three schools. Just like in Germany, if a student secures good grades in the normal stream, during secondary school, then they can upgrade to the Express Stream. At the end of the 10th class that is high school, the students of Express Stream appear in an O level exam after which they are promoted to 11th and 12th (which is called the junior college) and then later, they can attend the universities. Even so, the students of the Normal Stream cannot do this. At the end of the 10th class, they appear for an N level exam. After they appear for the N level exam then it becomes next to impossible to attend universities. They can attend a polytechnic or an art institution afterward or they can attend the Institute of Technical Education which is essentially a vocational training institute for vocational education.
A question might come in your mind that why are the students divided into separate streams in class 6th itself in the Singaporean and German education system?
What is the purpose behind this?
Singapore introduced this system in the 1980s. There was a problem of high dropout rates in schools. The students were dropping out of schools because they found education quite hard. They were unable to keep pace with the studies. After that, the government launched a system under which, if you are good in studies then you can opt for the express stream and the studies would remain as difficult and as challenging and if you are not so good in studies then you can opt for the lower normal streams and you would be taught according to your level there. The basic reason is that every student has a different learning speed and has different needs. But the introduction of this new system led to the creation of a new type of problem. If you split the students at such a young age into different streams then this affects their mindset. The normal level students might experience like they might never match the level of the Express level students “they are the students of the “upper class” and we are not as good in studies”. They begin to view themselves as that of a lower level in away. This is a very critical problem that cropped up in the Singaporean education pathway after the introduction of these streams.
This is the reason why the government of Singapore took the decision that 2024 onward, the whole system will be revamped. The system of streaming will be completely done away with and in place of that, they will introduce Subject Based Banding. That is, rather segregating students in different classrooms and giving them normal or express tags, they would give to the students themselves the option of choosing higher levels in the subjects that they are good at and of choosing lower levels in the subjects that they are not good at. This would lead to the students studying jointly. So this would never again be called normal or express, it would now be called G1, G2, G3. If you select for G3, then it would be the highest level in that category and G1 would be the lowest level. What happens because of this is that if a student is good in Maths then he can opt for a higher level in it. If another student is good in English then he can select for a higher level in it. But these two students can study the rest of the subjects together, So this will reduce divisions and this will also not restrict the mindset of the students.
Another fascinating point of difference is that the textbook publishing department in Singapore is privatized that is, the textbook of the students can be made and sold by different publishers and a wide variety of books from across the world can be used in the schools of Singapore. So, in a way, the students have the freedom to pick their books and look at different opinions from different books. This is a huge contrast from India, where the Indian government is planning to make NCERT books compulsory in CBSE schools so that other books cannot be used. In my opinion, this is a terrible decision of the government if the government actually does this because this affects the creativity of the students and the international books from abroad- the kind of knowledge level and the different perspectives they bring will not be accessible to the Indian students. Their knowledge would be restricted to what is written in the NCERT books. In fact, the state governments of Gujarat and Orissa have already said that schools should use only NCERT books. Another unique and interesting aspect of the Singaporean system is that after completing 12th class, every Singaporean male citizen when they turn 18, have to do a compulsory military duty for two years. This is called National service in Singapore that is, discharge duties in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defence Forces, or Singapore Armed Forces for at least two years. The people there believe that this enhances discipline and this is essential for the national security of Singapore because it is a small country. If there ever arises a demand for a fight, then the citizens would have to rise up to the occasion for national security.
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Therefore, it has been made compulsory here. But the disadvantage of this is that two years of serving military duty there is a gap of two years before they can go to the university. So, in comparison with the rest of the students internationally, the students of Singapore trail behind by two years in matters of studies and in matters of joining the university. But despite this, a study conducted in 2013 relayed that 98% of the people in Singapore are in favor of this national service and they support it openly. Still, it is not the sole country with compulsory military service. The same happens in Switzerland too. And when a survey was supervised and people were asked in Switzerland too, and a referendum was conducted to inquire as to how many people want this compulsory military service. Then, even there, 73% of the people supported it that they wanted compulsory military service for every citizen. But obviously, there are exemptions. This does not apply to you if you are disabled. The rest of the downsides of the Singaporean system is that rote learning is focussed upon here as well. There is a lot of pressure to become successful and as I’ve already told you, tuitions are very common. Just like in India, there was a negative impression of vocational training at one point in time. This was around the 1960s when jobs like electricians and carpentry were looked down upon that the people who do these jobs belong to the lower section of the society. They were not given as much respect. But this gradually changed over the course of a few decades. And today, the same respect is given to these jobs.
In fact, 65% of students who graduate after class 12 do not join a university in Singapore. They undergo vocational training of some kind or the other. In my opinion, it is essential to bring this change in India as well. Because of the speed with which unemployment is growing, there aren’t enough jobs to employ everyone. Hence it is extremely essential to increase the variety of jobs. Every type of job should be given as much appreciation and viewed at the same standard so that the people do not harbor a negative perception for some jobs. On the whole, the fact remains that Singapore has been constantly learning from its mistakes rectifying them and has been changing its system constantly. It gives a substantial portion of its budget to education due to which a healthy student-teacher ratio is maintained. The infrastructure is outstanding and the students have the freedom to choose their own books. National service and vocational education are important to service areas.
So this was a concise summary of the educational pathways in Singapore. Write down in the comments and tell us which country’s education system’s analysis would you like to see next. If you like my work then you can support me at https://www.agrieduco.com/.