The educational climate in Singapore can be best understood by contrasting it with another country where population size is comparable. Finland, although a larger geographic area, has a similar population size to Singapore. One similarity between the two which stands out is that both educational systems are well regarded internationally and considered successful.
Singapore vs Finland – Differences
The two methods and systems of education in the two countries are actually very different.
Singapore children begin learning from age 3 onward while Finnish children do not start learning until age 7.
In Finland, formal testing does not happen for the initial six years of education, while in Singapore, it happens as soon as children go to school and there is a lot of pressure to do well on tests as they will decide where students go to school at 12 as well as which academic levels and subjects are taken.
In Finland, the first and only mandatory standard test occurs at 16.
Finland believes all children should be educated in the same way, a concept they conclude is one of fairness and equality because it is against the law to put students of different academic levels and capabilities into varied teaching levels. All students are taught each year in the duplicate subject material and level regardless of abilities.
All teachers in Finland must possess a Master’s degree or higher.
In Singapore the teaching method is very ‘scripted’, subject matter is taught in the same way at identical levels. There is a great use of tests and diagrams, as well as a focus on the most practical aspects of schooling – learning the curriculum and preparing for the end of semester exams. The exams are said to always be very pressured and ‘high stakes’ because they can decide so much about what a student will learn next, or if they are allowed to continue.
Unlike Western classrooms, there is little discussion and most of the focus is on knowledge the material rather than what might have been learned before or learned before and forgotten. Drills and quizzes happen every day. In Singapore, knowing the right answer takes precedence over comprehension during exam time. This process of education is sometimes referred to as an instructional regime as students are fitted into the criteria for advancement rather than the criteria being flexible to the student. Like a well-oiled machine, there is no doubt that this system works for Singaporeans.
Although more oriented toward ‘free thinking’ and ‘play’ the educational system of Finland seems to work equally well when compared to international test scoring results. The more laid-back approach may encourage a relaxed mind, which in turn could be said to prove effective at developing students who have greater comprehension. What would be a drawback in the Singapore educational system, finding a solution that may not be ‘the’ solution, has been made an asset by the Finland approach to inclusive teaching.
The Overall Educational Climate of Singapore
Tuition in Singapore is considered a very stressful and serious business. It is the belief of the governmental agencies of Singapore that to keep up with technology students need to learn exact facts and memorization are utilized much more than problem-solving skills. The drawback to this is that students miss out on important traits when dealing with the global market. Although Singapore gets good test results, if future leaders of Singapore are only looking for one right answer, they may miss the sort of innovations which really modernize and energize a society.