In continuation of the education series, I’d like to analyze the education system of Singapore in this article.
A country, which is always viewed at the top, whenever we talk about education.
Before we start this article, I’d like to suggest you to read our other analytical articles.
because in this article, I’d not only compare the 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 the government expenditure is spent only on education.
The direct effect 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 in between 10-15.
The effect of this is also perceptible on the students’ capabilities. For example, PISA
that is Programmed for International Student Assessment rankings
PISA test is basically a test that is conducted for students in different countries across the world.
IT judges them on subjects like Math’s, Science and Reading
to gauge the performance of the students and then later, rankings are calculated
to find out 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 seen on the Number 1 or the Number 2 rank.
Talking about India, India last attempted 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 Math’s and Science.
But there was a lot of controversy in this test
And ever since, India did not participate in this test in 2012 and 2015.
But despite all this,
Singapore education is similar to the Indian education in some aspects.
Do not these dialogues 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 similar to the Indian culture.
There is a lot of pressure from the parents there as well.
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 or the other kind.
Along with 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 is not given in these countries.
The students are not pressurized to this extent.
In Singapore, marks are given a lot of importance as well- just like in India.
One interesting fact is that Singapore has compulsory education.
Every Singaporean citizen born after 1st January, 1996 has to compulsorily attend school
and if he does not do so, then it would be a criminal offence for his parents.
Talking about the actual system, then class 1 to class 6 is 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 divided 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 well 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 assigned the Normal Technical.
If you remember, this is very similar to the German Education system.
After the fourth class, the students in Germany get the option 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 the secondary school, then they can upgrade to the Express Stream
At the end of 10th class, 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.
But the students of the Normal Stream cannot do this.
At the end of 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 after this
or they can attend the Institute of Technical Education.
which is basically a vocational training institute for vocational education.
A question might arise 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 difficult.
They were unable to keep up with the studies.
After that, the government introduced 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 problems.
If you divide the students at such a young age into different streams
then this affects their mindset.
The normal level students might feel like they might never match the level of the Express level students
“they are the students of “upper class” and we are not as good in studies”.
They begin to view themselves as that of a lower level in a way.
This is a very critical problem that cropped up in the Singaporean education system
after the introduction of these streams.
This is the reason why the government of Singapore took the decision that 2024 onward,
the entire 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, instead of 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 together.
So this would no longer be called normal or express, it would now be called G1, G2, G3
If you opt 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 Math’s then he can opt for a higher level in it
if another student is good in English then he can opt for a higher level in it.
But these two students can study rest of the subjects together
So this will reduce divisions.
and this will also not restrict the mindset of the students
Another interesting 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 choose 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 perspective they bring
will not be accessible to the Indian students.
Their knowledge would be limited 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 about 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 Defense 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 need for a fight, then the citizens would have to rise up to the occasion
for national security.
Therefore, it has been made compulsory here.
But the disadvantage of this is that two years of serving military duty
there is a gap pf two years before they can go to he university.
So, in comparison with the rest of the students internationally,
the students of Singapore lag 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.
However, it is not the sole country with compulsory military service
The same happens in Switzerland too
And when a survey was conducted 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 focused upon here as well.
There is a lot of pressure to become successful
and as I’ve already told you, tuitions are extremely common.
Just like in India, there was a negative perception around vocational training at one point of time
This was around 1960s when jobs like electrician 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 sort or the other
In my opinion, it is essential to bring this change in India as well.
Because 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.
All in all, 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 to which a healthy student teacher ratio is maintained.
The infrastructure is excellent
and the students have the freedom to choose their own books.
National service and vocational education are important service areas.
So this was a concise summary of the Singapore education system.
Write down in the comments and tell us which country’s education system’s analysis would you like to see next