The education system in Singapore has grown from strength to strength since its independence in 1965. From being a tool to mould a workforce for key industries as a foundling nation, Singapore’s education system today focuses on developing and retaining talents in as many fields as possible. It is with this focus in mind that Singapore aims to be a “Global Schoolhouse”.
The recipe for success lies in the government’s strive to diversify the education system, build its infrastructure and devise a welfare system that ensures meritocracy exists. This is evident in the increasing expenditure on education despite of the economic downturn – S$ 8683 million (2009), S$ 9910 million (2010). Aside from investing in infrastructure, part of the expenditure goes to a fund called Edusave. Under this scheme, every student is allocated a sum of money that can be used for enrichment classes or cultural exchanges abroad. In this way, students are able to broaden their horizons and further themselves gratis.
Additionally, educational options have also expanded over the past few years. For those who are adept in Sports or the Arts, institutions such as Sports School or School of the Arts were established to cultivate talents while schooling these students in the core academic disciplines. In the realm of higher education, the syllabus in junior colleges has been made flexible with the introduction of H1 and H2 (Higher 1 and 2) system. This allows students to choose subjects at a higher or lower level according to their aptitude for the subject. For example, those who want to be engineers might choose to take H2 Mathematics and H2 Physics while taking humanities like history at a H1 level. Such a system ensures the students learn those subjects that are of interest to them in greater detail.
On top of that, the local universities are collaborating with top universities such as Yale and MIT to ensure students are challenged with different perspectives and achieve a wholesome education.
As for the needy students, the government and local community have been working together to help them. The Straits Times, Singapore’s national newspaper, has set up The Straits Time Pocket Money fund in which its fund raising efforts will go towards helping students with school fees, food and other necessities. This is complemented by the government’s input and the most recent budget review has seen S$4.7 million being allocated for this purpose. This means that no child is left behind and the financial aid will even out the playing field.
Such measures have certainly paid off as Singaporean students have done exceptionally well locally and abroad which is confirmed by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 1995 and 2007. Furthermore, the USA has even adopted the “Singapore Math Method” since 1998 in the hopes of emulating similar successes. Such a reputation has attracted thousands of foreign students to Singapore’s schools at all levels – 61 000 (2003), 86 000 (2007), 97 000 (2009) as reported by a local newspaper in March 2009.
Such excellence is also due no less to the competitiveness of Singaporean students. This has led to a boom in the tuition industry in which engage extra help in their subjects such as physics and mathematics would go for physics tuition and mathematics tuition. This is especially prevalent at the junior college level in which their A levels would decide if they are able to get into their desired university and by extension, attain their dream career.
The evolutionary and all-rounded nature of Singapore’s education system to tackle the changing needs of the world and the constant emphasis by the government has allowed Singapore’s reputation to soar by leaps and bounds. This coupled with the drive to improve by engaging extra help, such as physics tuition and mathematics tuition, enables the Lion City to be deemed worthy of being a world class education hub.