How has Singapore Improved its Higher Education?

How has Singapore Improved its Higher Education?

Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state lies in Southeast Asia with a population of 5,813,125.

The education system, here at Singapore has been on a roller-coaster ride. Since, Decolonization until now it has gone through loads of changes which, ultimately makes it one of the best places of the world to study at.

Here let’s walk through the extra-ordinary journey of education in Singapore and know, how this massive transform came into being, especially in higher-education.

In 1960s , the Singaporean education system introduced primary and secondary schools, their basic curriculum and Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) a national examination in Singapore taken by all students near the end of their sixth year in primary school before they move on to secondary school. It also had O and A level exams. Then developed an equation of 6-4-2 into the education system, which states that a student have to take six years of primary, four years of secondary and two years of pre-university education. Later, in 90s emphasis was laid on innovation and technology’s use in schools, with the launch of a master-plan for IT in education in 1997.Since, then higher education became the prime focus area for educators, as they saw a technological boom coming forth.

Although, Singapore is an increasingly international country and from secondary school level emphasizes over the importance of students learning English as a common working language but, here bilingual education is mandatory, where students would learn either Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil in order to preserve their cultural heritage. Also, to safeguard students from the struggle to deal with technology directly, they introduce “tracks” at the secondary level, including polytechnic education, technical education, arts degrees, and of course, pre-university education which today primarily consists of the junior college system in there. Moreover, their teaching style is systematic, pragmatic and instructional, based on pedagogical traditions from both East and West. Examinations are key parts of their educational assessment, with professors placing crucial focus on preparing students for exams thoroughly. Curriculum emphasizes understanding and proficiency of specific learning procedures and worked examples to acquaint students with concepts covered in the broadest way. Here, students are pushed to understand what they’re learning and why, so are better equipped to deal with the ‘real-world’ application of class content.

Additionally, Singapore education system has a special Tuition Grant Scheme, to aid students with the costs of tertiary education. It is divided into three-tiers; in Tier –A, eligible Singapore Citizens are automatically awarded a Tuition Grant, which is the highest level of tuition fee subsidy, thus pay the lowest tuition fees, in Tier-B, Singapore Permanent Residents may apply for it. Successful applicants are required to work for a Singapore entity for three years upon graduation. In TIER- C, it has a limited number of Tuition Grants available for international students, and selection is competitive and based on merit, one who qualifies is eligible. It also helps poor students or a member of an ethnic minority, by offering additional funds from the Ministry of Education through the Community Development Council / Citizens Consultative Committee grant, and the Mendaki scholarship granted by Ministry of Education Bursary.

Whilst the importance of traditional institutions of higher education, it also puts emphasis on their collaboration with industry and governments which needs to be much more intense, this is what Singaporean education system believes in. So they equally give space to the freedom for research and curricula to work properly. Well along, they understand the requirement of an industry-ready workforce, to do so, they are working on making students mind adaptive, creative as well as flexible at the same-time, as they will have the cognitive agility to keep up with the fast-paced shifts in work place projects.

Apart from these, Singapore is home to two of the world’s top 20 university: National University of Singapore (NSU) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

At NTU , research is an integral part and many of the faculty, staff and students have emerged among top research leaders in all over Asia and the world in many key areas who are now shaping the early stages of what many policymakers refer to as Industry Revolution 4.0 on a global scale:  AI and machine learning; robotics; 3D printing and advanced additive manufacturing; Internet of things; autonomous systems and mobility; augmented and virtual reality; personalized medicine; cyber security; block chain; renewable energy; and environmental sustainability.

Meanwhile at NSU, first and foremost thing that attracts students is the transparency in admission process. It is also a research-intensive, comprehensive university with an entrepreneurial dimension. Moreover, the exciting life sciences curriculum, global experiential learning opportunities and the possibilities of being able to learn outside the classroom gives a wider exposure to its students. It also offers 12 different foreign languages to add feathers to students learning .Basically, offers a deep and comprehensive learning experience to its students.

However, the approaches proposed and practiced by education system in Singapore clearly depicts how they’re preparing for the future. To excel more it has prepared a report which focuses more on higher education. The reforms were stated by Singapore Minister of Education, Mr. Ong, which are as follows:

  • Experiential learning : He stated that higher education should simulate and prepare students for real life as much as possible. It focuses on upskilling the students through real-life practical learning by bringing companies into campuses and vice-versa.
  • Promote digital literacy: According to Mr. Ong, universities at Singapore are already working on making students well-versed in lingua franca of international commerce – digital literacy. And in Skills Future, an initiative led by the universities, IT and digital literacy-related course are also some of the most popular choices. So they ought to focus more on that.
  • Diversify higher education pathways: The reform emphasizes on the importance of helping students identify and pursue their interest, as it will keep them motivated to learn through life and achieve mastery in the process.
  • Encourage lifelong learning: Through Skills Future the reform promotes life-long learning. Here, it recognizes diverse interests and talents, encouraging a lifelong pursuit of mastery through multiple pathways, embracing an even broader definition of meritocracy based on skills mastery, rather than past academic results
  • Broadening the role of universities: Pointing the growth chart of NUS, Mr. Ong stated that seeing the expansion of NUS and its entitlement of 2 free modules over a 3-year period, a change will be introduced in concept of alumni.

To sum up, we may say Singapore’s approach towards education is helping it stride at a faster pace which includes multi-culture environment, less expensive university fees, scholarships and funding to eligible students, vast and deep approach to the pedagogy, focus on quality education, a mindset on long-term benefits, attention to student specific problem solving skills and subjects and most importantly, its new initiative of not revealing the top scorer points to lessen other students pressure.

Last of all, as American biographer and journalist, and former President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, Walter Isaacson, said: “Innovation will come from people who are able to link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to computer processors.” So is the case with Singapore. And educators who wants to transform the education system of their country  must learn lessons like, coordinated efforts for primary and secondary schooling through higher education are necessary; innovation cannot be limited to one sector, improvements and changes in education must be made with a long-term mindset and must discard, the “talent myth,” which states that some kids are naturally smarter than others, non-existent in Singapore and work on developing each student equally, from the Singaporean Education System.

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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