A Portrait of Singapore’s Education System

By Sean Cavanagh — September 08, 2009 1 min read
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I know that you’ve read a lot of accounts, in EdWeek’s pages and elsewhere, of Singapore’s prowess in math and science, not to mention vocational education. But this profile of Singapore’s education system in the Miami Herald is definitely worth the time. It’s written by Andres Oppenheimer, best known for his coverage of Latin America. His story is a reminder (for journalists as well as education policy types) of the power of a salient detail.

Singapore’s obsession with education “even shows up on its dollar bills,” the author notes. “While U.S. and Latin American currencies portray images of national independence heroes, Singapore’s 2-dollar bill—the most widely circulated since there is no smaller denomination —shows students in a classroom listening to a professor, with a university in the background. Underneath, there is just one word, ‘Education.’''

Later, the author makes this observation about the heavy pressure in Singapore for students to succeed in education (though whether this feature is something countries should emulate is a matter of opinion): “U.S. expatriates here like to say that while America is a guilt-driven society, Singapore is a shame-driven society: Parents here dread others seeing their children doing poorly in school.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.