The Success of the Singapore School Systems


For over a decade Singapore, South Korea Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shangai and Finland have topped international tables measuring the ability of children in maths, reading and science.

This achievement has left the West curious about Singapore. What are the tools that Singapore use for substantiating these differences in comparison to other countries?

The top-performing countries have different teaching methods.What are the identifiable strengths of Singapore’s instruction regime that boost performance levels? What are the constraints and limits?

It the education model in Singapore the right model to follow in order to prepare students for complex demands of the 21st century in the knowledge economies and environments institutions?

Is the teaching system in Singapore possible to transfer to other countries? Is the successful teaching system dependent on specific cultural and institutional features unique to Singapore that cannot be reproduced elsewhere?

Instructional Regime in Singapore

The classroom instruction in Singapore’s teaching institutions is uniform and highly scripted in all subjects and levels. The teaching is in a coherent, pragmatic and purposeful mode drawing on both Western and Eastern pedagogic tradition

  • The teaching sector in Singapore focuses on covering curriculums, transmission of procedural and factual knowledge and preparing the students for examinations at the end of the semester.
  • The teachers rely on worksheets, textbooks, and examples with drill and mathematics drill and practice
  • There is a strong emphasis on mastering procedures and clear representation of problems clearly, in the field of mathematics.
  • Teachers in Singapore limit the use of “high leverage”, effective teaching practices that contemporary western educational research prescribe as critical to developing conceptual learning and understanding.One such example is that the student’s prior achievements are not taken into full consideration.

In addition to that, teachers monitor learning of the students, providing feedback and support by focusing on the answers that are right and not the level of students understanding

The teaching regime is focused on knowledge transmission in the conventional curriculum and performance in examinations. The system is effective and generates outstanding results in international assessments TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)

Teaching logic in Singapore

The education system in Singapore is unique and distinct with a cultural level,  historical and institutional influences.

These factors explain the reasons why the educational systems are effective in the assessment and also the limitation of transferring the system to other countries.

Singapore has over a period developed institutional arrangements that shape instructional regimes that are powerful. A centralised education system has been developed with a coherent and integrated set up that is well funded. It is led by experts and flexible.

The institutional arrangements are characterised by the national curriculum. Singapore is committed to capacity building levels, especially within training and the professional development of educators.

Cultural orientation underwrites reproduces and sanctions instructional regimes.  At a general level, these include a broad sense of commitment to nation building that is narrative to social stratification and meritocratic achievement together with collective values, ethnicity  and social cohesion in economic growth

In addition to that student’s teachers, parents and policy makers share a rigorous instrumental view of education and its value at individual levels.The students are generally compliant the classrooms and are orderly.

The Singapore education system is a unique configuration of historical experience, institutional arrangement and instruction, producing an effective and exceptionally successful system.

The unique model renders the transfer to other countries limited. However, other jurisdictions can learn about possibilities and limits from their own systems  from interrogating the Singapore model of education

The Singapore Ministry of Education is clearly determined to ensure 21st-century demands of institutionalising environments are met and develop the capacity of students to engage in the work of complex knowledge across the subject domains.

In Singapore, the system of ” Teach less Learn more was initiated by the Ministry of Education in 2004.

It encourages teachers to use strategies that are engaging and instructional to make learning more meaningful and interesting for learners. The notion is that assessment and classroom instruction needs to delve beyond spoon feeding students in order to acquire basic knowledge and skills to do well in examinations. Students need to be actively engaged in hands-on activities through authentic tasks  that emphasise a higher order of thinking and an essence os problem-solving in the real world

The notion is that assessment and classroom instruction needs to delve beyond spoon feeding students in order to acquire basic knowledge and skills to do well in examinations. Students need to be actively engaged in hands-on activities through authentic tasks  that emphasise a higher order of thinking and an essence os problem-solving in the real world.