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Far East Sets The Standard Of Education But Leaves A Gap

Opinion / May 16, 2015

The clamour to get children into the idea school will be a given for the foreseeable future. The dilemma faced by parents who want to give their child the very best start is tortuous, and the changes in the educational market serve to confuse and concern. But all is not well in utopia either.

We have reported several times on the sliding position of the UK in the OECD educational league tables. Once heralded as the benchmark to aspire to, our performance has failed to match overseas countries and presented a lamentable example of how to screw things up. We have slithered down to positions in the mid twenties in the key subject areas receiving criticism from all quarters. Yet we have failed to materially change our approach, or engendered a modern and urgent thrust to correct the situation. We all know of the problem but as damned if we know what to do about.

The shinning example of Utopia apparently shines in the Far East. Exam results, teacher qualifications teaching standards and parental influence have succeeded in achieving a place in the top five positions in the OECD measures. But therein lies a dark secret. The relentless focus on schooling by teacher’s, schools and parents has resulted in a highly pressurised environment. Swatting schools, cramming colleges and the local Starbucks are full of school kids and college students focussing on one thing in life – to pass exams. And they do. Except now the government in Singapore, one of the centres of worldwide educational excellence is deeply concerned.

The sole focus on passing exams is not preparing students to think outside the box. There is a dearth of creative skills needed in commercial, engineering and design. Singapore has to look overseas to recruit the design, R&D and entrepreneurial skills it needs for the future.

The economy is heavily reliant on migrant workers and if this trend is mot reversed the future growth in the fortunes of Singapore could be limited. No mean task as to change the schooling culture requires a visionary approach followed by the commitment of the residents of the island. This may have been possible under the governance of the late Lee Yuan Yew but ironically his doctrine may have inadvertently limited the scope of school leavers. The pinnacle of what the government are trying to inspire is the production of more Lee Yuan Yew’s and Sir Stamford Raffles.

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