SDP to launch education paper, Ed Minister Heng invited

Singapore Democrats

Our post Why do we do this to our children? has garnered unprecedented attention with more than 1,000 FB shares – and counting. It shows that Singaporeans are deeply concerned about how the education system is turning our children into psychological wrecks and driving them to suicide.$CUT$

To address this and other issues, the SDP is launching our education policy paper Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation on 17 May 2014.

As the title suggests, our policy focuses on developing an education system that fosters creativity and brings about a more equal society. We will be inviting Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and other MOE officials to the launch.

The emphasis on exams and streaming as well as the intense curricula in our school system not only exacts a heavy toll on our children but it also does little to advance our economy.

Singapore has to compete in a changed – and changing – world where a knowledge-based global economy demands creativity and innovation. Is our education system preparing our students for it?

The PAP says all the right things: When he was the education minister, Mr Teo Chee Hean assured us that, “What we have to do now is to go beyond teaching the basic literacy skills and focus on developing our students’ ability to think, assimilate information and knowledge, and apply this knowledge continually on their own.”

The Government even came up with catchy slogans like “Teach Less, Learn More and Thinking Schools, Learning Nation. The MOE tells us that it wants students to “think independently and critically” and “exercise initiative, take calculated risks, are innovative”.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric doesn’t quite match the reality. The World Bank conducted a survey using the Knowledge Economy Index (KEI) to assess countries on how well their economies are adapted to, and prepared for, the knowledge economy. The top three positions, out of 146 countries, are (in order): Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Singapore ranks at only 25th.

And while we rank high on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the three Scandinavian countries are not far behind. In fact, Finland consistently ranks at or near the top of PISA and its education system is the most highly regarded in the world.

The important difference is that Finnish children achieve their standards without being subjected to the nightmarish experiences that our children are put through.

The KEI and PISA rankings indicate that while we drill our students hard in Mathematics and Science, the PAP’s educational policies are not turning out students who are creative and have the ability to build a knowledge economy.

Academic Sudhir Vadaketh cited a financier who relocated to Singapore saying: “Although the [education] system has created many gifted technically capable people, it has done so at the cost of creativity and lateral thinking. I have found it much easier to succeed against ‘smarter’ competition in Singapore than any other country in which I have lived.”

The result is that while Sweden, Finland, and Denmark produce global companies like Ikea, Volvo, Nokia, Bang & Olufsen, Lego, Ericsson, Electrolux, etc, Singapore has little to sell to the world.

In a nutshell, we have an education system that puts an unconscionable amount of pressure on our children while doing little to prepare them for a future dependent on creativity and innovation.

For the sake of our children and the future of our economy, we need a rethink of our education system. The SDP’s policy paper does this and, more importantly, draws up concrete proposals to overcome the problems of the current system and prepare us for what lies ahead.

To find out what these proposals are, join us next Saturday, 17 May 2014, for the public launch of our education policy paper.

Event: Public Launch of “Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation”
Date: 17 May 2014, Saturday
Time: 2-5 pm
Venue: Chinese Success Media, Action Room, #04-41 Bras Basah Complex, 231 Bain Street, Singapore 180231


  1. Susan L. Robertson, ‘Producing’ knowledge economies: The World Bank, the KAM, Education and Development, Centre for Globalisation, Education and Societies, University of Bristol, 2008,

  2. Address by RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education, at the Singapore Computer Society Annual Gala Dinner, 27 February 1999.

  3. Why has Singapore failed to prepare its citizens adequately for the knowledge economy?, Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, 17 May 2013