Education reform does not need evolution, it needs leadership

Singapore Democrats

At the SG50 conference on Friday, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam made a huge admission about our education system. He said “that spirit of individuality, that free play of the mind, isn’t best developed in [our] system that is highly competitive and focused on tests”.$CUT$

It has taken the top minds in the PAP more than 20 years to finally catch up with what Dr Chee Soon Juan said in 1994 in his book Dare To Change where he wrote:

[The PAP’s education system] is a one-way road to creating a generation of unintelligent Singaporeans who lack dynamism, creativity, resourcefulness and initiative.     

But even though Mr Tharman belatedly acknowledges that the current education system stifles innovation, he provided no ideas on how we can remedy it except to say that changing course “requires some courage”.

But what does he think his position as DPM is for if not to demonstrate courage to change policies when they are not working?

To be absolutely certain, the PAP’s education policy has proven to be a failure. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have both admitted that without foreigners, we would not be able to attract investments and create jobs in Singapore.

Why is it that after half-a-century of PAP rule have we been unable to create an education system that would equip our people to lead our economy instead of having to rely on foreigners?

Not only does Mr Tharman not provide solutions, he adds that the education system “has to evolve”. No, education reform does not need evolution, it needs leadership – clear and bold leadership.

This is why the SDP published our education paper Educating For Creativity And Equality: An Agenda For Transformation in which we lay out a plan to upgrade and modernise our education system.

The measures below are among some of the ideas to take our education system to a new level and prepare our students for the challenges they will meet in the 21st century: 

1. Remove PSLE and delay streaming. It is not an intelligent approach to assess the abilities of primary-school students on a single examination. 

2. Cultivate creative minds by helping them develop independent thinking, willingness to make mistakes, and perseverance in the face of failed attempts.

3. Broaden curricula, reduce syllabi and allow students to collaborate and interact to develop their creativity.

4. Reduce class size to 20 pupils per class so that students can be given the necessary individual attention to help them develop academically. 

5. Scrap school and class rankings and emphasise self-improvement and self-actualisation.

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