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Something is brewing in the world of education in Singapore. There seems to be some soul-searching within the Establishment about the way we approach education.$CUT$
Just last week, DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in a moment of candour, 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”.
This week, The Straits Times published a series of op-eds that questioned the basic premise of our vaunted education system.
The first, headlined Change the way students are assessed, was written by former PAP MP R Sinnakaruppan who also chairs the Singapore Education Academy. Mr Sinnakaruppan said that
the focus should be on the holistic development of children. And for that to happen, there needs to be a radical change in the way students are assessed across all levels, to allow for greater weightage of all-round development and practical skills, with correspondingly less emphasis on exams.
The second piece was penned by the newspaper’s Senior Education Correspondent, Sandra Davie, who broached the subject of the PSLE by citing educationist Professor Mark Bray’s view that “high-stakes” exams such as the PSLE fuel parents’ fears and push them to enrol their children for private tuition.
Another Straits Times editor lamented how difficult it was to resist sending her child for tuition. She ended her piece by asking, rather darkly: “And how and when did tuition become such a necessary evil in Singapore?”
All these questions were raised by the SDP many years ago. In 1994, Dr Chee Soon Juan highlighted in his book Dare To Change the “areas of deficiency of Singapore’s educational system and challenges the reader and the Government to think deeper about how Singapore can better educate its children and youth. ”
The SDP then published a comprehensive set of proposals to reform and modernise our education system in 2014. These include (but are not limited to) the scrapping of the PSLE, the reduction of subject content, and the doing away of school- and class-ranking.
Read our education policy Educating for Creativity and Equality: An Agenda for Transformation here.
Now it seems that the rest of society is beginning to come around to the SDP’s views on education.
To be certain, reform of our educational system is inevitable. The question is how long more is the willful PAP going to resist the change.
In the meantime, how much damage will the anachronistic system do to our competitiveness in a world whose future is increasingly dependent on creative thinking and innovation?
The SDP strives to look ahead and watch out for Singapore. We will continue to provide the vision and political leadership that is lacking in this country.