Singapore works hard to succeed

11th July 1997 at 01:00
I refer to your articles on Sing-apore's success at the Third International Maths and Science Study (TES, June 27). I trained and taught in Singapore and am currently teaching in an inner London school.

The fundamental reason for Singapore's success in any field is the fact that Singaporeans are disciplined and ambitious. The long-term planning, policies and targets by the government are possible because of the unique political system in the country, wherein the state plays a paternal role.

Teachers are resigned to accountability which is present in the form of semestral exams, continual formal assessments, league tables and school inspections. Teachers in Singapore are concerned with academic excellence while British teachers are concerned with the holistic development of the child. Singapore teachers work long hours, including Saturdays, but are rewarded with excellent pay and high status.

Class sizes are large but children are streamed from primary 2 (Year 3) and from as early as nine years, are channelled into different educational programmes. Singaporeans are bilingual, and read and write in two languages when they enter primary school. The emphasis is on teaching English, maths, science and a second language. Children are prepared for tests. Expectations in the home are high. Parents support children in their learning - private home tuition is common.

The Singapore government encourages competition. Society pressurises the individual to set and achieve high targets. It is no wonder, then, that Singaporeans do well academically. But is it fair to make the comparison with British children when the education system, the society and culture are so different?

BAVAANR NANTHABALAN Argyle primary school Tonbridge Street London WC1

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