Singapore – “Teach Less, Learn More!”

Recently there’s been a lot of interest in the East Asian countries that have begun to reassess how they approach learning and teaching. Are they really moving away from the old model of hothousing and cramming children for high-stakes timed tests and examinations?

Today we’re putting up some paragraphs we’ve come across on Singapore’s Ministry of Education website.

What is Teach Less, Learn More?

Teach Less, Learn More is about teaching better, to engage our learners and prepare them for life, rather than teaching more, for tests and examinations.

• TLLM aims to touch the hearts and engage the minds of our learners, to prepare them for life. It reaches into the core of education – why we teach, what we teach and how we teach.

• It is about shifting the focus from “quantity” to “quality” in education. “More quality” in terms of classroom interaction, opportunities for expression, the learning of life-long skills and the building of character through innovative and effective teaching approaches and strategies. “Less quantity” in terms of rote-learning, repetitive tests, and following prescribed answers and set formulae.

• Teachers, school leaders and MOE all have important roles to play to make Teach Less, Learn More happen.

It calls on everyone of us to go back to the basics

• Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (TSLN) was adopted as the vision statement for MOE in 1997. It continues to be the over-arching descriptor of the transformation in the education system, comprising changes in all aspects of education. These changes articulate how MOE would strive toward the Desired Outcomes of Education (DOEs).

• Since 2003, we have focused more on one aspect of our DOEs, i.e. nurturing a spirit of Innovation and Enterprise (I&E). This will build up a core set of life skills and attitudes that we want in our students. It promotes the mindsets that we want to see in our students, teacher, school leaders and beyond.

• TLLM builds on the groundwork laid in place by the systemic and structural improvements under TSLN, and the mindset changes encouraged in our schools under I&E. It continues the TSLN journey to improve the quality of interaction between teachers and learners, so that our learners can be more engaged in learning and better achieve the desired outcomes of education.

To Remember Why We Teach

• We should keep in mind that we do what we do in education for the learner, his needs, interests and aspirations, and not simply to cover the content.

• We should encourage our students to learn because they are passionate about learning, and less because they are afraid of failure.

• We should teach to help our students achieve understanding of essential concepts and ideas, and not only to dispense information.

• We should teach more to prepare our students for the test of life and less for a life of tests.

To Reflect on What We Teach

• We should focus more on teaching the whole child, in nurturing him holistically across different domains, and less on teaching our subjects per se.

• We should teach our students the values, attitudes and mindsets that will serve him well in life, and not only how to score good grades in exams.

• We should focus more on the process of learning, to build confidence and capacity in our students, and less on the product.

• We should help the students to ask more searching questions, encourage curiosity and critical thinking, and not only to follow prescribed answers.

To Reconsider How We Teach

• We should encourage more active and engaged learning in our students, and depend less on drill and practice and rote learning.

• We should do more guiding, facilitating and modelling, to motivate students to take ownership of their own learning, and do less telling and teacher talk.

• We should recognise and cater better to our students’ differing interests, readiness and modes of learning, through various differentiated pedagogies, and do less of ‘one-size-fits-all’ instruction.

• We should assess our students more qualitatively, through a wider variety of authentic means, over a period of time to help in their own learning and
growth, and less quantitatively through one-off and summative examinations.

• We should teach more to encourage a spirit of innovation and enterprise in our students, to nurture intellectual curiosity, passion, and courage to try new and untested routes, rather than to follow set formulae and standard answers.

About the TLLM logo
The logo, constructed from the acronym derived from “Teach Less, Learn More”
(TLLM), depicts a happy student with outstretched arms, eagerly embracing
learning. The star-shaped hands remind us of the starfish story. From it, we
learn that we can make a difference to every student, develop him to his fullest
potential, help him make his own future, and reach for the stars.

Reflections of an individual teacher.

“I think TLLM means doing things differently in the way we teach
and relate to our students. There are lots of “softer” stuff we need
to get right. Are my students motivated? Do I know why or why
not? Do I care if they are motivated? Will my HOD and Principal
support me? Can I manage?

As a teacher, I do care about the answers to these questions. This
IS what teaching is all about, and SHOULD be about. So TLLM is
not “new”. It is evergreen, but not everyone is practising it well.
What we need to do is to make sure that the spirit of TLLM spreads
to more schools. The good news is that MOE is going to provide
more support and resources to make TLLM happen!

What caught my attention were things like more time and space for
me as a teacher, and more space in the curriculum for me to do the
right things with my students.

I think this will be the start of an exciting journey that will spark
off many conversations and ideas to bring about TLLM!

It is true that I want my students to do well in their studies, but surely that is not what education is all about. I want them to be confident but respectful, savvy but honest,
creative, independent and tenacious (the list goes on). But more importantly, I want them to be good people– people with heart and who can find meaning and purpose in their lives.

How do we MAKE holistic education happen in schools?

When I attended the briefing on TLLM,
I was glad that we planned to put greater
emphasis on character development and
values education. The Civics and Moral
Education (CME) curriculum will be
redesigned to help students develop personally
and socially, e.g. self-awareness and
relationship management.

Teaching values and developing character is not an easy task.
Sometimes I feel that it is beyond me. I often wonder if I am
delivering the lesson well, and if the students are learning anything.
Admit it – sometimes we just want to “hijack” these periods for
academic work. But our students are quite perceptive. If they know
you are not interested in teaching the class, they will be bored and
won’t take the lessons seriously.

I feel that the best and most natural way to impart values is
through “teachable” moments. This takes a lot of patience
and skill. I realise that building good rapport with my students
is very important. If they know that I care, they will listen.

These questions spring to mind:
a. We all believe that a holistic education is important for our students,
but are we doing enough? What more can be done? What should
we do less of, or even stop doing? How do we ensure that our
students develop holistically?
b. How do we show our students that character development and
values education are important?

Every student is unique. Take my form class for example.
There are the jokers, the rabble-rousers,
the quiet ones, the driven ones. Their
learning styles are so different. Planning
a lesson just for one class is already
very time-consuming.

Thinking of the possibilities is getting me
quite excited. For my form class which
is so diverse, I will have more time to
try different teaching methods that will
help them learn better. For two of my
stronger classes, I can develop some topics
which are of interest to them to stretch
their thinking. I am also thinking of trying
other ways to assess my students, e.g.


Please leave a comment to let us know what you think of what’s happening in Singapore.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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5 Responses to Singapore – “Teach Less, Learn More!”

  1. John Rees says:

    Excellent, thoughtful article – thanks 3Di!


    • 3D Eye says:

      Many thanks, John. There’s been such a lot of speculation about how Singapore has been evolving its system of education – it seemed like a good idea to go directly to their own website!


  2. Corinne says:

    ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ – what a great concept. It really puts the students at the centre and stops their real learning needs becoming secondary to the lesson plan. Thanks so much for sharing this.


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thank you, Corinne. There’s really hope for the world when we can see that in some enlightened places (Finland, Singapore) they really have made a radical shift in their thinking about education and about the real needs of children and young people.
      I hope you’re enjoying your holidays, as well as having some time for reading, writing and blogging!


      • Corinne says:

        Our holidays are over, unfortunately. I’m starting to feel envious of all the UK and US teachers tweeting about their summer breaks!


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