There’s plenty of misunderstanding and misinformation about Singapore’s approaches to education, and about its drive to improve learning and teaching within a system that has long been regarded as highly successful.
Singapore’s system of education was mentioned in Michael Gove’s ‘interview’ at the London Festival of Education, where he was clearly trying to point to Singapore’s great education success story as an example of ‘traditional’, exams-oriented, rote-learning success. The problem with this is that it’s untrue. As Prof Guy Claxton later tweeted, the Singapore Mr Gove was referring to is the Singapore of 15 years ago. Things have moved on. Such ignorance on the part of a secretary of state for education was inexcusable. Surely he had teams of experts to brief him on these sorts of subjects?
Unfortunately it’s not just Mr Gove who lacks understanding, who needs to sort out his ‘facts’, who scores an F for both accuracy and effort in research. His consistently inaccurate message is distorting the truth for others who are seeking a more enlightened approach to education in this country.
We’ve already blogged about Singapore’s approaches to education, and we’ve advised our readers to visit Singapore’s government website to read for themselves details of Singapore’s policies and practices. Singapore’s strategy is called “Teach Less, Learn More”.
The following is a brief summary. After reading it please have a look at this 7-minute video which also sheds light on this important subject:
Singapore’s 21st-Century Teaching Strategies (Education Everywhere Series)
The video begins, “I think it’s important to make schools fun.”
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.
• 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, teachers, school leaders and beyond.
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.
Read the rest of this piece (posted on 3D Eye on July 21st) here –
This is a world away from Mr Gove’s emphasis on ‘facts’, rote learning, creating a culture of sheep and goats, and a fear of failure.
The main problem that faces Singapore’s policymakers and educationalists is to do with an education system being like an ocean liner – it can take a very long time to change direction, let alone turn it around. The difficulties can increase when many of the crew and the passengers are unhappy or unwilling to go along with the change of direction. Parents and teachers (as well as many students) who have been persuaded that academic performance is paramount and that all else should be sacrificed to ‘driving up standards’ may be highly reluctant to embrace a new philosophy that puts so much emphasis on ‘life skills’, attitudes, creativity and personalisation, as well as personal, social and emotional learning, and indeed the enjoyment or even love of learning for its own sake.
Watch this space.