Posted in Teacher's Tips and Resources

Singapore is moving away from rote learning

Singapore is well known for its world-class education system. The rigorous system builds strong numeracy and literacy fundamentals in students. According to OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Singaporean students are approximately three years ahead of their American peers in mathematics.

Singapore’s education system is largely characterised by rote learning, memorisation and drilling. The teacher-led curriculum mainly relies on textbooks. With nation-wide examinations in Primary 6 and Secondary 4, parents usually play an active role in monitoring their child’s performance. These two high-stakes examinations determine the next step of the child’s education pathway.  Excellent education and academic performance can help the child secure a much brighter future.

To an island-nation like Singapore, people are its key assets. Education Minister Ong Ye Kung intends to recalibrate the balance between academic rigour and a love of learning.

For instance, science classes used to involve a teacher sharing facts about the sun and the solar system. While the teacher talks, pupils will conscientiously take notes in their textbook or fill up worksheets with the answers. Now, teaching and learning styles have modernized. The teacher could be playing a video showing space exploration, animations about the sun and the solar system. Students could drive their own learning and share their discoveries with their classmates too.

Teaching and learning styles:

Traditional Modern
Passive learning Active learning
Individual learning Group learning
Teacher-centered discussions Student-driven discussions
Teachers play the role of the information giver Teachers play the role of facilitator or mediator
Sit and listen to whatever the teacher teaches Hands-on learning to aid understanding and application
Memorises facts Asks question and experiment
Paper or pencil driven learning Using multimedia and technological means to boost learning
Focus on the “what” of learning Focus on the “why” and “how” of learning
There is only one right way / answer There are more than one way / answer

Singapore is trying to move away from memorisation, rote learning and drilling of content. With lesser emphasis on the grades, there will be more time for children to experiment, understand and discover the joy of learning.

Summary of changes in Singapore’s education system:

Present Future
For all levels, there will be 4 examinations. In the first quarter of the year: Continuous Assessment 1 (CA1).Mid-year examinations, which is also known as Semestral Assessment 1 (SA1)In the third quarter of the year: Continuous Assessment 2 (CA2).Before year end holidays: Semestral Assessment 2 (SA2). Reduction of assessment load: No more weighted assessments or exams in Primary 1 or 2No more mid-year examinations for Secondary 1No more mid-year examinations for Primary 3, Primary 5 and Secondary 3
Report cards will be given at the end of every quarter, indicating the students’ scores for every subject, form teacher’s feedbacks, attendance, class position and level position Report books will not indicate a student’s class or level position.
Edusave awards for students with good academic performance Awarding and recognising students for their good attitudes towards learning (diligence, curiosity, collaboration and enthusiasm)  

Back in our parents’ times, we would never have expected coding classes for primary school students. Come next year, upper primary students will find themselves exploring coding concepts. As we all know, change is the only constant. Singapore’s education system will continue to evolve, and better nurture the younger generations for the changing future.


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