Global

Opportunity, Collaboration & Discovery

Singapore: Five Surprises in Education

CJ Westerberg, October 14, 2011 7:29 PM

Singapore.One.jpg

Photo provided by Bill Jackson

The Daily Riff EXCLUSIVE

Editor's Note:  Singapore is notable for their outstanding Math scores (here and  here) internationally.   Yet the lessons and Singaporean practices learned and shared by American Math teacher Bill Jackson during this past week's trip to Singapore, not only surprises(!) but also may seem extremely counter-intuitive to what we Americans may think about the seemingly more "Math-centric" cultures -- that produce this achievement.  Not the sweat-shop robotrons we often encounter in stereotypical depictions, we find concepts such as constructivism and emotional learning of high value.  If the name sounds familiar, Jackson is Scarsdale NY Math Helping teacher and author of the exclusive series featured in The Daily Riff, "Singapore Math Demystified!" ,   along with his "Journal to Japan: What American teachers can learn from Japan".  - C.J. Westerberg


Differentiated Instruction? Constructivist Approach? 
Social-Emotional Learning?  In Singapore?

The Five Key Features at Singapore Chinese Girls' School
Day 1

by Bill Jackson
Singapore
 
Yesterday I arrived in Singapore for the 2010 Singapore Mathematics Global Forum sponsored by Marshall Cavendish, the publisher of Singapore's Primary Mathematics textbooks.  The forum brings together educators from around the world who are using Singapore's world-class math program to learn more about mathematics teaching and learning, exchange ideas, and discuss the challenges we face in improving mathematics instruction in our respective countries. (Ed. Note: To learn more about Singapore Math, please see Jackson's series of posts, "Singapore Math Demystified".)

The flight was long - with the time change I arrived two days later- and in spite of severe jet lag today my Scarsdale colleague Nancy Pavia and I are going to the Singapore Chinese Girls' School - one of the top schools in the nation - to tour the school and participate in their Teachers' Day celebration. Tomorrow is National Teachers' Day in Singapore and all the schools will be closed. So today, all Singaporean schools are honoring their teachers in special ways.

The Singapore Chinese Girls' School

The Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) was founded 111 years ago by Singapore-born Chinese businessmen to educate Chinese girls because only Chinese boys were able to attend school at that time. Today, about 2400 girls attend the school in the primary (grades 1-6) and secondary (grades 7-10) levels. (After secondary school Singaporean students attend Junior College and then either university or trade school.) Although begun for Chinese girls, the school now serves girls from many ethnic backgrounds, principally Chinese, Malay, and Indian.

The SCGS consistently scores among the top schools in Singapore on the PSLE and O-Level exams - extremely high stakes tests that students take at the end of grades 6 and 10 respectively. The school seeks to develop both academic competency and character. Education at SGCS has five key features:

1)    Infusion of character development and social-emotional learning into academic subjects
2)    Teaching for enduring understanding using the Understanding by Design framework
3)    Meaningful real-world application to contemporary issues
4)    A constructivist approach to inquiry, knowledge creation and problem-solving
5)    And differentiated instruction that takes into account students' interests, readiness and learning styles.

We were given a tour of the school by secondary mathematics teacher Mrs. Rosemary Song who kindly showed us the grounds, brought us into classrooms to observe instruction, and explained many things to us about schooling and teachers' professional lives in Singapore.

Perhaps the first impression one gets upon seeing the school is the beautiful and colorful open-air, well-equipped and maintained buildings and gardens, the happy and vibrant students, and the colorful displays of students' work and art everywhere. The SCGS is a government (public) school at the primary level and an "independent" school at the secondary level.

Independent schools in Singapore function very much like charter schools do in the U.S. and are funded by a mix of government monies, per-pupil tuition (250 Singapore dollars per month), and private donations. Students must apply to the school and priority is given to girls whose siblings or parents attended the school, and girls from the surrounding neighborhoods. Most students come from high-income households. Class sizes are large, between 30 and 38 students per class, usually leaning toward the high end.

Since I will be talking more about mathematics instruction and learning in later posts, I will focus on one interesting aspect of Singaporean schooling that we learned about - teachers' professional lives. . .

Published The Daily Riff September 2010


For more on Jackson's Travel Journal to Japan:
Day 1 & 2: Link - "What American Teachers Can Learn From Japan"
Day 3 & 4: Link Here - "A More Global Perspective On Teacher Assessment and Development"
Day 5:  Link Here - Developing Creative Talents, Not Just Academic Skills
Day 6: Link Here - "Less Is More"
Day 7 & 8 - Part 1: Link Here - "Teaching For Students. Sounds Obvious. Not."
Day 7 & 8 - Part 2: Link Here - "Teachers Walking The Talk"
  • Barbara Laman

    When I was in Indonesia I also noted that teachers gather to work in a communal space. They talked about changing that ( to work in their classroom) because the students did not feel comfortable approaching the communal space.

    I approve of the track system that Singapore teachers follow to move up in their profession. I wish we had something similar here because it seems much more rigorous. It may account for the professional treatment that teachers receive there.

blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook

Colbert2.jpg

Stephen does Common Core Math

SMW, 06.30.2014

Video in case you missed it - Math!

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

RAP.jpg

There is No Education Without the Arts

SMW, 06.29.2014

"We're not talking about making sure that everybody has private music lessons,"

Read Post | Comments
mysteryteacher.jpg

College Professors Read Their Student Reviews

SMW, 06.29.2014

 Quick Video Below Gotta love the college profs for sharing -...

Read Post | Comments
scoreboard.learning.jpg

Is Learning a Sport?

CJ Westerberg, 06.25.2014

Maybe . . . Why Kids Care More About Achievement than Helping Others

Read Post | Comments
SparksBetweenWorlds.jpg

Disrupt or be disrupted: the original article + the response

SMW, 06.16.2014

"His job appears to be to convince a generation of people who want to do good and do well to learn, instead, remorselessness. Forget rules, obligations, your conscience, loyalty, a sense of the commonweal. " - Jill Lepore

Read Post | Comments
cats-and-dogs.jpg

Parenting Cats and Dogs

SMW, 06.16.2014

Adolescents, on the other hand, respond more like cats - aloof, unpredictable, hard to locate, not always coming when they are called, rubbing up against you or jumping into your lap on their terms.

Read Post | Comments
university.college.students.study.jpg

Ivory Tower: The Movie

SMW, 06.11.2014

A documentary about higher education that "questions its cost and value" . . .

Read Post | Comments
74.2png.png

# of School Shootings Since Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012

SMW, 06.10.2014

The New Normal?  Unless . . . Today, another school shooting.  This time in Oregon.  One student dead.  One teacher injured."All told, there has been nearly one shooting per week in the year and a half since Newtown."...

Read Post | Comments
JohnGreen_LargeWide.jpg

Author John Green: Teenagers Think the Big Questions in Life Matter

SMW, 06.02.2014

Why Do We Give Them Short-Shrift? The Teen Whisperer: How the author of "The Fault in Our Stars" built an ardent army of fans

Read Post | Comments