" . . . explained Tan Kong Yam, an economist. 'We feel every change in the wind or the temperature and have to adapt. You Americans are still living in a brick house with central heating and don't have to be so responsive.' And we have not been."
The Lesson Singapore Can Teach America:
How Do We Adapt to Thrive
I am in the Gan Eng Seng Primary School in a middle-class neighborhood of Singapore, and the principal, A. W. Ai Ling, has me visiting a fifth-grade science class. All the 11-year-old boys and girls are wearing junior white lab coats with their names on them. Outside in the hall, yellow police tape has blocked off a "crime scene" and lying on a floor, bloodied, is a fake body that has been murdered. The class is learning about DNA through the use of fingerprints, and their science teacher has turned the students into little C.S.I. detectives. They have to collect fingerprints from the scene and then break them down.
I missed that DNA lesson when I was in fifth grade. When I asked the principal whether this was part of the national curriculum, she said no. She just had a great science teacher, she said, and was aware that Singapore was making a big push to expand its biotech industries and thought it would be good to push her students in the same direction early. A couple of them checked my fingerprints. I was innocent - but impressed.
This was just an average public school, but the principal had made her own connections between "what world am I living in," "where is my country trying to go in that world" and, therefore, "what should I teach in fifth-grade science."
I don't even remember what I was taught in fifth-grade science. If I was "playing" CSI detective, I might have remembered the body parts that I had to memorize for my seventh grade science class. Plus, don't we imagine every non-Western student chained to a desk
Friedman continues with a lesson he applies to politics, but certainly applies to our education system:
Complacency, entrenched special interests, and fear of change could be America's Achilles'If Singapore has one thing to teach America, it is about taking governing seriously, relentlessly asking: What world are we living in and how do we adapt to thrive. "We're like someone living in a hut without any insulation," explained Tan Kong Yam, an economist. "We feel every change in the wind or the temperature and have to adapt. You Americans are still living in a brick house with central heating and don't have to be so responsive." And we have not been.
heel in education. This is not about competition - this is about relevance. Are we adapting fast enough to what students need to be relevant, and to become a contributor to our new world society?
Friedman continues with defining the Singaporean "appoach" through two "isms": pragmatism vs. the abstract, and eclecticism, the ability to adapt locally to best practices globally.
Interesting read. Continue to article: "Serious in Singapore"
Related posts The Daily Riff:
Am I preparing students for my age or theirs? by C.J. Westerberg
Singapore: Five Surprises in Education by Bill Jackson
Science Education: Missing a Larger Point by Joe Ganem, Ph.D.
Would you Hire Your Own Kids? 7 Skills We Should Be Teaching Them by Tony Wagner