Every three years, PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) has ranked 15 year old students (and, de facto, their educational systems) internationally, with Singapore usually holding the coveted first place in reading, science, and mathematics. Many countries have studied Singapore’s educational systems to discover why this phenomenon is occurring, and have then modeled their practices after Singapore’s. Some educational scholars have even asserted that the current heavy emphasis on testing in the United States can be attributed to an emulation of Singapore’s system of rigid testing.
Yet, in this article of the World Education Forum entitled Children in Singapore will no longer be ranked by exam results. Here's why, it was reported that Singapore will be dismantling many of its long-standing practices, such as ranking students by exam results, with “primary and secondary school report books will no longer indicating whether a pupil finishes top or bottom of the class, while subject and group averages, overall total marks and minimum and maximum grades are set to disappear. School reports will not show underlined or highlighted failing grades, or record a pass or fail result at the end of year.” In essence, Singapore is seeking to mitigate much of the stress placed on students’ performance scores, and placing emphasis instead on individual development of student learning.
With an eye on the future of both learning and employment, Singapore has decided to refocus on “soft skills for a changing economy.” This reflects “a serious change of direction for Singapore. Alongside academic performance, the new policies aim to foster social development among pupils to raise self awareness and build decision-making skills.”
Singapore’s Educational Ministry has embraced some of the latest research on employment and development. For example, research has indicated that “the skills we need to perform at work are changing - and quickly. The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2018 suggests that employees will see an average shift of 42% in workplace skills between now and 2022.”
Skills such as analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, creativity, originality and initiative, technology design and programming, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, leadership and social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning, problem-solving and ideation, and systems analysis and evaluation will become the currency of the future, replacing the flatter, more easily measured skills of the past.
Singapore has chosen to try a new direction in education, one that focuses on the “softer skills” that will be needed in the future, and is confident that this move is imperative. Will other countries follow their lead?
I have seen a much similar movement in American education, a movement which mirrors the response to a shifting world of work. Here are some of the initiatives that signal this shift:
As Singapore moves to new ways of “doing education,” it is finding that the most skeptical audience to the changes is parents, who are having some difficulty adjusting to school done in a new way.
As America tries new ways of “doing education,” my hope is that we can embrace the changes, and that these changes benefit our students and their futures.
As always, I look forward to your ideas on this topic. Together we grow wiser.
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.