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Let's Ask For
A future-ready education system, for every child
Is our Singapore education system really nurturing every child to their fullest? Are we building their creativity, critical thinking, mental resilience and social-emotional skills, to meet the challenges of their and Singapore’s future? We, as parents, think the answer is ‘sadly, not anymore’.
The recently launched Forward Singapore consultation invites Singaporeans to share about our hopes and dreams for our future generations.
We, as a group of concerned parents, suggest 3 key changes to bring our education system back on track. This is based on our many conversations with other parents, teachers, academics and students. We seek to engage more citizens and gather feedback on these proposals, then share them with our 4G leadership via the Forward Singapore consultation.
Have your voice heard and ask for the change that our children need and deserve.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, student, or concerned citizen, please consider honestly how many of these apply to you, or someone close to you:
Have a child struggling to keep up with all their academic subjects?
Have a child who is no longer interested in school, or has lost their love of learning?
Have a child struggling with anxiety/ depression/ emotional issues?
Worry that your children will not do as well in life as you have?
Worry about your child’s future?
Feel like your child could do better in school if only you had more money to send them to more or ‘better’ tuition?
Had to (or plan to) take time off work during your child’s PSLE year to help them with their studies?
Struggle with your relationship with your child, feel like you can’t connect with them, or motivate them any longer?
Wonder if you are doing enough as a parent, or doing the right things, to set your child up for their future?
*Our references to ‘education system’, ‘school’, ‘classroom’, ‘teacher’, ‘Principal’ and ‘MOE’ on this website and linked content refer largely to our local primary education system, and sometimes to our local secondary education system, unless otherwise stated.
Does Singapore’s education system* really feel like it is doing the best for every child?
Is this constant struggle as good as it can get for children, parents, and teachers? Singapore is a rich and developed country, leading the world in many areas. We can afford to do better for our children's education.
Our Children Deserve Change
Yes, our education system served us well for many decades after independence, as we emerged from Third World to First.
But in many ways, it is becoming increasingly outdated, putting Singapore’s economic future in danger, along with our children’s mental health, parent-child relationships, and much more:
Maximizing the learning potential and social-emotional development of each and every child.
Identifying and building up their strengths and skills to succeed in the future economy.
While keeping their mental health intact.
While keeping their mental health intact.
To us, it means:
All this is seeding problems that will hurt our ability to become a resilient, cohesive, inclusive, innovative and competitive economy and society.
A world-class education system does not just mean topping the PISA rankings.
3 Key Changes to Get Us Back On Track
25 children or less in every primary school classroom.
A world-class education cannot be provided to every child when there are 35-40 of them in one classroom. The average primary school class size in other developed countries is about 20.
Map showing average primary class size (in public/ government schools) in the 25 countries that top the PISA rankings. Only China has larger class sizes than us.
Establish a ‘through train*’ from each primary school to a partner secondary school (PSLE optional).
PSLE, a compulsory high-stakes one-off national exam at the young age of 12, is NOT an evidence-informed (science-based) way of checking children’s learning or potential. There are much better ways of checking their learning at this age, as we explain in our main paper (e.g. computerised adaptive testing, more regular bite-sized assessments in multiple formats including projects and presentations).
Here are the ages at which the Top 25 countries in the PISA rankings have their first high-stakes exam. All children eventually have to face one, but only Singapore has it before the age of 15.
(*In SG context, this could mean no elite primary schools or alumni/ volunteering-based admissions; every child goes from their neighbourhood primary school to their neighbourhood secondary school, unless they want to compete for a handful of selective secondary schools. See our blog on this topic.)
Provide our students and teachers the professional support they need in schools.
We can’t have a world class education system without sufficient AND properly trained counsellors, therapists, psychologists, and learning support professionals, to support mental health and learning needs in schools. Other developed countries provide such support in their schools.
What We Stand to Gain
Give schools and teachers the time, space and resources to focus on each and every child. So they can truly bring out the best in our children, regardless of their family background and learning styles.
Create a safe and nurturing school environment that is respectful of all children. So that they feel safe and confident enough to develop their creativity, resilience and social skills - skills that are critical for the future economy.
Give every child the time, space and resources to discover and develop their own gifts, self-awareness and empathy. So they can face their post-secondary future with confidence and a clear idea of their strengths and talents.
So that we have a truly ‘universal’ education system that prepares ALL our children, regardless of their socio-economic background or learning needs, for the future economy.
Dive Deeper into the White Paper
These changes will also help our Teachers and Principals.
It will make their work much more rewarding, reduce excessive workload, and improve retention.
Together we can push for change.
As Singaporean parents, teachers, employers, voters and tax-payers, we need to come together as a united voice, regardless of our political beliefs and affiliations, to push for these 3 key changes in our education system, as soon as possible.
These 3 features are widely practised in almost all developed countries. They are also practised in reputable international schools right here in Singapore. They are not unreasonable or too expensive.
However, these changes are unlikely to come by themselves from MOE. It is something all of us Singaporeans have to understand and ask for, in one voice, so that things start changing radically (not just small tweaks like ‘subject-based banding’ for PSLE).
Let’s make this about hope and empowerment, for us parents/ citizens, and for Singapore’s future who we are raising in our homes. When Singapore sets its mind to becoming world class, we get there!
Make Your Voice Heard
Share and spread the word
Show your support
If our suggestions resonate with you, please show your support:
Share your views. You can do so anonymously and just indicate your profession if you prefer. (Only for Singapore citizens and PRs please.)
Share and spread the word to other parents and concerned citizens.
Sign up for updates. We will only share content and updates related to this initiative. We will not share your contact details with anyone else.
We are a group of Singaporeans, mostly parents, concerned about the ability of our education system to prepare Singapore’s children for the future economy. We have come together in service of Singapore to compile these recommendations, based on our experiences and conversations with other parents, educators, academics and students. We have done so in a personal capacity, independent of our professional roles, and have no political affiliations.
Over-emphasis on academics from a young age is damaging our children’s mental health.
It is also placing undue stress on teachers, parent-child relationships and parents’ (mostly mothers’) careers.
Under-resourcing in primary schools is worsening inequality.
Lack of attention from teachers due to large class sizes, and lack of support professionals in schools, force parents to turn to private tuition and therapy, if they can afford it.
It focuses on skillsets that are already out of date.
To be competitive in the future economy, our children have to be nurtured to be collaborative, creative, and have high EQ. This is the exact opposite of what our competitive, hierarchical and conformist education system is currently.
Number of respondents who have filled our survey to show their support!
134 Singaporeans/PRs, of whom:
115 Parents/ guardians
35 Teachers/ educators (former & current)
00 Students - primary school
00 Students - secondary school
03 Students - post-secondary/ tertiary
What respondents are supporting:
96% support having 25 Children or less in every primary school classroom
72% support having a ‘through train' from each primary school to a partner secondary school (PSLE optional)
99% support having enough well-trained support professionals in schools for our children and teachers
0% do not support any of the above
Pooja Bhandari heads Impact and Special Projects for AWWA. She spent 6 years at the Ministry of Social and Family Development, heading policy on disability early intervention for children, and then manpower planning for the social service sector. In a prior life, she was a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). She also serves on the Board of Tasek Jurong and is on the UNICEF International Council. She wrote the EveryChild.sg white paper after seeing firsthand the huge difference in student goals and resources between local vs. international schools in Singapore, and the huge difference in development outcomes it had for children.
John Tan is the founder of Saturday Kids - a curiosity school for children - and Doyobi - an edtech startup that helps kids build skills through collaborative problem-solving in the metaverse. He is also an investor in tech startups, in particular startups reimagining the future of work and learning such as Padlet, Kubrio, Contra and Beanstalk. John is an Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader, Transcend Fellow and Ashoka Changemaker. He sits on the board of Ninja Van and ErudiFi.
Dawn Fung is the author of Homeschooling in Singapore: An Education and the founder of Homeschool Singapore. She heads Little U, a microschool consultancy with a strong team of parent-educators specialising in personalised education. She is working on a 30-year manifesto to see education reform in Singapore, where every child, parent and educator have full rights and access to great education.
Dr Hana Alhadad is a neurodiversity advocate, therapeutic playmaker, and liberative parent. Hana has extensive experience in community development and psychology, and is currently focusing on supporting neurodivergent children and families, single mothers and victim-survivors of family violence, and wellbeing of children and youth. She applies compassionate communication and trauma-informed approaches in her professional roles as a researcher at AWARE and adjunct faculty at the National University of Singapore, as well as in her community work and personal life.
Tim Wong is a community enabler, and a parent-advocate for respectful parenting and special educational needs (SEN) education reform. He has worked with other parent-advocates to raise awareness of SEN challenges in mainstream schools to education officials and other parents. He is active in raising the need for respectful parenting through the Gentle Fathering SG platform on social media and in parent groups.
I truly believe we have the resources to allocate to Education to make these very needed changes happen. As a teacher, I have found that smaller class sizes make an enormous impact on the interactions I am able to have with each child as well as a student's ability to have their voice heard in class.
High School English Teacher (ex-MOE)
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