Can the education system be improved?


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#1
Saw this on Newsweek:

January 9, 2006 U.S. Edition

We All Have a Lot to Learn
By Fareed Zakaria

Last week India was hit by a terror attack that unsettled the country. A gunman entered the main conference hall of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, tossed four grenades into the audience and, when the explosives failed, fired his AK-47 at the crowd. One man, a retired professor of mathematics from one of the Indian Institutes of Technology, was killed. What has worried some about this attack is not its scope or planning or effect—all unimpressive—but the target. The terrorists went after what is increasingly seen as India's core strategic asset for the 21st century: its scientific and technological brain trust. If that becomes insecure, what will become of India's future?

This small event says a lot about global competition. Traveling around Asia for most of the past month, I have been struck by the relentless focus on education. It makes sense. Many of these countries have no natural resources, other than their people; making them smarter is the only path for development. China, as always, appears to be moving fastest. When officials\ there talk about their plans for future growth, they point out that they have increased spending on colleges and universities almost tenfold in the past 10 years.

Yale's president, Richard Levin, notes that\ Peking University's two state-of-the-art semiconductor fabrication lines—each employing a different technology—outshine anything in the United States. East Asian countries top virtually every global ranking of students in science and mathematics.

But one thing puzzles me about these oft-made comparisons. I talked to Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand it better. He's the minister of Education of Singapore, the country that is No. 1 in the global science and math rankings for schoolchildren. I asked the minister how to explain the fact that even though Singapore's students do so brilliantly on these tests, when you look at these same students 10 or 20 years later, few of them are worldbeaters anymore. Singapore has few truly top-ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics. American kids, by contrast, test much worse in the fourth and eighth grades but seem to do better later in life and in the real world. Why? "We both have meritocracies," Shanmugaratnam said. "Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. There are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well—like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America."

Shanmugaratnam also pointed out that American universities are unrivaled globally—and are getting better. "You have created a public-private partnership in tertiary education that is amazingly successful. The government provides massive funding, and private and public colleges compete, raising everyone's standards." Shanmugaratnam highlighted in particular the role that American foundations play. "Someone in society has to be focused on the long term, on maintaining excellence, on raising quality. You have this array of foundations—in fact, a whole tradition of civic-minded volunteerism—that fulfills this role. For example, you could not imagine American advances in biomedical sciences without the Howard Hughes Foundation."

Singapore is now emphasizing factors other than raw testing skills when selecting its top students. But cultures are hard to change. A Singaporean friend recently brought his children back from America and put them in his country's much-heralded schools. He described the difference. "In the American school, when my son would speak up, he was applauded and encouraged. In Singapore, he's seen as pushy and weird. The culture of making learning something to love and engage in with gusto is totally absent. Here it is a chore. Work hard, memorize and test well." He took his child out of the Singapore state school and put him into a private, Western-style one.

Despite all the praise Shanmugaratnam showered on the States, he said that the U.S. educational system "as a whole has failed." "Unless you are comfortably middle class or richer," he explained, "you get an education that is truly second-rate by any standards. Apart from issues of fairness, what this means is that you never really access the talent of poor, bright kids. They don't go to good schools and, because of teaching methods that focus on bringing everyone along, the bright ones are never pushed. In Singapore we get the poor kid who is very bright and very hungry, and that's crucial to our success.

"From where I sit, it's not a flat world," Shanmugaratnam concluded. "It's one of peaks and valleys. The good news for America is that the peaks are getting higher. But the valleys are getting deeper, and many of them are also in the United States."
PLEASE DO NOT FLAME!

What do you think? Talent has no standing here? Too exam-based?
This is about education, not politics.


Mods, feel free to lock or delete if unappropiate.
 

Shodan99

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#2
Although I am out of the education system for a couple of years now, I think that the education system in Singapore acts like a giant sieve.. At least in my time from the late 80's to 90's.... (Bet u all can guess my age already...;p )

Short of writing too much, all I can really sum it up is that it is a cold and clinical segregation of children/teenagers based on academic performance.
 

kcuf2

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#3
look at what is said "Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America"

u think this is possible in singapore? u do that and u will end up in jail. thats y we are never successful
Even if challenging the conventional is beneficial, we are not given the chance at all.
 

yanyewkay

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#4
look at what is said "Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America"

u think this is possible in singapore? u do that and u will end up in jail. thats y we are never successful
Even if challenging the conventional is beneficial, we are not given the chance at all.
Democracy here is very democratic...:D

chill yah?
 

Del_CtrlnoAlt

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#5
look at what is said "Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America"

u think this is possible in singapore? u do that and u will end up in jail. thats y we are never successful
Even if challenging the conventional is beneficial, we are not given the chance at all.
ya... during my time, i tell my teacher that i wanna do my project from back to front, then i got 1 year of free seating at the corner & pay school fees and not allowed to attend class. no materials and guidance... best of all, accused of paying others to do my work... and got bad recommendation from school... lppl lor...

then i told my maths teacher that i found a method to do calculation faster, then i was given 0 for geh kiang, then i simplified 1 step and i only score 99 points in exam and another girl scored 100 points... lppl lor...

sg schools is like a military school, and yet they say they listen to opinions by giving you a suggestion box, ya... my foot... probably cos the person who read the suggestion is the one i am talking about... machiam NKF, no transparency... haha
 

Astin

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#6
Recently there were a few cases of NTU profs and school teachers involved in police/court cases, that does sound a alarm bell to our education system :think:
 

kitkat

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#7
I am thankful for the education system Singapore has provided in my youth - it did me well as in my early years.

However, I can see that the education did not produce a street smart talent pool, more like a book or paper based citizens.

Not to mention , when I was helping out in youth programs, I find students are pretty burned out from memorising some subjects (they are all primary sch ) and some are on a depressing mode. Yes, their childhood life has gone from the age of 5 years old.

Yes, Singapore has make itself a world class book - exam based talent citizen.

one of the main reason not to have kids in Singapore is , the education in Singapore is a "World class".
 

Dec 28, 2005
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#8
Saw this on Newsweek:



PLEASE DO NOT FLAME!

What do you think? Talent has no standing here? Too exam-based?
This is about education, not politics.


Mods, feel free to lock or delete if unappropiate.

Hi Redstone,

In all fairness, I don't think there is a better FUNCTIONAL method to evaluate a person's potential in the educational system other than examinations. I'm not suggesting that it's the best way. However, it's the most practical way. Of course, all that changes when pupils grow up and enter the REAL world. In life, there are many more factors that play a part in one's success other than paper qualifications (eg: luck, timing, opportunities, ability to take advantage of presented opportunities, willingness to advance oneself by fair means or otherwise, etc.....).

It's too simplistic to make a statement that Singapore does not do well on the innovation front in spite of having many students that perform well in tests. There are many advantages that the US has. First of all is their budget for reasearch, try comparing that of the US with Singapore's. Serious funding is required to obtain research equipment, pay staff, run experiments. The US has the ability and the political will to give money to research grants as they realize that they have to keep innovating in order to maintain their lead on the international stage.

Then there is the advantage of numbers. Their population is approximately 300 Million people. Compared to Singapore's 3-4 Million. What are the odds that they will have more individuals that will excel in their chosen field. This goes not only for science, but also sports, art, etc...

The US is also an inviting place for immigrants. Many brilliant foreigners make the US their home, bringing their collective talent to bear in any one specific industry. Couple this talent pool with a large supply of research funding, and you get the picture. Look at it this way, America was the 1st to have the A-bomb, but was A. Einstein born an American, or was he an immigrant? His is only one of many examples of this sort of immigrant talent.

Having many different types of research centres also leads to more breakthroughs due to sharing of data and information. For instance, a material developed for use in space missions can be utilized for research in biological experiments, geographical research, etc.... This can easily lead to an explosion of "spin-off" discoveries. The US has the "critical-mass" to achieve this effect, Singapore may never have this advantage.

There may be some truth that Singapore are too comfortable staying in status quo. By "challenging authority" I don't believe the author meant challenging the current political situation (that is another day's discussion). What he/she probably meant was challenging the CURRENTLY ACCEPTED BELIEF. For example, what if everybody in the past happily accepted the notion that the world was flat without seeking proof that is really was?

Personally, I think the problem lies with the fact that Asians are cuturally programmed to defer to people in authority. We are all taught to respect our elders and superiors from a young age. This, unfortunately leads to an abhorrance to "challenging authority". It surprised me intially when my professors treated me as a collegue/friend while I was an undergrad overseas.

In short, exams will always have a part to play in any education system as it offers a standard method to assess students. However, students should be actively encouraged to "think outside the box", and teachers should be trained to handle students' reasonable questions in a constructive manner.

Sadly, I believe that the ability of "thinking outside the box" cannot be taught in schools. Such a trait can only be encouraged, not more. It all depends on a person's innate ability and personality. For example, there are people who are just happy doing their daily 9 - 5 grind, and going back home, not take undue risks and live their lives uneventfully.

My 2 cents.


Bernard

P.S. Curious.....did you get posed this question for a school project?
 

eikin

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#9
What he/she probably meant was challenging the CURRENTLY ACCEPTED BELIEF. For example, what if everybody in the past happily accepted the notion that the world was flat without seeking proof that is really was?
:think: what currently accepted beliefs do you think Singaporeans have that are stopping Singaporeans from taking risks?
 

Dec 28, 2005
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#10
By the way, I have always found Fareed Zakaria too Pro-American.

Hmmm, come to think of it, Newsweek is too Pro-American (I think).

Have you ever tried reading The Economist. British magazine, but VERY balanced. They don't pull any punches, even when it comes to British policies. Best magazine out there, if you ask me.


Bernard
 

kitkat

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#11
In short, exams will always have a part to play in any education system as it offers a standard method to assess students. However, students should be actively encouraged to "think outside the box", and teachers should be trained to handle students' reasonable questions in a constructive manner.

Sadly, I believe that the ability of "thinking outside the box" cannot be taught in schools. Such a trait can only be encouraged, not more. It all depends on a person's innate ability and personality. For example, there are people who are just happy doing their daily 9 - 5 grind, and going back home, not take undue risks and live their lives uneventfully.
Yes. Our education system has its merits, without it , we are not able to produce sufficient engineers (etc) to meet the industrial demands. Hence, it is important to have standard education.

However, to "think outside the box", the whole system has failed. Teachers are stressed out to enforce this, so are the students. One of my professor in my uni days mention ,Many Singaporeans are creative, only in copying but rarely in creating.
 

Dec 28, 2005
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#13
:think: what currently accepted beliefs do you think Singaporeans have that are stopping Singaporeans from taking risks?
What I meant was the CURRENTLY ACCEPTED SCIENTIFIC NOTION.

The boundaries of science has to be constantly challanged in order to advance.


Bernard
 

yanyewkay

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#14
ya... during my time, i tell my teacher that i wanna do my project from back to front, then i got 1 year of free seating at the corner & pay school fees and not allowed to attend class. no materials and guidance... best of all, accused of paying others to do my work... and got bad recommendation from school... lppl lor...

then i told my maths teacher that i found a method to do calculation faster, then i was given 0 for geh kiang, then i simplified 1 step and i only score 99 points in exam and another girl scored 100 points... lppl lor...

sg schools is like a military school, and yet they say they listen to opinions by giving you a suggestion box, ya... my foot... probably cos the person who read the suggestion is the one i am talking about... machiam NKF, no transparency... haha
you were born smart.. education ruined you?
 

eikin

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#15
What I meant was the CURRENTLY ACCEPTED SCIENTIFIC NOTION.

The boundaries of science has to be constantly challanged in order to advance.


Bernard
though not extremely well, for a country with small population Singapore isn't doing too badly in scientific research i must say, good example is stem cell research. can't say the same for the creative industry though.
 

yanyewkay

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#18
though not extremely well, for a country with small population Singapore isn't doing too badly in scientific research i must say, good example is stem cell research. can't say the same for the creative industry though.
stem cell research.. :bsmilie:researched in sg cos we have the facilities and generous sponsorship.. the actual brains behind the work hehehe... not from sg..
 

eikin

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#19
ya... during my time, i tell my teacher that i wanna do my project from back to front, then i got 1 year of free seating at the corner & pay school fees and not allowed to attend class. no materials and guidance... best of all, accused of paying others to do my work... and got bad recommendation from school... lppl lor...

then i told my maths teacher that i found a method to do calculation faster, then i was given 0 for geh kiang, then i simplified 1 step and i only score 99 points in exam and another girl scored 100 points... lppl lor...

sg schools is like a military school, and yet they say they listen to opinions by giving you a suggestion box, ya... my foot... probably cos the person who read the suggestion is the one i am talking about... machiam NKF, no transparency... haha
i remember when i was in JC, i failed my further maths for the entire year 1 and 1st semester of year 2. my tutor kept asking me whether i want to quit it, and there were horror stories of students being forced to quit subjects they don't do well so as not to drag the school's ranking down. in the end, i scored a 'B' i can be proud of during 'A' levels, though still i was bottom of the class :sweat:
 

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