Singapore and Malaysian education for the 21st Century : More alike than different.

I just got back from Singapore and when it comes to education, they’re equally as stuck as we are here. There is no doubt that the median range of their English is better than the median range of a Malaysian’s level of English but in terms of being prepared for the fallout of education, they seem equally as clueless.

Nowadays, the mark on which to measure whether or not a society is progressive in its education policies is to watch for whether they are behaving more like the sort of Minds we need for the 21st Century or whether they are doing more of the 20th century model. Singapore, for all her reputation in the impossible level of their primary school Math and Science, is steeped deeply in the 20th Century model.

I heard from my friend that even in schools where the government is phasing in non-exam oriented methodology, teachers are still instilling the fear among parents by teaching them for exams “in the back lane”.  I don’t know how the government is going to be able to come up with a proper diagnosis if teachers are screwing up the purpose and implementation by doing the old-system on top of the new initiative. When the data comes out and there’s no significant difference, the old-school thinking would say they were right after all and want to revert to the old model. This is no different to Malaysia’s decision to revert to BM in Science and Math: it’s a problem of mindset, and in particular, a Mind set for the Past.

I think these Singaporean teachers are completely clueless to the fact that the rote-and-drill method is getting the boot once and for all and the only reason the government has not implemented it full is to prevent a domino effect in the local economy from those who are making money from “workbooks” and “tuition”.  As advanced as we’d like to think our neighbors are when it comes to their education system, they have the same problem the rest of the world does : Backward looking teachers choking the futures out of the children they teach. It’s easy for all these teachers and tutors to do this : they’re now in their 30s to 50s. By the time these children reach adult age, they’d be retired plum and rich from the tuition money they made off them. These same children will be retiring in 2060. Who’s preparing them for that future? All you have to look at is how much the world has changed from 1980 to 2010. Multiply that speed of change by 10 and you’ll have an idea the sort of future our children will have to live in. If you think YOUR education in the 70s and 80s has failed to prepare you for life, wait til you see what happens to your children when you do more of the same damn thing that failed most people in the first place,

I know a lot of people disagree with the touted benefits of a drill-rote and exam-oriented education system but yet they comply with it nonetheless. This is a fear-based decision, nothing else. People ask me for evidence of why I am so sure that the current system will be obsolete in as little as 10 years. But that’s like asking me what’s tomorrow’s First Prize in Toto is going to be.

But I can say this much; my ideas and my POVs are faith-based, confidence-based, future-oriented ones while those of others are fear-based, kiasu-based and backwards-oriented. In any aspect of life, anything that comes from a premise of fear is not a good tangent to be coming from while one that comes from a premise of optimism, faith and confidence would seem to make more sense.

My friend asked me how I know what I know and it dawned on me what a profound gap a lack of Knowing How To Know was going to affect the futures of our children.I could write an entire book about the specifics of the metacognitive processes and physical processes I undergo on a daily basis which acts as continuous scaffolding but I’m going to try to answer that as simply as I can :

  • to arrive at what we know requires a series of scaffolding of input, experiences and synthesis. Most people are exposed to the same input, experiences and synthesis I am exposed to. The only difference is I have been observing for,noting and consciously thinking about those input and experiences. It is the difference between standing still and standing on an escalator; there’s no sudden jump but every conscious observing elevates the scaffolding of learning.
  • This process of how one gets to know what one knows does not happen as a singular input. In our education we are accustomed to thinking of learning as a page by page, unit by unit, year by year process of input and memory work. In reality, learning happens in a very dynamic, non-linear fashion. It usually starts with a question and then the learner observes for and note possible explanations through reflections and expriences and then wait for more information and evidence until the knowing kicks in with an “Ah-ha!” moment or an epiphany. This knowing is then internalized and can be explained and taught simply because if one can learn something, one can teach it.

The danger of starting “late” is that we get lost in transition. New knowledge can only adhere to previous knowledge. If we have a flawed perspective, we will focus only on evidence which validates the flawed perspective. I know what the next question is going to be : how to differentiate between a correct or flawed perspective. That, though, is not the premise of this blog.

As evolution speeds up and change is accelerated by technology, I am worried too about the future of children born between 1995 and now. Their rote-and-drill, exam-based education would have destroyed the creative and adaptive capacities we need to count on if we were to thrive in the 21st Century.

An article from my website : Focusing in the wrong places.

I welcome questions and comments.



Filed under Danger School, On teachers

4 responses to “Singapore and Malaysian education for the 21st Century : More alike than different.

  1. Thats true ,here we have alot of people not specking good english for it maybe too much of singlish here ,but youth have this mind set that talking good english not the trend .
    have a great future

  2. Sorry, but can you elaborate further.

  3. Pingback: Abolishing vernacular schools and focussing on the actual problems of teaching Science and Math in English | Unschool Me Today!

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