British minister gives thumbs up to Singapore textbooks

Textbooks used in Singapore schools have been held up as examples of teaching excellence by a British minister, who is pushing for Britain to adopt high-quality textbooks to raise the country's academic standards. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Textbooks used in Singapore schools have been held up as examples of teaching excellence by a British minister, who is pushing for Britain to adopt high-quality textbooks to raise the country's academic standards. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE - Textbooks used in Singapore schools have been held up as examples of teaching excellence by a British minister, who is pushing for Britain to adopt high-quality textbooks to raise the country's academic standards.

In a speech last month on the importance of good textbooks, British School Reform Minister Nick Gibb described Singapore's textbooks as "excellent" and "state of the art", and noted approvingly that England's new network of maths hubs will start using textbooks based on Singapore's "world-class primary maths textbooks".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who shared the speech on his Facebook page on Monday, said it was "nice to know that other countries thought highly" of Singapore.

But he added: "We cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue improving our education system, to give our children the best start in life."

Mr Gibbs said in his speech that two British publishers - Oxford University Press (OUP) and Maths No Problem - have partnered leading Singapore publishers to develop the maths textbooks.

In October, it was reported that OUP will tie up with Marshall Cavendish, one of Singapore's largest publishers, to publish a series of textbooks for Britain based on Singapore mathematics pedagogy.

Mr Gibbs also praised Singapore's secondary school mathematics textbooks as having "a clear structure, strong explanations of key ideas, helpful worked examples and plenty of opportunity for essential practice to increase fluency and understanding".

He said he had also spoken to representatives of Marshall Cavendish about whether textbooks were still relevant in a digital age, where online resources are easily available. The reply: while Singapore is introducing digital resources, they are meant to complement textbooks rather than replace them.

"Singapore has no plans to stop producing textbooks, of course not - they have been crafted, tested and refined with great care, and are proven to build deep understanding and support solid progress in the subject," Mr Gibbs said.

Urging education publishers in Britain to focus on high-quality textbooks, he said: "I strongly believe that textbooks need to play an important role in pushing up academic standards. Ministers need to make the case for more textbooks in schools, particularly primary schools."

Mr Gibbs also lauded the textbooks used by schools in Shanghai and Finland.