Online article is 'fake news': MOE

Ministry says director-general's purported remarks on compliant students in S'pore are false

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has decried as "fake news" a series of statements purportedly made by its director-general of education that attributed Singapore's educational success to "standardised test drilling and a culture of compliance".

An article in the August edition of Australian Teacher Magazine made the rounds online yesterday, when it published comments reportedly made by MOE's director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong at an international conference about three months ago.

Written by Mr Walter Barbieri, the article claimed Mr Wong had juxtaposed Singapore's stellar academic results in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study with the data on student well-being and innovation in the economy.

The article said that data for the latter two categories placed Singapore in the lowest quartile.

The Pisa study, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), polled 540,000 students from 72 countries and economies.

The results on student well-being were released recently. It emerged that the anxiety levels of the 5,825 15-year-old Singapore students polled were significantly higher than the OECD average.

The Pisa study polled 540,000 students from 72 countries and economies. The results on student well-being were released recently. It emerged that the anxiety levels of the 5,825 15-year-old Singapore students polled were significantly higher than the OECD average. Results from the study that were released last year ranked Singapore's students No. 1 for mathematics, science and reading.

For instance, 66 per cent of students across all OECD countries said they were worried about poor grades. Among Singapore students, 86 per cent said they were.

Results from the study that were released last year ranked Singapore's students No. 1 for mathematics, science and reading.

According to the article, Mr Wong said to more than 1,500 delegates at the National Institute of Education's Redesigning Pedagogy conference: "We've been winning the wrong race."

It said he attributed Singapore's Pisa success to standardised test drilling and a culture of compliance, and said that Singapore is "building compliant students just as the jobs that value compliance are beginning to disappear".

A video recording that The Straits Times obtained of his 30-minute speech showed that he did not make the remarks attributed to him. It is not clear if he made other speeches then.

The comments were reproduced by local news site Mothership.sg. Last night, the MOE said in a comment on Mothership.sg's Facebook post that Mr Wong did not make the statements in the article.

"This is fake news," said MOE.

"We are disappointed that your website would circulate such false comments. We would appreciate it if you could remove the article immediately or at least print a correction."

MOE has also asked Australian Teacher Magazine to take down the article, or print a correction.

The magazine and Mr Barbieri did not respond to The Straits Times by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'Online article is 'fake news': MOE'. Print Edition | Subscribe