Singapore schools, students fare well globally, aim to get better: PM Lee

Peirce Secondary students waiting to enter a homeroom for their next lesson. As Singapore reviews its education system to address criticisms of excessive stress and competitition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday sought to put things in
Peirce Secondary students waiting to enter a homeroom for their next lesson. As Singapore reviews its education system to address criticisms of excessive stress and competitition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday sought to put things in perspective. ST FILE PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

As Singapore reviews its education system to address criticisms of excessive stress and competitition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday sought to put things in perspective.

His message: Singapore's education system is a good one that has delivered results over the years.

Mr Lee, who was the guest of honour at the anniversary celebration of Chong Boon Secondary School in his Teck Ghee ward, said the education system has been criticised for being too structured, pressured and competitive.

He acknowledged that this has caused stress for some parents and students who have felt "pressured".

To address these concerns, the Ministry of Education has taken steps to reduce pressure and unhealthy competition in the past year. For example, by not releasing names of the top Primary School Leaving Examination performers and banding instead of grading students for co-curricular activities.

"But while we try to improve our education system further, we should not forget that we have a good system which delivers good results," he added.

This has been borne out by the consistently good performance of students in international competitions and rankings, said Mr Lee.

The most recent being the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

Singapore's 15-year-olds came out top in problem-solving, in the global ranking of student skills conducted by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This was a test that could not be studied for, and which required common sense, creativity and judgement, noted Mr Lee.

He added that the results reflected the performance of the "whole population of students" and not just the top students.

The 1,400 students who took the test were randomly picked by Pisa, said Mr Lee, and had come from different schools and socio-economic backgrounds and were of different races.

"I think we can be proud of ourselves...and confidently say that we have done our duty to our students and to the next generation," he said.

But more can be done to raise the quality of every education institution here, no matter who they cater to, he added.

Schools should also teach skills like critical and inventive thinking, to help prepare students for life's challenges, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds.

To do this, the Government cannot act alone, said Mr Lee, who urged students and the community at large to work together.

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