Aussie magazine pulls out article MOE called 'fake news'

Australian Teacher Magazine yesterday withdrew an article which was labelled as "fake news" by Singapore's Education Ministry (MOE), and apologised "without reservation".
Australian Teacher Magazine yesterday withdrew an article which was labelled as "fake news" by Singapore's Education Ministry (MOE), and apologised "without reservation".PHOTO: AU.EDUCATIONHQ.COM
Education Ministry director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong did not refer to the Pisa rankings in his speech. Instead, he said that the literacy levels of Singapore students have "improved tremendously".
Education Ministry director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong did not refer to the Pisa rankings in his speech. Instead, he said that the literacy levels of Singapore students have "improved tremendously".

Managing editor of publication apologises 'without reservation'

Australian Teacher Magazine yesterday withdrew an article which was labelled as "fake news" by Singapore's Education Ministry (MOE), and apologised "without reservation".

The article, which was published in its August issue and was widely shared, had quoted MOE director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong as telling an international conference here in May that Singapore is "building compliant students just as the jobs that value compliance are beginning to disappear".

But MOE on Monday described the statements in the article, written by Mr Walter Barbieri, as "completely false" and " fake news". According to his Linkedin profile, Mr Barbieri is the director of eLearning at St Peter's College in Adelaide.

In the interest of "full transparency", MOE yesterday released an unedited video and the transcript of Mr Wong's 35-minute speech he delivered on the first day of the National Institute of Education's (NIE) Redesigning Pedagogy international conference.

Mr Grant Quarry, Australian Teacher Magazine's managing editor, told The Straits Times yesterday that it is investigating the matter and has been trying to contact the author for clarification.

In the interim, the report's webpage on EducationHQ, which publishes the magazine, was updated with an editor's note explaining why the article had been withdrawn.

 
 

"In the light of the evidence presented, and in the absence of alternative evidence to support the author at this stage, EducationHQ has withdrawn the story and apologises without reservation for any offence caused," said the note.

Mr Barbieri did not respond to queries from The Straits Times.

In his article, he had claimed that Mr Wong compared Singapore's stellar academic results in 2015's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) with the data on student well-being and innovation in the economy, which placed Singapore in the lowest quartile.

According to the article, Mr Wong attributed Singapore's Pisa success to standardised test drilling and a culture of compliance, and said at the conference: "We've been winning the wrong race."

The online article chalked up about 3,500 shares earlier this week. The earlier print version of the article had also mistakenly attributed the quotes to Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng before it was edited and attributed to Mr Wong instead in the online article.

According to the transcript and video recording provided by MOE, Mr Wong did not refer to the Pisa rankings - which Singapore students topped for reading, mathematics and science - in his speech. Instead, Mr Wong said that the literacy levels of Singapore students have "improved tremendously".

"They are now reading, writing, speaking in a very high level. They are learning their mathematics well, they're able to solve a lot of mathematical problems very competently," he added.

NIE said that this was the only speech that Mr Wong gave at the conference and that no other speakers had made comments similar to what was purported in the article, to the best of its knowledge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Aussie magazine pulls out article MOE called 'fake news''. Print Edition | Subscribe