SDP calls for smaller class sizes in education policy paper

Calling it an agenda for transformation, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) unveiled its policy paper on education yesterday, saying it would prepare the nation for a globalised 21st century that increasingly demands creativity and innovation, as well as address widening inequality in Singapore.

Some of the proposals of the paper, presented by SDP chairman Paul Tambyah and party member Benjamin Pwee at the party's headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, include reducing class sizes from 40 to 20 and having teachers stay with the same students over a few years.

Mr Pwee, who resigned as secretary-general of the Democratic Progressive Party earlier this year to join the SDP, said: "The (People's Action Party's) education policy fails to provide that kind of managers and leaders that we need for a knowledge-driven economy. Yes, we may have people like that, but are they like that because of the system or in spite of it?"

The education policy paper follows other papers SDP launched this year, on housing and population, and will be compiled to form the opposition party's manifesto for the election, said SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan.

Among the proposals in the paper, spanning pre-school to tertiary education, is to reduce class sizes to 20, so that each child will get more individual attention.

Another suggestion is to assign a teacher to follow a class through several years, so the teacher can take a longer-term view to helping students meet their potential.

The issue of smaller class sizes was raised in Parliament last year, and the Education Ministry said then that it was cautious about the issue. Studies, such as one in 2009 in Hong Kong of 700 primary school classes, showed no significant link between class size and achievement.

It was also noted that students here no longer study in a fixed class as they regularly move between different classes.

Speaking to the media after the presentation, Dr Chee said the opposition parties are still in discussions over forming an alliance to contest the next general election, which has to be held by April 2021.

He said the parties were all "cognisant" of the fact that they must streamline their messages and project a spirit of unity, and expressed confidence that differences could be addressed as long as the parties maintain communication and discussion.

"The thing is to, I suppose, just make sure that everybody is on the same page, whether it's on policy basis or in operations," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline 'SDP calls for smaller class sizes in education policy paper'. Print Edition | Subscribe