Singapore's good guide to learning

What is it about Singapore's school system that it aces world rankings and yet is always striving to do better? The Economist homes in on its key features and the lessons it can offer to others.

Singapore does similarly well in exams of younger children, and the graduates of its best schools can be found scattered around the world's finest universities.
Singapore does similarly well in exams of younger children, and the graduates of its best schools can be found scattered around the world's finest universities.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

When Singapore became an independent country in 1965, it had few friends and even fewer natural resources. How did it become one of the world's great trading and financial centres? The strategy, explained Mr Lee Kuan Yew, its first prime minister, was "to develop Singapore's only available natural resource: its people".

Today, Singapore's education system is considered the best in the world. It consistently ranks at the top of the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a triennial test of 15-year-olds in the main three categories of mathematics, reading and science.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore's good guide to learning'. Subscribe