I daydreamed about what Singapore’s education system could be
A couple of days back whilst at friends’ (yet another teacher) place, I got asked, ‘If you were a parent, how would you like the education system to be?’ For those who know me for years, you’d think I’m an educator at heart, and also cut out to be a teacher. But more often than once, I have declared that I will never teach in the mainstream education system because there are too many things about it that I’m against. People would often tell me I should go and change it; but trust me, you don’t want to get me started. Yet with this license to daydream, I gratefully seized it.
The first warning before I get started is that I think about systems as a collective whole so I don’t see our education system as separate from our economy, our culture and our identity. All of them work together and reinforce each other. This is why I often try to make a case for the idea that culture and education could be the cause of our productivity problems. And that brings me to the second warning that the system of my dreams will probably be ‘far-fetched’ in that what we’ve been doing in our schools is nowhere close to it. But if we can agree on a future society we are striving towards, then we can collectively make that a representation of our vision to strive toward.
Anyways during that short time I had with my friends, I shared only three main points which I’m going to pen here for the record. There are many more dimensions that I envision and I welcome Singaporeans from all walks of life to augment this vision and to build it out in greater details and to tweak it more. If you’re an official in the education system today, let me first encourage you not to think about the practical constraints or just dismiss these as ‘idealistic’ but to consider the difference any of these would make on to the students, on the future economy and society you’re trying to shape. Let the end goal rather than immediate challenges fill your mind and vision; because, as Watt Emerson once said:
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Abolish cohort-based education (or teach for mastery, not grades)