The ten keys to education in Singapore [Infographic]

Singapore has grown from a new developing country to a modern industrial economy in just 40 years. In this same context of growth and evolution, its education system has been ranking as one of the best in the world in international rankings for a decade: it obtained second place in PISA 2012  and the Pearson report places it third in the world . Since 1997, it has also developed the “Thinking Schools, Learning Nation” program, based on personalizing education by adapting it to the needs and abilities of each student. We explain the keys that may be behind the success of education in this small Asian country.


  1. 1. Education is seen as an essential pillar in the development of the country. Since the former British colony gained independence in 1945, Singapore has viewed education and investment in this sector as an essential drive for economic and social improvement. Not even in recent years, with the global economic crisis, has it been cut back in this area. In addition, it is a philosophy that the Government, society and company support, with which the commitment is strong and shared.
  2. 2. The educational system is based on meritocracy and competitiveness. The maximum qualification of the students is sought so that in the future they will be highly prepared workers and become the main economic force in a country that does not have material resources. That is why a demanding and highly competitive system that prioritizes efficiency over equity, organizes students according to their academic performance and promotes those who achieve better results. Classifications of students by classes are common, a practice that aims to inform students of their position to improve, but which can put heavy pressure on those in the lower positions. Added to this is the pressure from society itself and from the family, which demands the best results from their children.
  3. 3. The goal is for students to learn, not memorize. The curriculum and the approach of the teaching-learning system aim for students to ask themselves questions and seek their own answers, take new paths and think in different ways. They are prepared to solve the challenges that will be presented to them in the future and turn them into opportunities. This is likely to explain the top ranking for Singaporean students in the problem solving area of PISA 2012 .
  4. 4. It is committed to flexible and diverse learning. The educational system is in the process of evolution. The aim is to offer students various options so that they can choose the ones that best suit their interests and their way of learning. Schools can adopt different programs or offer different free choice subjects, and there are independent centers specialized in specific areas, such as mathematics or science and technology, art or sports. In addition, students can advance levels or change courses according to their pace and qualities. Thus, learning is sought to be comprehensive, students are involved in the process, discover their talents and develop their skills to the fullest, both in the strictly academic, artistic or sports fields.
  5. 5. Schools have a lot of independence. The curriculum is common, but the Government has progressively decentralized education to give greater freedom and autonomy to schools, which are organized geographically. The old educational inspection has been replaced by a school excellence model in which each center establishes its goals and objectives and evaluates its progress annually. Every six years an external evaluation is carried out.
  6. 6. Official evaluations define the educational path of each student. At the end of Primary new education, students take an official exam that decides the modality (express, normal-academic and normal-technical) and the type of Secondary education they will take, depending on their abilities. And when they finish secondary school, they face a second official exam that leads them to university or vocational studies. The students with the best grades in these exams go to the best schools, universities and vocational training centers.
  7. 7. Teachers are highly valued and highly prepared. Teaching is a profession with great social prestige, the best are sought for the teaching career and the salaries they charge are high. In educational centers, teachers have all the necessary resources and their collaboration and continuous reflection on the work of teachers is encouraged.
  8. 8. Teachers are evaluated and encouraged. Teachers are required as much as they are valued. The Enhanced Performance Management System (EPMS) seeks to make most teachers’ abilities and aspirations. An annual evaluation process identifies objectives, measures teacher performance against established competencies, and helps teachers identify their areas of growth and development. According to the results, teachers who have evolved positively are financially and professionally incentivized and training is given to those who need it. Consequently, teachers advance by merit in their career either in an educational itinerary (within the school system itself),
  9. 9. Bilingualism is mandatory. One of the first new measures launched by the Government of Singapore after independence was English from Primary as a compulsory language in education and the mother tongue (Chinese, Malay or Tamil). With this, a better competitiveness of future workers is sought in a global world where English is essential.
  10. 10. Professional training is very important. About 70% of students access technical or vocational training compared to university. This type new of training is carried out both in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)  and in polytechnic centers  and is especially cared for, since it allows to prepare good workers in the different fields and areas of the service sector that the country needs.