Is the Singaporean Education System Flawed or Stressful?

Singapore’s education system is touted to be one of the most stressful in the world, but it is also one of the best countries that offer quality education worldwide. There have been many articles expounding on the inherent drawbacks of Singapore’s education system and the stress that comes along with studying in Singapore.

Singapore’s best tuition agencies have expanded themselves over the years since the difficulty of education has also proportionally increased. There are many private tutors with years of tutoring experience who are ready to lend a helping hand to struggling students.

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At the same time, Singapore has received much praise for moulding students that produce consistent stellar results in international achievement tests. While it is true that Singaporean students have been topping the charts for international achievement and placement tests, these successes come at a price that is not talked about as overtly as it should be.

Let’s take a look at the downsides and the upsides of Singapore’s education system!

An Overview of Singapore’s Education System 

The majority of the students in Singapore are enrolled in government / public funded schools. The government heavily subsidized education fees in Singapore to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to excel academically. Students are required to attend 6 years of compulsory education in Primary School, after which they need to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

PSLE is meant to transition students to Secondary School, which is normally 4 years. Students have the option to choose the academic streams they are more suited for in a secondary school, namely the Integrated Programme (IP) or the O levels program.

At the end of 4 years, those in the O levels stream will have to sit for the GCE-O Levels nationwide examination. Afterwhich, students have an option to enter a local Polytechnic or a Junior College. Finally, not forgetting University, which is the end goal for many local students.

Overemphasis On Work

Unlike countries such as Finland that emphasize the importance of play for students, many educators in Singapore believe in giving more work to help their students. This education system perhaps stems from the Singaporean culture of diligence and hard work, the belief that practice makes perfect. Oftentimes, students spend their time after school trying to complete a rising pile of homework and projects.

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This is not to mention that they also have other external commitments and enrichments after school. As such, it is likely that they not only have school work but also tuition work which can be even more challenging to complete. In the end, students may be spread out too thin.

Co-Curricular Activities (CCA)

Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) and extra-curricular programs are unique features of Singapore’s education system. In every government public school, it is mandatory to attend CCA. This is in line with the Singapore education system’s goal of creating holistic development for students. Examples of CCAs include ultimate frisbee, basketball, soccer, dance, netball, choir, band and so many more!

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Such activities can be as frequent as once or twice a week. While such education programmes are commendable, it can be time consuming and deprives students of rest time. Students in school teams can even train as frequently as four times a week to perform well for the competition. As such, CCAs can be a contributing factor to students’ stress if it is not moderated.

Results Oriented

Singapore’s education system is geared heavily towards high achievement in exams. Students feel the pressure to attain stellar results and maintain that excellence. This inevitably breeds a highly competitive system in which students are forced to elbow their way through by pulling all-nighters.

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Parents are also guilty of comparing results amongst classmates which results in unhealthy competition. This pressure translates to Singaporean students feeling significantly more anxious when it comes to grades as opposed to their international counterparts. Learning should be an enjoyable process, and should not be treated like a marathon.

Pressure To Go The Extra Mile

Tuition is a booming and fast-growing business, almost a necessity in order to achieve academic success. A possible reason contributing to the popularity of tuition is that students often have extra materials that schools do not provide.

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Tuition teachers also have the expertise to teach students exam strategies and coach them along the way so that they can be easily applied in national examinations. Given their wide connections with other school teachers, tuition teachers are able to obtain and compile materials from other educational institutions to better their teaching resources. As such, their resourcefulness contributes to the overall efficacy of tuition.

The Competition Within

Competition from foreign students can pose a great deal of stress to local students. In addition to the current competition from local peers, students have to also compete with other international students who have from countries such as Korea, China, and India.

Foreign students are excellent in their academic performance and in fact, they have to be, in order to keep their education going on with the perks of scholarship. Singaporeans certainly feel the pressure to perform well in the presence of such bright students.

What makes Singapore’s education system special?

The Ministry of Education (MOE) sets precise education goals and reviews the national curricula frequently. Out of 72 countries, Singaporean students are consistently being ranked one of the tops for triennial tests called the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). Our curriculum is also designed to be holistic, such that it develops students in a wholesome manner. Steps are taken to ensure that the curriculum is relevant and to constantly keep up with changes too!