Singapore is a country that is well-known for its high standard of education. Particularly in the field of math and science, students exhibit stellar performance. A major role is played by STEM education in Singapore, which is what we will be discussing in this article. As a case in point, Singapore students perform well in all international math and science competitions, tests and quizzes.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) takes place once every four years. It is set by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a non-profit research cooperative based in Amsterdam. Results (2019 edition) for this test revealed that Singapore students emerged top rank, beating students from other East Asian territories like Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
This is the third time students have clinched the top position, setting the curve for other students worldwide. The study included 72 education systems, with Singapore represented by about 5,990 Primary 4 pupils from all 186 public primary schools and 4,850 Sec 2 students from all 152 public secondary schools. According to Ministry of Education (MOE) all the students were selected at random.
Asian education systems dominate the upper reaches of these results tables – accounting for the top seven places for maths, with Singapore followed by Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, China and South Korea.
The ultimate reason for these statistics is the targeted and strategic way of teaching that STEM education in Singapore has.
WHAT IS STEM EDUCATION?
STEM is a curriculum that is based on four major disciplines, which are,
This is done in an interdisciplinary fashion and there is a lot of application-based learning in this. These four disciplines are not handled separately, but rather, they are intertwined with one another to form a holistic and cohesive learning experience.
WHY IS STEM EDUCATION IMPORTANT?
The main branches which are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, have an integral part to play in mankind’s development in the world that is becoming a smaller place due to globalisation. Countries are competing with one another in various aspects, ranging from education to employment rates, advancement in technology and military power.
For humanity to continue advancing by leaps and bounds, STEM education seems to be the key. The modern corporate landscape depends on technology to propel itself forward. Even a field like medicine is looking forward to dive deeper into the human body to explain the unexplainable with the aid of technology.
This could also be the answer to patching the gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty gap can be reduced by making use of these disciplines in many creative ways. Moreover, environmental issues are growing exponentially. Education has to spark new ideas in young minds to make living from environmentally friendly and sustainable. All these possibilities can only be translated into actions if young minds are trained in these disciplines.
UNIQUENESS OF STEM EDUCATION
Traditional classroom setting has many advantages to learning but for STEM curriculum, things are a little different. This requires students to internalise information and put that to use to solve novel problems. Memorising huge amounts of content may earn students marks in their exams but education is more than just about stellar grades.
STEM curriculum is primarily focused on developing children’s practical skills and to show them that education should lead to much more than just landing on a good career in future.
Creativity does not come overnight and students need to do a lot to get to that stage. An inquisitive mind can only be moulded by a good tutor and hence STEM curriculum has the best teachers on board to guide children in a strategic manner.
There are a lot of hands-on components as well which makes learning more interactive and engaging. It is also a great way to retain information in mind as hands-on activities aid memory retention.
HOW IS IT IN THE CONTEXT OF SINGAPORE?
STEM curriculum does not completely trump over regular curriculum. Parents are often unsure of what this can offer and thus there is a general lack of awareness about this. In fact, STEM education expands children’s exposure and pushes them beyond their boundaries.
Moreover, Ministry of Education encourages students to use computers and iPads for lessons. The incorporation of technology into learning is a testament to the fact that electronic gadgets can be put to good use. Students become what we call as “digital natives,” and this gives them the extra edge to excel in academics in a myriad of ways in future.
This mode of education ensures that students empathise with societal problems, identify gaps in existing measures, come up with creative measures to tackle problems, create hypothesis, test and evaluate and explore possibilities.
WHEN COULD IT BEGIN?
In short, “the earlier the better” is the best answer to this question. When children are introduced to STEM education from the beginning, they will get into the groove of this method of learning. The way they think and carry out implementation of ideas would be unique and novel if they are used to such education from the beginning. Early introduction is also a good initiative as students would not have problems keeping up with new technological innovations as they grow up.
Although the STEM degrees are widely recognised, studying an existing field will not be enough to propel a person into a successful lifetime career. STEM is always making transitions; it’s always evolving and it requires students and teachers to roll with the punches as well. Many jobs would become obliterated in the near future and thus students need to keep an open mind about their preferences.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has a huge role to play in this transition. The corporate landscape and its job demands will make a huge turn over in a matter of few years. This is something that everyone can anticipate as technology and sciences are developing at a rapid rate. Low-skilled jobs would be carried out by technology and humans need to refine their skills to be eligible for high-skilled jobs that would be in demand.
It’s also important to note that there is a great amount of flexibility in STEM careers. There is a wide variety to choose from and in the process of studying, students can slowly start to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and think about their preferences.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “STEM” & “STEAM”?
STEAM Education stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. This is almost similar but different in certain aspects. It encourages students to involve in themselves in critical thinking and also be effective communicators who can articulate their ideas as well.
STEM alone may not be able to completely fulfil the expectations of employers. STEAM is even more special as it integrates a rather contrasting subject, which is the Arts. Adding on this discipline gives a new dimension to education and opens up a whole new world of opportunity.
WHERE ARE THESE PROGRAMMES AVAILABLE?
There are many schools in Singapore that have both STEM and STEAM programmes available. These include,
And so much more.
Children have an amazing grasping power and they would be able to grab onto information really well when taught to them. This is one of the major reasons why there is a huge emphasis being placed on proper guidance in early education. Young minds have to be nurtured carefully and education system has to be shaped as such.
Not all children are the same; they are all unique in their own ways. For children who are predominantly interested in math and sciences, STEM is the way to go. If they are willing to go a step further to incorporate the discipline of Arts into their learning, STEAM is a great option!