Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
Kashfia Latafat

The education system of any country serves as a backbone for its socio-economic development. Education policy in Pakistan as in other developing countries faces poor implementation issues. Since 1947 – 2017 we have nine detailed and well- designed educational policies, but unfortunately, none of them was implemented in true letter and spirit. As suggested by Hope (2002, p. 40) implementation of a policy is a process of ‘transforming educational policy into practice’, it indicates the gap between policy-making and implementation of it. In Pakistan, every education policy is emphasized on curriculum development according to the socio-economic need and as a continuous process, which serves as a baseline for any education system.  As a nation, we aren’t able to reach on consensus on even a single educational framework to implement in the country. In my opinion, it’s the need for time to conduct comparative studies to opt for better options which are inevitable for the growth and development of the educational sector. For this very reason, I conducted a detailed study of  Singapore’s educational system which is present in the same region and faces almost the same conditions which are prevailing in this region, it ables us to identify the issues as well as solutions.

Singapore was a British colony in the 19th century, achieved self-government in 1959 and became an independent nation in 1965. At the current moment, their education system is internationally recognized and supports the economy of the country. In understanding the educational system in Singapore, it is helpful to note that there were three phases in the educational developments in Singapore since its independence (Tan, 2008). These phases are: ‘survival driven, ‘efficiency-driven, and ‘ability driven.

At their first stage aim was to produce linguistically and technically skilled workers for economic development.  The emphasis was shifted from academics to technical education. They introduced the Bilingualism policy in 1960 according to which proficiency is needed in two languages, English declared as the first language and mother tongue as a second language, regional languages were also taught in some areas where it was needed. This smart move gave Singapore students a head start in employment opportunities in Asia and access to the science and technology of the West.

 In the late 1970s government shifted this phase into an efficiency drive to maintain the demand for manpower in different economic development programs. They analyzed the language policy and realized that not all children are not capable of learning two languages at the same time, the report suggested the changes in the system of one size fits for all, to produce a more efficient workforce for economic development. They introduced different boards from the primary to the second level to cater to the need of every child and to avoid dropouts from schools. The continuous development at different levels was taken into consideration and changes were made in the system. Every child is referred to a respective board after taken a primary school leaving certificate according to their performance in different subject areas. In addition to the Express, Special, and Normal (Academic) streams, a Normal (Technical) stream was introduced in 1994 to cater to the weakest students in secondary schools; they would receive a special curriculum with subjects such as English, mother tongue, mathematics, computer applications and technical studies taught at their level. After completing their secondary years, they are referred to the Institute of Technical Education to learn technical skills. These changes meant that all students would have at least 10 years of education in primary and secondary schools before they specialise in different areas of study. The government succeeded in having 20% of the primary 1 cohort receiving technical-vocational education at the ITE, 40% polytechnic education and another 20% university education (Ho & Gopinathan, 1999). Further changes were taken place in the 1980s when Singapore was facing economic recession and their labour force was under-educated compared to those in the USA, Taiwan and Japan. In 1987, a report, Towards Excellence in Schools, called for several policy initiatives to produce students who are educated, creative and innovative. Consequently, some top secondary schools were selected in 1988 to become ‘independent schools’ where the school leaders were given greater autonomy in the running of the schools and encouraged to spearhead innovative and educationally meaningful programmes, activities and pedagogy (Principals’ Report, 1987)

In 1997 the last and current phase was started which is based on ability driven. It was launched under the ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (TSLN) vision that aspires to develop creative thinking skills, a lifelong passion for learning, and nationalistic commitment in the young (Tan, 2011). This phase is running on the ideology of holistic education of a child and looking forward to gradually reduce the emphasis on the current examination system. The former Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam stated that the government seeks to gradually reduce the emphasis on examinations and focus on holistic education; give the students more choice in their studies so that they can shape and enjoy their learning; and encourage teachers to bring quality and innovative practices into the classroom and school (Tharman, 2004).

The current education system in Singapore reflects three salient features.

The first feature is an educational system that offers a variety of school types and programmes Secondly, the curriculum has been revised to promote customised and inter-disciplinary study, which is a departure from the former curriculum that was common, rigid and classified under different subject-matter disciplines. The third feature concerns the shift in the role of the teacher under an ability-driven education. Teachers are no longer just experts and dispensers of content knowledge; they are expected to be resource persons to facilitate the students’ learning through creative and student-centred activities. A significant policy initiative from the government is to encourage schools to ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ (TLLM). The aim is for teachers to teach better by engaging the students and preparing them for life, rather than merely teaching more for tests and examinations (Tharman, 2004). To support the implementation of TLLM, they reduced the content in the curriculum so that teachers have more space to make learning more engaging and effective. This also means that students will have less to study and more time to explore areas of learning in which they are interested.

Conclusion: In all the above-discussed points it’s visible that all the Governmental sectors need to work in collaboration to bring change in the system. Political and economic instability and lack of resources are main issues which create hurdle in policy implementation. National education policies could not be implemented properly due to weak planning on education and change of political scenario. Every educational system at every level depends heavily on human resources for the execution of its programme. Nwakaand Ofojebe (2010) stated that teachers are the critical resources for effective implementation and realization of the educational policies and objectives at the practical level of the classroom. More investment is required in the area of human resource management for development in the educational sector.

 In Pakistan, we have 72 spoken languages and need a more inclusive language policy. Provision of more equitable access to learning English. Need to declare the English language as the first language and mother tongue as a second language, otherwise, our students will not be able to become confident and efficient in the working field. We need to develop a systematic approach through which curriculum development should be done and declares it as a continuous process. Planning should be done by taking the public and private sector in a loop. The curriculum should be learner-centred and more focus should be on pre-primary education which strengthens the education system.  The government should take initiatives to bring change in the examination system to avoid rote learning, no national curriculum could be implemented without reforms in the examination system. Another aspect is adequate training of teachers, for which public-private partnerships are needed. The government should facilitate the low fee structure of private schools by supporting them, provide registration without charges and exemption from certain regulations and taxes. Intervention form the government sector is required for existing financial assistance programs for government schools students should be extended to needy students in non-govt. school. Incentives should be enhanced so that non-govt. schools can thrive. Instead of setting more universities, there should be more vocational training institutes that are needed to provide skilled workers for economic growth. As in Singapore, they set different boards to cater for children with different abilities, in the same manner, we need to channelize our youth in different fields of learning rather than just a university graduate. The government should take measures to allocate the specific areas through which educational policies can be altered to develop a more effective education system which fulfils the socio-economic need of the country.

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By Kashfia Latafat

A researcher who loves to involve in collecting, organizing, and analyzing opinions and data to solve problems, explore issues, and predict trends.

7 thoughts on “A comparative study of Singapore and Pakistan’s Education System”
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