Chu Chou smiles when asked how her parents would react to a low test score. “My parents are not that strict, but they expect a lot from me,” he says. “I have to do well. Excellent in my studies. That’s what they expect of me.” Cheerful, slightly built 13-year-old Admiralty is a student at a public high school in the northern suburbs of Singapore that opened in 2002.
Teaching Mathematics In Secondary Schools
A city-state of just 5.5 million people, Singapore routinely ranks at or near the top in global comparisons of math ability and boasts one of the most highly regarded education systems in the world. In a league table based on the test results of 76 countries published by the OECD in May last year, Singapore came first, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The rankings, based on tests of 15-year-olds’ ability in maths and science, reinforced the sense that Western children are lagging behind their Asian peers. Great Britain was 20th and the USA 28th in the table.
Tips For Culturally Responsive Teaching In The Math Classroom
At meetings of world education ministers, when it’s Singapore’s turn to speak, “everyone listens very carefully,” says Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD’s Education Review Programme. Governments around the world have tried to incorporate elements of the “Singapore Model” into their approach to teaching mathematics and science. The latest is Britain, which announced earlier this month that half of English primary schools will adopt the Singapore style of teaching maths, to train teachers and buy new textbooks. With funding of up to £41m over four years. But what is it about Singapore’s system that allows its children to outperform their international peers? And how easy would it be for other countries to import his success?
A densely populated region in Southeast Asia, Singapore borders Malaysia to the north and Indonesia’s Leviathan Peninsula to the south. The former British trading post was granted autonomy in 1959 and was briefly part of the Federation of Malaysia before becoming fully independent in 1965. The feeling of being dwarfed by our wider neighbors is deep in the national psyche, causing both fear and pride. Addressing union workers on May 1 last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told citizens: “To survive, you have to be extraordinary.” The alternative, he warned, is “to be pushed, pushed, trampled; that is the end of Singapore and the end of us”.
Every morning, Admiralty students gather for a rally under banners that say the same thing in a less rhetorical way. “Singapore owes its survival to no one,” declares one of the crowd. “We must defend Singapore ourselves,” reads another.
For fans of the city-state educational model, the good news is that its world-class school system was built in a relatively short time. During the British rule, education was the preserve of the rich. Most of the population – Chinese, Malay and Tamil immigrants and their descendants – were illiterate. Singapore’s post-independence government, led by first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, expanded the school system to cover the entire population. Attracting foreign investors and building a successful manufacturing sector is considered an important step in the post-colonial development of the country. Lee, the authoritarian and perfectionist who led the country for nearly 30 years, believed that schools had a dual purpose: to create a single English-speaking nation out of a multilingual population and to supply factories with workers. For Singapore to survive and prosper, he said in 1966, “what is needed is a strong, determined, highly trained, highly disciplined community”.
Practical And Creative Approaches To Teaching Mathematics
Mathematics in Singapore is not just knowledge. It’s about thinking like a mathematician, Andreas Schleicher, who runs the OECD’s Education Evaluation Program.
City and state politicians still discuss education primarily in terms of economic utility. In his speech in May 2015, Lee Hsien Loong described a conversation he had with the South Korean Minister of Education. “We compared notes and I told him in Singapore that we try to train people for jobs they can fill. When our students graduate, they get jobs right away. They were envious,” Lee said.
Lee notes disparagingly that South Korea has more institutions teaching German literature than Germany: “How many German teachers do you need in Korea?” he asked, pointing out that Korean students who earn degrees in subjects such as German will face the same problem of youth unemployment as many other countries.
Mathematics and science are core subjects in Singapore, taught in primary and secondary education. Although students can choose to study humanities for A-levels, they must continue to study maths or at least one science subject until they leave school (and vice versa: science students should take one humanities subject). From post-primary school years, children have specialist mathematics teachers.
New Visions Math Curriculum
The “Singapore Method” was first developed in the 1980s by a team of teachers in the city-state, who were tasked by the Ministry of Education to develop high-quality teaching materials. He studied the latest research in behavioral science, as well as traveled to schools in other countries, including Canada and Japan, to compare the effectiveness of different teaching methods. Aiming to focus on teaching children to solve problems beyond simple rote learning, the textbooks the group produced were inspired by educational psychologists such as the American Jerome Bruner, who argued that people develop in three stages. Learn: using real. By objects, then images, then symbols. This theory contributed to Singapore’s strong emphasis on modeling mathematical problems using visual aids. Using colored blocks to represent different parts or ratios, for example.
According to the OECD’s Schleicher, Singapore’s curriculum is more pared down than in many Western countries at the primary level, covering fewer topics but making it more in-depth – a key factor in its effectiveness. According to Schleicher of the OECD. “When you look at England and America, [their curricula] are miles wide and inches deep,” he says. “They teach many things, but at a low level. Mathematics in Singapore is not about knowing everything. It is about thinking like a mathematician.”
In the West, it is believed that some children are more capable than others in certain subjects. Not so in Singapore, where hard work is valued more than talent. Tim Oates, who was in charge of the National Curriculum Review for England in 2010-2013 and is now director of research at Cambridge Assessment, says the approach has finally been adopted in the English system. “It’s a different approach to competence – really, a big change in the way kids look at it,” he says. “From a competency-based model of individualized learning to a model [that says] all kids are capable of anything, depending on how it’s presented to them and how they learn it. who’s trying.”
Related to this idea, the Asian approach to mathematics also favors teaching the whole class rather than dividing the class into small groups of different abilities to work through exercises. A whole-class approach allows the teacher to spot weaknesses and intervene quickly if a child needs help, rather than getting stuck on a problem and demanding attention.
Mathematics Teaching And Social, Emotional, And Academic Development
The classrooms at the Admiralty are sparsely furnished. When I walk into a 13-year-old’s classroom, there is only one piece of art on the back wall. Paper cutout of a cherry tree with scattered blossoms. In front, where the teacher stands, there is a blackboard, a projector, a Singapore flag and a clock. I was later told that other decorations were removed to avoid disturbing or helping students during one exam period.
The subject is English, the second language of most children here, who speak Malay or Chinese at home. In front of the class, teacher Wendy Chen shows a film of migrant workers responding to racist comments. It’s a controversial topic: Foreign workers in construction, manufacturing and domestic services are subject to racial discrimination in Singapore. Chen asked the 13-year-olds to look at the use of the pronouns “we” and “they.” She again gives a newspaper clipping about migrant workers and asks them to analyze it. “Who, what, when, where, how,” she instructed quickly.
The environment is labor intensive. During the day, children perform their tasks in silence with relatively little chatter. In Singapore’s all-boys schools, corporal punishment is allowed as a last resort. When teachers need attention, they give a persistent note instead of raising their voice. The teacher, when she feels that her class is weakening, begins to pepper her instructions with the phrase “my dear”. Further absorbing the discipline, many children join the police or the military.
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