Singapore’s education system is No.1 in Asia – but there’s more to be done beyond the classroom

Students from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School attending an electrical boat-building workshop conducted by Ngee Ann Polytechnic course manager Zhou Yili.
The Straits Times

You’re probably familiar with the narrative of Singapore’s humble beginnings – where we’re a “small country with no natural resources apart from our people”.

So it comes as no surprise how much time and effort is spent curating the education system here, one that has come out tops in Asia in equipping students with skills for working life.

Released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on Tuesday (Sep 19), the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index assessed the “effectiveness” of education systems in over 35 countries across indicators such as education policy environment and teaching environment.

The report covered the education of those between the ages of 15 and 24, concentrating on “inputs” like government expenditures on post-secondary education and quality of teacher education as compared to “output” like test scores, according to Times Higher Education.

This is said to be a better judge of how “students are being readied to master ‘interpersonal, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and navigate an increasingly digital and automated world'” said the same report.

With a score of 80.1 out of 100, Singapore ranked fifth overall in the world – behind New Zealand (88.9), Canada (86.7), Finland (85.8) and Switzerland (81.5).

Singapore and Japan (77.2) were the only two Asian economies to make the Top 10, ahead of other countries like Hong Kong and China which were 14th and 31st in the ranking respectively.

The report stressed that employees of the future will have to compete across borders for the best education, jobs and growth and they will need to be nimble, flexible and dynamic, ready to recognise and respond swiftly to emerging trends.

Therefore, students must be prepared for rapidly evolving technologies and to face challenges such as environmental change, urbanisation, migration and demographic shifts.

According to the study, one area of improvement in Singapore’s education system would be including more initiatives beyond the classroom. This could be assisted by collaborating with businesses, the wider society, or other schools and universities.

Here are the top 10 economies on the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index:

Rank Country Score (out of 100)
1 New Zealand 88.9
2 Canada 86.7
3 Finland 85.5
4 Switzerland 81.5
5 Singapore 80.1
6 UK 79.5
7 Japan 77.2
8 Australia 77.1
9 Netherlands 76.2
10 Germany 75.3