Balancing our Education in Singapore

We all know the popularity and efficiency of Singapore’s renowned education curriculum and structure to make us top the yearly PISA scoring for Math and Sciences globally. Credit has to be given to our forefathers and their foresight to raise the capacity of our population through such a rigorous and highly efficient education for such a wide range of people over such a short period of time. Our Education obsession with the Math and Science is understandable due to the challenging and inspiring history of Singapore. 

However, in recent years with the changing dynamic of our globalized and social media-ridden world, the education scene has also evolved quite drastically. More mental issues have arisen from our philosophically stagnant education structure. The most evident one was the River Valley incident that rocked the whole nation in 2021. Many more such issues and incidents are peppered across the whole island Nation, from Students to Parents to Teachers. The list of people who are sacrificed in the name of education efficiency are growing exponentially amongst the shadow. 

We also experience wider developmental gaps in the socio-emotional aspect in our future generations, largely due to the vicious cycle of the previous efficiently educated generation influencing the next. The lack of socio-emotional resilience and wellness are evident. We just need to talk to a close friend or relative who is raising or working with young folks, they will be able to point you to the evidence. 

Singapore top talents (academically) are often known for their exam smartness and ability to excel in the system. But once out of it, they show a clear lack of social and human creativity to adapt and express themselves. Almost everything requires the drive of authority to make happen. Citizenship and Creativity is clearly lacking in most of the population. 

The impact of the imbalance will not be seen clearly now. But in due time as our leadership changes, and the older generation moves on, all the cracks will smack us right in the face.

It may all sound doom and gloom, but there is always light within a dark tunnel.

The strength in anything lies in the developmental space for research, experimentation and expression. It usually takes time and plenty of unsuccessful prototypes for the strength of the idea to fully crystallize into one that can stand through time. 

Picture Copyright of Trip.com

In Singapore, our strength in Math and Science is built through the developmental space that is the Singapore Science Center. 

For many of us, the Singapore Science Centre is a place we go to visit like a theme park. But hidden behind all the exhibitions and fun, is a huge capacity of labs, equipment and resources for experimentation and development. 

In one of my recent program gigs in the Singapore Science Centre, I was exposed to a whole array of the facilities and amazing personnels that they have. It is absolutely stunning. It is the place where many children’s educational Math and Science experimental prototypes were tried out. Their resource pool is so massive that I realize that it is where Singapore’s strength in Math and Science is truly developed over the years. 

And to top it off, their space is driven with children and education at its core. This makes the exhibitions and programs to be truly meaningful. Because children are the best indicator of value. They don’t mince their words or displease. An exhibition or program that is not engaging and meaningful will be easily pointed out by our children’s unpolitical honesty.

These concoction of elements makes Singapore Science Center an ideal incubation and development center for our Mathematic and Science education curriculum.

Now, if Singapore Science Center can be so successful in being that children-incubation-development space for Math and Science. What about a similar space for Literacy and Art?

In the crusade to balance education so as to address the issues raised from the “efficient” education of Singapore, I suggest just that.

Imagine, a Singapore Art Center. One that is open-minded, messy and expressive, with the same amount of resources the SSC have for Math and Science, but for Literacy and Arts for children. 

Imagine a space unlike the “can-see-cannot-touch” of most museums. But one that is engaging and experimental, with plenty of bandwidth for things to be tried out by the personnel and children who patronize it. It will be a marriage between the messy art programs we see in progressive preschools and the well-curated museum of Singapore.

We may not have to imagine all these, because in truth, various ranges of these are already in the works. There is Playeum, who for a period of time was doing something of sort at Gillman Barrack. There is Tak Takut Kids Club, who is doing great work bringing the social touch to the development of art, literacy and sociology in their community. There is of course the Philantic Museum (aka Children Museum) who for quite sometime does amazing children-centric and engaging exhibitions. 

We have no lack of talents and capable personalities in the literacy, arts and education scene to make the Singapore Arts Center a reality.

But the challenge for many of them, is that their resources are limited due to the vast difference between their establishments and one that the Education Ministry (2nd most resourced Ministry in Singapore) is committed to. 

Isn’t it high time for us to invest the same amount we had for Math and Science, in Literacy and Arts? 

Can we have almost an equal amount of factory-like efficient producers and  human-centric creativist that a developed nation naturally progresses to?

Are we ready for the progressive Singapore Arts Center? 

Are we ready for the balance of Singapore Education? 

The ball is on our court…

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