How does the education system work in Singapore

Singapore: And now everyone is getting creative


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Holistic. The headmaster has just greeted his visitor when the word is spoken for the first time. Education at the Frontier Primary School is "holistic", emphasizes the Rector: "School does not only consist of mathematics, natural sciences and English."

At the university, too, it only takes 15 minutes for the professor to put the word: holistic ("holistic"). The director of the teachers' academy can do it in seven. And what did the education minister do after his country's spectacular Pisa success in December? He raved about "climbing walls" and "creative workshops" in schools.

Singapore is considered to be the nerd nation in the world. Whether science, math or reading: For the first time, Singapore's students performed best in all three disciplines of the international benchmark. Singapore even has a lead of more than fifty Pisa points in mathematics compared to Finland, the European leader in the class. This corresponds to about two years of learning. In a nutshell: Compared to the Singaporeans, we Europeans are all high school students at best.

How does a country, the majority of the population of which 50 years ago were illiterate, manage to raise its population to such a level of education? What can our schools learn from the Asians? And - holistically, holistically, holistically - why of all people in Singapore has been talking for some time as if they wanted to apply to a Waldorf school?

A visit on site, in classrooms, universities and ministries. If you want to get on the trail of the Singaporean educational miracle, you will encounter a system that confirms all the clich├ęs about Asian cramming cultures - and that at the same time continues to surprise. Where students practice math for hours, but talk a lot and do little arithmetic. Where teachers are stuck in a corset of constant observation and can still develop more than any of their German colleagues.

7.45 a.m., the students line up for roll call. The school classes arrange themselves in dead straight rows in the playground and sing the national anthem. Exactly on the last note, the Singapore flag reaches the top. Then the 1,200 boys and girls put their right fists on their hearts and say the national oath together: "We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ..."

The Frontier Primary School is located in a new development area in the west of the city, just before the border with Malaysia. In Singapore there are elite blacksmiths and "neighborhood schools" like Frontier Elementary School. Your students come from the residential towers that surround the school grounds like guards. One in two of them does not speak English at home as they do at school, but rather Mandarin, Malay or Tamil.

In German elementary schools the classes are often called "butterflies" or "dandelions" instead of a, b, c, d. At Frontier Elementary School, they are named for the school's values: respect, gratitude, compassion. In "Respect 6" today, lessons begin with math.

38 girls and boys sit at tables for two, their gaze fixed on their teacher Vincent Yew. Fans turn overhead, the door is open. Here, as everywhere in Asia, mathematics is the supreme discipline. Those who are good are highly valued - by parents and teachers, but also by their classmates. Nobody in Singapore would think of flirting with their math deficiencies. 35 percent of Singaporeans solve the most complicated types of tasks in the Pisa test, compared to only 13 percent in Germany.