Singapore – A World-Class Education Hub With Sky-High Tuition Costs

Singapore’s education system has been described as “world-leading” and was among those picked out for commendation by British education minister, Michael Gove, last year. Perhaps, the government’s efforts in providing each child with schooling opportunities are indeed laudable, but still, parents complain of the rigid and competitive nature of this very system. So maybe, the most nerve-wrecking, mind-boggling issue on every Singaporean parent’s mind is how can my child be one of the best? Surely, the recent implementation of “Teach Less, Learn More” does nothing to ease this tension, and to study independently seems not to be the nature of our law-abiding kids, whom our Western counterparts tend to dismiss as “lacking the inquisitive spirit and/or innovation”. But it seems our parents have found an alternative to induce this ‘spirit’ – through intensive tuition.

H2 Mathematics Tuition and H2 Physics Tuition are two of the most common subjects being sort after by Singapore’s high school students to be tutored. A Sunday Times poll conducted by the Straits Times found that out of 100 students, 97 students are attending tuition. Singaporean parents are enrolling their children in multiple tuition centers, many willing to pay up to S$3000 a month engaging multiple Top Tutors- especially for higher level education, e.g., Junior College and/or higher. With the aim of establishing a robust Science Hub, Singaporean parents see the need for their child to be equipped with the necessary, and hence are willing to pay, regardless the price, for crucial science stream subjects, investing in H2 Mathematics Tuition and H2 Physics Tuition.

There are parents who prefer to engage Top Tutors for private home tuition, which are especially common for high school students dealing with more complex and difficult subjects. The rates for Top Tutors can range from S$35/hr to S$80/hr depending on the popularity and level of the tutor. Group or class tuition is also increasingly available in Singapore. Not only is it a cheaper alternative, they also feel that their child will benefit and learn more from interacting with others while asking questions during tuition – a form of inducing an inquisitive spirit. The class size of a typical H2 Physics Tuition or H2 Mathematics Tuition classes are often small for effective teaching and learning.

It may be true that many successful people come from well-off family background, and indeed, their parents may have the capital to equip them with the necessary, but how many outlier cases have we heard, where children from working class families still made their way to the top, for instance, 42nd US President Bill Clinton. Perhaps, who makes it out successful and who does not, depends again largely on the individual.

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Singapore – A World Class Education Hub

The education system in Singapore has grown from strength to strength since its independence in 1965. From being a tool to mould a workforce for key industries as a foundling nation, Singapore’s education system today focuses on developing and retaining talents in as many fields as possible. It is with this focus in mind that Singapore aims to be a “Global Schoolhouse”.

The recipe for success lies in the government’s strive to diversify the education system, build its infrastructure and devise a welfare system that ensures meritocracy exists. This is evident in the increasing expenditure on education despite of the economic downturn – S$ 8683 million (2009), S$ 9910 million (2010). Aside from investing in infrastructure, part of the expenditure goes to a fund called Edusave. Under this scheme, every student is allocated a sum of money that can be used for enrichment classes or cultural exchanges abroad. In this way, students are able to broaden their horizons and further themselves gratis.

Additionally, educational options have also expanded over the past few years. For those who are adept in Sports or the Arts, institutions such as Sports School or School of the Arts were established to cultivate talents while schooling these students in the core academic disciplines. In the realm of higher education, the syllabus in junior colleges has been made flexible with the introduction of H1 and H2 (Higher 1 and 2) system. This allows students to choose subjects at a higher or lower level according to their aptitude for the subject. For example, those who want to be engineers might choose to take H2 Mathematics and H2 Physics while taking humanities like history at a H1 level. Such a system ensures the students learn those subjects that are of interest to them in greater detail.

On top of that, the local universities are collaborating with top universities such as Yale and MIT to ensure students are challenged with different perspectives and achieve a wholesome education.

As for the needy students, the government and local community have been working together to help them. The Straits Times, Singapore’s national newspaper, has set up The Straits Time Pocket Money fund in which its fund raising efforts will go towards helping students with school fees, food and other necessities. This is complemented by the government’s input and the most recent budget review has seen S$4.7 million being allocated for this purpose. This means that no child is left behind and the financial aid will even out the playing field.

Such measures have certainly paid off as Singaporean students have done exceptionally well locally and abroad which is confirmed by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 1995 and 2007. Furthermore, the USA has even adopted the “Singapore Math Method” since 1998 in the hopes of emulating similar successes. Such a reputation has attracted thousands of foreign students to Singapore’s schools at all levels – 61 000 (2003), 86 000 (2007), 97 000 (2009) as reported by a local newspaper in March 2009.

Such excellence is also due no less to the competitiveness of Singaporean students. This has led to a boom in the tuition industry in which engage extra help in their subjects such as physics and mathematics would go for physics tuition and mathematics tuition. This is especially prevalent at the junior college level in which their A levels would decide if they are able to get into their desired university and by extension, attain their dream career.

The evolutionary and all-rounded nature of Singapore’s education system to tackle the changing needs of the world and the constant emphasis by the government has allowed Singapore’s reputation to soar by leaps and bounds. This coupled with the drive to improve by engaging

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