As the Deputy Director of the Education Sector for Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in Singapore, Adrian Lim, believes that alignment is what makes Singapore tick. In his opinion, alignment – from local schools, policies, and the fact that ALL teachers are trained at the National Institute of Education (NIE) are the reason for this unparalled educational success and national reputation. Because Singapore is a small country, they do this more easily. Interestingly, they are concerned that they must carefully monitor the alignment so they do not inhibit creativity! Lim commented that if you focus on testing, then you sacrifice creativity…no doubt.
A key component of IDA are their labs. Essentially, the IDA labs are the aggregation point between tech industry talent, and government to innovate and experiment. They have two locations and provide equipment for tinkering and experimenting. Student groups often visit.
Singapore has progressed, in no small part, due to extensive work and implementation of master plans for technology. The country is now working on their fourth master plan. As part of this planning process, they have developed several future schools that serve as models and a catalyst for improvement. An astonishing point was made that the U.S. Common Core has created critical mass for everyone. This has allowed all companies to innovate and provide the country access to aligned materials. This national plan allows all companies to work towards that common goal.
All teachers are trained in all programs to support student and receive initial training and certification from ONE institution – the National Institute of Education (NIE). The NIE is critically important and supported by the Singapore Ministry of Education. They are THE national teacher training institute in Singapore. The staff and faculty at NIE are extremely proud, highly skilled and view their work as an integral part of the educational service.
The Singapore education system has been referred to as being one of the most successful educational systems in the world. This is not surprising to me due to the sound educational policies and research in the shaping of curriculum and management practices for schools. More importantly, I would suggest it is based on the passion and perseverance of more than 33,000 committed and dedicated teachers in force and their committed and aligned leadership. NIE has a massive commitment to the vision of being an institute of distinction and a mission of creating a world-class institute renowned for its excellence in teacher education and educational research.
In schools, the Ministry of Education provides basic internet access. It appears, this connectivity is not provided by a massively robust infrastructure and growth will be needed to provide the amount of broadband needed for full access to a variety of digital content. If schools need more internet access schools raise money to fund increased access. Schools are still struggling deciding on 1-1 implementations. A positive point is that about 15% of homes in Singapore get assistance with buying a computer and getting home internet access.
The master Singapore educational concept is alignment and is a striking concept. This small country has the opportunity and ability to scale their work and initiatives and focus in ways that are impossible for our country. However, the ability for a state to learn from Singapore and then methodologies employed by IDA are quite possible. As with all educational initiatives, all of the forces must be aligned. Political will to accomplish and manage the change required to truly align the work of all agencies focused on improving educational outcomes is significant.
“If you want people to be a smart nation…you first have to have them be smart citizens.”
Adrian Lim – Deputy Director of the Education Sector for IDA in Singapore