Friday, April 29, 2011

Education: Singapore and South Dakota Edition

Which of the following goals statements comes for the United States and which comes from Singapore?

Statement A:  “The goal for [Country X's] educational system is clear: Every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Every student should have meaningful opportunities to choose from upon graduation from high school.”

Statement B:  “The person who is [educated] . . . in [Country X's] system . . . . has a good sense of self-awareness, a sound moral compass, and the necessary skills and knowledge to take on challenges of the future. . . .is responsible to his family, community and nation. . . .appreciates the beauty of the world around him, possesses a healthy mind and body, and has a zest for life.

In today's prime example of educational system irony, Singapore, a country infamous for maintaining tight control on its citizens, wants them to have "a zest for life" whereas the land of the free wants to prepare citizens for "a career."

Lest one assume that Singapore is trying to produce a bunch of liberals who will hate democracy and live solely to destroy capitalism, the country wants to produce students that become
* a confident person who has a strong sense of right and wrong, is adaptable and resilient, knows himself, is discerning in judgment, thinks independently and critically, and communicates effectively;
* a self-directed learner who takes responsibility for his own learning, who questions, reflects and perseveres in the pursuit of learning;
* an active contributor who is able to work effectively in teams, exercises initiative, takes calculated risks, is innovative and strives for excellence; and,
* a concerned citizen who is rooted to Singapore, has a strong civic consciousness, is informed, and takes an active role in bettering the lives of others around him.
First, I note that there's not much STEM detail in these goals.  Second, it seems as if most conservatives admire entrepreneurs who take "calculated risks" and want people who are "rooted" in America.  I'm pretty sure that a person who "takes responsibility" and perseveres will also possess “self-reliance, persistence, and frugality,” qualities beloved by Governor Daugaard.

I stole most of this information about Singapore from this Valerie Strauss post, so I might as well steal her conclusion as well.
Again, I don’t know if Singapore actually produces the kind of student described in these desired outcomes. “Standing up for what is right” doesn’t seem so desirable to an authoritarian government, and doesn’t have the identical political meaning in East Asia that it does in the more liberal West.
But because its school system is so often compared favorably to ours, it is fair to look at what kind of graduates the government of Singapore says it wants the public school system to produce.
I have no doubt Americans would like to see its graduates confident and innovative and moral and healthy and appreciative of the arts. We just don’t have time to talk about that because we are too busy talking about tests and bad teachers and Michelle Rhee.
Talking about Rhee may happen more in DC than it does in South Dakota.  We just talk about cutting funding and getting rid of teachers, whether they be good or bad teachers makes no difference.

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