Photo of Heng Swee Keat from thestraitstimes

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat took politics to the education system in his interview with The Straits Times, warning Singaporeans that changing political parties and the government will degrade Singapore’s “first rate education system”. Calling a change of government “disruptive”, the Education Minister contrasted other first world countries with Singapore’s education system:

“And this is in sharp contrast to many school systems around the world where a different minister comes in, a different party comes into power, and then you have a new policy that is very disruptive.”

Minister Heng Swee Keat also added that his government has “long-term strategic thinking and the persuit of excellence” for Singapore’s education system and that it helps “every child leads a purposeful life”.

Photo of Heng Swee Keat from thestraitstimes
Photo of Heng Swee Keat from thestraitstimes

However the reality seems to diverge from the utopia-like system Minister Heng Swee Keat described. Singapore’s education system has been lambasted for overemphasis on rote-learning and that the products of Singaporean graduates lack lateral thinking, critical mindset, innovation and the entrepreneur spirit.

In the Singapore economy, most Singaporeans take the paper-chasing path instead of creating a start-up because the education system they were brought up with, penalize failures heavily. For example, a 12 year old child who did poorly in his PSLE exams, will be relegated to the Normal Technical Stream and streamlined to the Institute of Technical Education whose graduates could not earn more than S$1,800 in their first year.

Singapore’s education system is also elitist, which place the most government funding on elite schools like RI, Hwa Chong and ACS. These secondary schools boast facilities like swimming pools and squash courts, with a range of co-curricular activities not available in mid and low-tier neighbourhood secondary schools like East View and Springfield.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has also been lambasted on his overtly-rosy outlook and speaking on various occasions saying “every school is a good school”. In one panel discussion session during 2013, the vice-principal of a neighbourhood school, Jurong West Secondary School, criticized the Minister Heng Swee Keat asking him if he and his Minister colleagues send their children to neighbourhood schools:

“How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it).”