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Singapore teachers visit the US to get some tips

By Murray Bourne, 26 Mar 2007

The standard of mathematics and science in Singapore is high, according to testing against many benchmarks.

So why are Singaporean teachers visiting the US on a study tour?

An article last week in the Washington Post, Asian Educators Looking To Loudoun [Academy of Science] for an Edge, has some interesting things to say about one of these encounters.

The scientists had come thousands of miles from the island nation of Singapore to the Academy of Science in Sterling in search of ways to improve their teaching. This could be considered surprising, given that Singapore's eighth-graders rank No. 1 in science and math globally and those in the United States rank ninth in science and 15th in math, according to the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

The director of the Academy, George Wolfe asks in the article:

"There's so much publicity about Americans not scoring well on tests, but few people ask the question: Then why are we producing so much innovation from our scientists?"

Well, Mr Wolfe, it's because a large proportion of that innovation is coming from Asian immigrants.

The article goes on to outline Singapore's excellent, but widely misunderstood TLLM, "Teach Less, Learn More" initiative. One of the visitors (from Hwa Chong Institution, a top school just down the road from us) says:

"Just by watching, you can see students are more engaged, instead of being spoon-fed all day."

There is a mention of the report on the differences between Singapore and US education:

In 2005, a report commissioned by the U.S. Education Department compared math teaching in the United States and Singapore. It found that U.S. texts place less emphasis on understanding math concepts in depth and that U.S. teachers are less likely to clearly understand the subject.

The last word goes to a 15 year-old from the Science Academy, who says...

... his math and science classes are highly challenging. "They don't tell us what to do," he said. "We have to figure it out for ourselves. It's not straight out of the textbook. I like this better."

Exactly - TLLM in a nutshell.

See the 2 Comments below.

2 Comments on “Singapore teachers visit the US to get some tips”

  1. MathNerd says:

    Seems strange to me that the Americans want higher standards, so are looking to the East for inspiration, and the Asians are wanting to move away from exams and have more creativity, so they are looking to the Americans for inspiration.

    They great Education Experiment continues...

  2. Murray says:

    Yes, I'm with you there, MathNerd.

    What education system really works? it is clear that the lecture-based system is on its last legs and that it should be replaced by problem-based and other collaborative models.

    I live in hope.

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