Hi.

I come from a country that's so small you can't even see it on the world map. But I'll show you where I live, nonetheless.

Take out your smartphones, open Google Maps, find South East Asia and zoom in all the way until you see a tiny island called Singapore.

Yup, surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia. That's where I'm from.

I'm not going to whine about anything, because what's the point, really. Ranting isn't good content.

I'm just going to address an article that's been on my mind recently, even though it was published last year. It's about the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study, which ranks countries' education according to two tests: the Programme for International Student Assessment for 15-year-olds and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study for 14-year-olds.

In the study last year, Asian countries topped the survey; with the top 5 positions occupied by countries such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and yes, Singapore. The pole position is helmed by... you guessed it. 

Singapore.

Which is pretty cool, I guess. And this puts Singapore's education system in the spotlight in a good and bad way.

Countries are looking to Singapore as a model for quality and affordable education for their children. And meanwhile, Singapore is looking at Finland's education system as a model and a guide.

Why Finland, even though they are in the top 10 but in a lower rank than Singapore?

This is when I touch on the title of my blog post. 

Singaporeans have been raising issues and criticism about our examination system putting pressure on students and parents alike. We have this exam called the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) which is a exam all 12 year old students need to sit for to determine which secondary school best fits their academic standards. The higher you score, the 'better' and more choices you have in terms of the ability of schools you can choose to go to.

This exam has come under a lot of criticism, because some students are going for a large number of tuition classes, some even every single day or literally every waking hour. Parents stare helplessly at their children's work dumbfoundedly and can only say "schoolwork is so difficult now as compared to my day". The exam has also been criticised due to the fact that 12-year olds do not have the maturity and mental capability to handle stress that starts building up in the examination year, and sometimes one to two years before. Some even claim that children should enjoy their childhood while they can.

Last year, education officers travelled to Finland under this programme called the 'ASPIRE' programme to see how Singapore's education system can be modified and further improved. They found out that Finland's students produce reasonably good results, enjoy school and do not face the same stress Singaporean students face. 

So now our PSLE system is slowly undergoing changes, like removing the T-score which places a large amount of emphasis on academic brilliance and promoting admission exercises which also judge a student based on his or her co-curricular activities, leadership or good qualities and behaviour. 

Enough of the technicalities of PSLE and the background information of my article. I'm here to write about what it's like to study in Singapore, the top country of the study.

Studying here in Singapore is stressful, I will not deny. There is immense pressure to excel, to do well, and the numbers or alphabets can sometimes mean you get praised or get eaten alive by your parents. Your grades are a form of comparison with your relatives. Going to a 'good school' is also a form of comparison with your relatives.

In addition, in recent day, we have more pressure because of diversifying classes. We now have students from countries in ASEAN and even further off who do excellently in their academics. It gets exasperating, when they are constantly at the top and it's difficult to beat them. But it adds for good competition and diversifying study methods.

Going home isn't freedom from school. One is chained to the study table and chair, a pile of books and notes and stationery in front of you to face. Your homework. Finish all that, and you barely have time for yourself. 

It honestly depends and varies for every student. I found close-to-perfect balance with my studies and having the occasional bit of fun, but yet I still felt I lacked having a life. I even had time to prepare for a teacher's grade music exam, (though I failed, but it had a high passing mark.)

One thing I feel Singaporean students always complain about is that they feel homework is so stressful. Trust me, 80% of them say that because they rush all the work the week or day before the new school term starts. It always helps to complete your work on the day it is given to you.

Not to say that we don't have fun. When we do have fun, we really let loose. Like, really. To the point that we're deep into something we call the 'holiday mood' and we can't crawl out of it when work starts piling in.

You know, come to think of it; we, Singaporean students, actually have a lot to learn from our foreign counterparts. This I will talk about more in my next post.

Nonetheless, I hope that in the future, the education system in Singapore will still produce stellar results with a slightly less competitive and significantly less stressful environment. Singapore has a lot to learn from Finland's conducive and well-structured education system indeed.

Published by Eunice Yeo