Asia

Will an advert change the way Singaporeans think about education?

Printscreen of a Youtube video taken from MOE Image copyright YouTube/MOE
Image caption Singapore's education system is considered to be among the best in the world

An advertisement challenging the way Singaporeans view education has got the country talking.

Singapore's education system, one of the best in the world, is known for its emphasis on grades and examinations.

But a video by the Ministry of Education (MOE) suggests that attitude might be changing.

The short film, based on a true story, shows Madam Pua, a geography teacher, trying her best to encourage and help her student Shirley, who keeps failing her tests.

Image copyright YouTube/MOE
Image caption The video focused on Shirley and Madam Pua, her geography teacher who took her under her wing
Image copyright YouTube/MOE
Image caption Despite failing her exams, Shirley was praised for her hard work and determination to succeed

Despite all her hard work, enthusiasm and progress, Shirley still fails her next exam, but is encouraged by Madam Pua that success isn't about the grades but trying her best.

"Heartened to see the Ministry conveying this message - it's a small step towards a greater goal where students receive a holistic education beyond just academic knowledge. Kudos!" said one post on the MOE's Facebook page in response to the video.

"Liked that the advertisement didn't end dramatically, [with the student] scoring high marks. Inspiring!" another commenter said.

"Tearing like a baby now," said another.

'Try convincing parents'

The MOE said the video, released last Friday to mark Singapore's Teacher's Day, looked to "reinforce the holistic development of students".

"Our teachers have always been focused on character building and making a difference in our students' lives in school and beyond," it said.

The country has also been introducing new programmes for secondary schools, with a greater value placed on arts and outdoor education.

But some say there is still some way to go before societal attitudes change.

Image caption In the 1960s Singapore had widespread illiteracy, now it has the world's top school results

"This ad is so misleading. I've seen teachers contacting parents if their kids don't do well in school. Singapore's education system is crazy," one Facebook post read.

"This is just an ad," said another post. "In reality, based on my own experiences, teachers like to put down students more than encourage them."

"Try convincing the parents," said another.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Children start the rat race at an early age in Singapore

A recent government survey shows that families in Singapore collectively spend about $1.1bn Singapore dollars ($827m; £526m) a year on private tuition, nearly double the amount from a decade ago.

And it works - Singapore came first in the 2015 global school rankings, with the results based on maths and science. The UK came in at 20 and the US at 28.

Nicholas Ong, who graduated from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), one of Singapore's top schools, said that "kids who grow up in Singapore start running the rat race from an early age".

"My parents did not place many academic demands on me, but there was always a subliminal pressure from society to get good grades."

One teacher at a junior college in Singapore, who didn't want to give their name, told the BBC the ad could encourage "a new narrative amongst Singaporeans about education, that the process is just as important as the outcome".

"I think MOE is heading in the right direction to acknowledge, and even to some point, affirm various life routes beyond one that focuses on grades. [But] parents and students often fuel the stress about grades because of a narrow definition of what success can be."

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