As I waited for my flight it was hard not to be impressed by Singapore. For such a densely populated place, the public transportation and infrastructure were simply amazing; everything worked, and the people I met were always polite, courteous, and curious about the project I was working on.
There appeared a real thirst and ambition from people in Singapore to get the most out of their lives – even if it meant really pushing themselves, as clearly they work very very hard. This work ethic was just so clearly evident – whether it be when people are working, studying, or even taking part in leisure activities; there always appeared a real focus to their activity. Above all, it felt the safest place I have ever visited – and the adults and students I met mentioned that continually. People feel very safe and secure here.
I guess this description only reaffirms the fact that Singapore is very much seen as a success story. For such a relatively small country it clearly has significant influence and impact in comparison to its size, and Singaporeans appear particularly proud of that, and rightly so. Central to this development and sustained progress in addition to the strong work ethic is a real value in education. Posters for tutoring services, schools and various educational programmes were commonplace and everyone I met appeared particularly motivated to get the most from school and the opportunities they provided.
Similarly, teachers are held in very high regard and this was always evident. Whenever people discovered that I worked in the education sector, students and adults were keen to hear more about my experiences, and where I had worked previously. The students and young people I met, without exception, all spoke of the possibilities that education would bring for them in the future, and despite pushing themselves really hard were clearly very engaged and interested in the world around them.
Singapore, due to its size and position has few national resources and so there is a recognition that its people are the resource best placed to help the country to progress. This approach clearly has significant merits, but also like any system, some notable challenges. Chief amongst these appear to be the potential stress it places on young people as they progress through a clearly very intensive schooling system.
In the future, many Singaporeans indicated that they are particularly concerned about immigration and the pressure that will come as more people move to an already crowded and competitive country. The lifestyle here also has some notable characteristics. Many Singaporeans commented on the lack of outdoor space available to them in such a crowded place but also that much of their time is actually spent indoors because of the very humid weather.
As a teacher, throughout my time in Singapore I couldn’t help but be continually struck by one consistent theme. Everyone I spoke with immediately recognised and appreciated the significant stresses placed on young people in Singapore and yet at the same time everyone, both adults and teenagers alike, were equally quick in applauding the same educational system and the opportunities it provided.