The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducts the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in member nations and a significant number of non-member nations. The purpose of this test is to evaluate the performance of 15-year-old school students in mathematics, science, and reading. The scores are intended to set a benchmark for countries seeking to improve their education systems. Since 2000, this assessment has been conducted every three years.
The results PISA for 2015 were released in December 2016. Singapore topped the ranking in all three subjects. The city state has been performing exceptionally since the first PISA in 2000. Its ranking has always been among the top ten countries. How do school students in Singapore score so high in PISA? The school system in Singapore is a highly competitive environment where students put in a tremendous amount of effort to perform well in their exams. The teachers are also highly trained and the government closely supervises the curriculum to keep it as updated with the latest global developments.
Despite having one of the most highly rated education systems in the world, statistics revealed that tuition centres which were worth $650 million in 2004 are a one billion dollar industry today. The paradox of Singapore’s world class education system is that parents are spending a significant amount of their earnings to send their children to tuition centres. Why is this happening and how effective are these tuition centres in improving the academic performance of the students?
One possible reason for the proliferation of tuition centres could be the highly competitive, result oriented nature of the Singaporean education system. Students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) after completing six years of primary education. Entry into secondary school is decided based on the marks obtained in the PLSE examination. After completing four years of secondary school education, students take the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (O-level) to start their post-secondary education. After completing two years of post-secondary education, students take the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A-level) to enter university. Owing to the fact that these exams are held nationally and success in these exams is highly valued in Singaporean society, parents turn to tuition centres to help their children gain a competitive edge over the rest of the students. From tuition for Singapore’s unique Integrated Programme (ip) to general paper (gp) tuition, Singapore has numerous tuition centres to help students with their academics.
Despite the popularity of tuition centres, experts say that they are useful only in improving the knowledge of basic concepts. They are sceptical about the ability of tuition centres to improve critical thinking and problem solving skills.