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Topic: Michael DeBell

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November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Guest: Lessons learned from Singapore’s proactive education system

On campus at the Singapore Technical Institute (Photo courtesy of Michael DeBell)

On campus at the Singapore Technical Institute (Photo courtesy of Michael DeBell)

The principal of the school was blunt: “This new technical school is very expensive but much cheaper than a prison.”

Seattle educators traveled to Singapore in October for the third meeting of the Global Cities Education Network. The Asia Society brought us together to study and share our common challenges in public education.

Singapore, like other developed Asian nations, scores at or near the top in international tests. The country is multicultural, has a large proportion of poor immigrants and operates a bilingual school system. Its success is nothing short of stunning and provides lessons for our interminable debates over education reform.

Observers sometimes compare the nation of Singapore to a corporation that serves its citizen shareholders with harsh laws and great social services. The coordination between the economy and the education system is proactive and comprehensive. Youth unemployment is virtually zero, as the graduates of universities, polytechnic colleges, and technical institutes hit the labor market with the content knowledge and skill sets matching the evolving local economy. This success occurs because nearly equal attention goes to the bottom third of students on standardized tests as the top third headed for universities.

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