Measuring classroom pedagogical transformations when “Educating for change”? A lesson from Singapore


By standards of international benchmarking tests, Singapore’s education system has been successful in making shifts needed to meet the emerging demands of the 21st century. Despite this recognition, locally, stubborn narratives of Singaporeans' educational experiences as being primarily didactic and exam-focused persist, with official and public constructions of the “inadequate-Singaporean” being a prototypical fall-out of such a system. This paper adopts a critical realist perspective to disentangle the narrative. Examining educational structures targeted for change under Singapore’s Thinking Schools Learning Nation (TSLN) and Teach Less Learn More (TLLM) initiatives, the paper provides a less simplistic account of Singapore’s shifting educational landscape. The explanatory critique develops an alternative interpretation of findings reported by a large-scale research project in 2013, which observed that ‘a pedagogy that is intractably didactic' endures in Singapore classrooms, indicating policy ineffectiveness in generating desired changes. This paper re-examines policy documents, and the focus and concepts of change adopted in the large-scale project. It questions an underlying assumption guiding the project, which alludes that the efficacy of educational reform initiatives should be investigated ‘at the point they matter most, the classroom’. By focusing primarily on classroom pedagogical practices, many out-of-classroom programs introduced and adopted under TSLN and TLLM remained unexamined. Findings from the present study suggest two kinds of changes have taken place - the reorientation of pedagogical practices in post-secondary institutions and extensions of what already exists in the primary and secondary sections.

Author Information
Denise E. De Souza, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2017
Stream: Organizational learning and change

This paper is part of the ECE2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon