Closing the Achievement Gap in Singapore

  • Jason TAN


Singapore’s education system has been under intense international scrutiny ever since its students’ spectacular results in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study were released in 1997. These results have been replicated in the subsequent international comparative studies of educational achievement, such as the most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study. At first glance, the system would appear, to the untrained eye, to have been extremely successful in terms of producing superior educational outcomes. This chapter discusses and analyzes the existence of gaps in the educational outcomes, along mainly social class and ethnic lines, as well as sustained government and community efforts to bridge these gaps. In addition, it highlights recurring tensions between elitist and egalitarian impulses in official policymaking. It will use a definition of the term achievement gap—disparities in educational outcomes between students of differing demographic characteristics such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status—which has been modified from the one used by Adekile (2012). To date, the scanty official data on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the primary and secondary levels of schooling have been presented in terms of ethnicity. The data reveal that the ethnic Malay minority has persistently lagged behind the ethnic Chinese majority over the past decade, in terms of science achievement at the primary level and science and mathematics achievements at the secondary level. These gaps have persisted despite the existence of state-subsidized private tutoring schemes targeted at improving the ethnic Malay academic achievement.


Private Tutoring Independent School Parliamentary Debate Central Provident Fund Learn Support Programme 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Policy and Leadership StudiesNational Institute of EducationSingaporeSingapore

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