Now that I’ve shown you most of the course details that go into a K to 12 Basic Education Cycle in the United States (Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6-Middle School, Grade 7-Middle School, Grade 8-Middle School, High School) on one hand, and what goes into a K to 10 or K to 11 Basic Education Cycle in Singapore on the other, let me assure you that both countries enjoy comparably rich economies.
On one hand the United States’ K to 12 basic education cycle consists of:
- 1-year kindergarten: In the United States, kindergartens are usually part of the K-12 educational system. It is only one school-year. Children usually attend kindergarten around age 5 to 6. Although not required, the student may attend pre-school before kindergarten.
- 5-year elementary: In the United States, kindergarten is considered part of elementary education — kinder to Grade 5.
- 3-year middle school: This consists of Grade 6, Grade 7 and Grade 8.
- 4-year high school: Grades 9 through 12.
On the other hand, Singapore’s K to 10 or 11 basic education cycle consists of:
- 3-year kindergarten: Kindergartens are ‘schools’ that provide a structured 3-year pre-school education program for children aged 4 to 6. The 3-year programme consists of Nursery, Kindergarten 1 and Kindergarten 2. Kindergartens function daily, five days a week, with schooling hours ranging from 3 hours to 4 hours each day. Most kindergartens function at least two sessions a day.
- 6 year primary: Primary Education consists of a 4-year foundation stage from Primary 1 to 4 and a 2-year orientation stage from Primary 5 to 6. The overall aim of primary education is to give students a good grasp of English language, Mother Tongue and Mathematics.
- 4- or 5-year secondary education:Special And Express Courses:4-year courses leading to the GCE ‘O’ Level examination. Special course students offer Mother Tongue at a higher level (Higher Chinese/Higher Malay/Higher Tamil).Normal Course:
- Students in the Normal course follow either the Normal (Academic) [N(A)] or Normal (Technical) [N(T)] curriculum.
- 4-year programme leading to the GCE ‘N’ Level examination.
- A 5th year leading to the GCE ‘0’ Level examination is available to N(A) students who perform well in their GCE ‘N’ Levels.
- Students can move from one course to another based on their performance and the assessment of their Principal and teachers.:
The effective length of stay in school may be similar in both the United States and Singapore — even as the U.S. has Grades 1 to 12 and Singapore has Grades 1 to 10/11, the major difference is in the length of Kindergarten. The U.S. requires one year of kindergarten, whereas Singapore requires 3 years.
If the “proof is in the pudding”, the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) math and science tests administered quadrennially put some significant separation between the United States and Singapore: Singapore students have consistently outperformed their counterparts in the United States, according to the following tables (the 2011 TIMSS results are not available yet):
Take away kindergarten for a moment, Singapore’s Grades 1 to 10 (or Grades 1 to 11) is virtually the same cycle length as the Philippines’ old cycle of 6 years of grade school + 4 years of high school. In other words, the Philippines and Singapore have virtually the same number of years (10 years) within which to mint a high school graduate. The thinking is: the Philippines doesn’t have to add 2 more years of senior high school. Instead of adding 2 more years of high school just to keep up with the Joneses, why don’t we take a closer look at how Singapore can do the same thing much better in 10 years than the majority who are doing it in 12 years? We sure can learn a thing or two from Singapore instead of saddling our students and their parents with two more years of expense and major, major grief, in addition to giving some of our students more time and opportunity to drop out of the system.
I don’t mind if we tweak our Kindergarten by adding a year and making it more structured and rigorous. After all, studies confirm that brain development is busiest at a tender age — something that those in Singapore must have in mind when they decided to have a 3-year kindergarten system.
The reasoning by the few rich and elitists (comprising anywhere between 5% to 1% of the population) that adding 2 years to our old 10-year basic education cycle would make our graduates more competitive in the global job market or in qualifying to study abroad will never be a sufficient, sensible reason to bring pain and suffering to the majority who would live in the Philippines.