Singapore routinely ranks among the top performers in educational attainment, as measured by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment. Singapore’s strong education system produces high-achieving students who are self-aware, morally sound, and resilient when facing challenges.
This resource guide contains only English-language publications. It includes all government policies and review committee papers in the development of education in Singapore; and also key publications on education and issues concerning formal education in Singapore.
|Philosophy and theory, education for specific objectives, educational psychology
|Public policy issues in education
|Specific policy issues in public education
Government Policies and Papers
(listed in chronological order)
Colonial Period (1819 to 1942)
A team was sent to enquire into and report on the system of English education in the colony, especially secondary and technical education.
Part of a three-volume publication, this third volume reports on the education systems in the Federated Malay States, Hong Kong, Straits Settlements, Fiji and Falkland Islands.
The Committee was tasked to consider the workings of the grants-in-aid system and to determine if it should be continued, amended, or discontinued for alternative systems. Grants had been given to support schools controlled by non-government bodies.
The Committee set up to determine the viability of industrial and technical training.
While the system of grants-in-aid worked well, its costs rose due to the rapid expansion of the English stream of education (which received more aid than the Chinese and Tamil streams). There were further budgetary concerns due to the depression of the 1930s. Director of Education, F.J. Morten, was tasked to head the Committee that reviewed the system “with a view of recommending such economics as may be necessary”.
This subsidiary legislations gives approval for college regulations on fees, and the rules concerning furlough and leave.
The Committee recommended proposals for additional facilities for vocational education and a more practical secondary school curriculum.
The Commission was tasked to survey existing arrangements for higher education in Malaya and Singapore, both general and professional, and to consider the directions and methods for further development.
- Singapore. Ministry of Education. (19–). Annual report. Singapore : Printed at the Govt. Print. Off.
Call no.: RCLOS 370.95951 SIN
Post-Colonial Period (1945-1958)
Volume 1 (1947) of a two-volume publication (the other is in 1949). It contains the principles of Singapore’s Education policy while Vol 2 contains data and interim proposals. The main principles laid down were promoting self-government, equal opportunities for all races, free primary education, and to develop education for secondary levels and beyond.
Singapore. Ministry of Education. (1949). Singapore Department of Education ten-year progranme [sic] : data & interim proposals (1949). Singapore : The Dept.
Call no.: RCLOS 370.95951 SIN -[RFL] Volume II (1949) of a two-volume publication (the other is in 1947). Vol 1 contains the principles of Singapore’s Education policy while Vol 2 contains data and interim proposals. The main principles laid down were promoting self-government, equal opportunities for all races, free primary education, and to develop education for secondary levels and beyond.
Malaya. Central Advisory Committee on Education. (1951). Report on the Barnes Report on Malay Education and the Fenn-Wu Report on Chinese Education. Kuala Lumpur : Govt. Press.
Call no.: RCLOS 371.979920595 MAL
Chaired by L.D. Whitfield, the task of the committee was to review the recommendations of both the Barnes and Fenn-Wu report as they showed great disparity. The Barnes report was endorsed.
- Malaya. Committee on Malay Education. (1951). Report.(Barnes Report) Kuala Lumpur : Govt. Press.
Call no.: RCLOS 371.979920595 MAL
The Committee was set up to inquire into the adequacy of educational provisions for the Malays in the Federation of Malaya. Its recommendations included national schools that used only Malay and English, and thus drew protests from the non-Malay population.
The first annual report was submitted by E.E.C. Thuraisingham and it documents the parts of the Education Ordinance of 1952 that was brought into force in 1953.
A white paper that aimed to combine increased aid with a requirement for bilingualism so as to bring Chinese schools into the main folds of the education system.
This is one of the three reports leading to the establishment of Singapore Polytechnic in 1954, with the passing of the Singapore Polytechnic Ordinance. The three reports are:Thio Chan Bee Report (1952), Dobby Report (1953), and Gibson Report (1954).
A memorandum that was presented to the High Commissioner, Gerald Templer, by Tan Cheng Lock, President of the Malayan Chinese Association, protesting against recommendations made in the Barnes report and the Education Ordinance of 1952 that are harmful towards Chinese education, and Chinese language and culture in the long run.
This paper announces the Government’s dissolution of the Chinese Middle School Students’ Union on 24 September 1956. It relates the influence of the Malayan Communist Party on the union and its activities. The Union was deemed to have engaged in “ill-considered attacks on, and destructive criticism of, constituted authority”, which the All-Party Committee viewed as a “disservice to Singapore”.
This is the report of the All-Party Committee appointed to look into Chinese education following the 1955 student unrest. Many of its ideas were continued during the self-government years.
This white paper took up most of the recommendations by the All-Party Committee in 1956 for a more equal system of schools, and put forward ideas for technical education. Many of its ideas were continued during the self-government years. An Education Bill was introduced in 1957 to implement the proposals from this white paper.
The Commission looked into the provision of vocational training as an avenue for employment. Recommended a tripartite system of academic, vocational and technical education. Led to restructuring of secondary school system, and the introduction of secondary vocational schools, secondary technical schools, secondary commercial schools and vocational institutions.
The 6-day week was introduced in 1959 to provide more study time for schools, with subsequent revision to the curriculum. This paper reports on the implementation with suggestions for refinements.
The Commission was tasked to “enquire into the Government’s Education Policy, its content and administration in all fields other than vocational and technical education, and to make recommendations”. The result is a wide-ranging 105-page report covering curriculum, instruction, and manpower issues.
An important speech by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the newly independent Singapore, charts the new directions in the education system, which eventually laid the foundation for the social structure of the nation.
This booklet gives a brief summary of the progress of Singapore’s education system from the time of self-government in 1959 to independence in 1965, including cost of education, school fees, development of primary, secondary, vocational and technical education, teacher training, textbooks, syllabuses.
Singapore. Ministry of Education. (1966). Singapore government press statement / [issued by the Ministry of Education]. Singapore : [s.n].
Call no.: RCLOS 370.95957 SIN
Singapore. Ministry of Education. (1972). Education in Singapore. Singapore: Educational Publication Bureau.
Call no.: RSING 370.95957 SIN
This book gives a brief historical background of Singapore’s education system and outlines its latest development in pre-school, primary & secondary, tertiary, teacher training, adult and special education up to 1972.
An 11-page overview of the work of the Technical Education Department.
Based on the White Paper of 1956, this five-year plan marked the beginning of self-government. Part 2 of this publication discusses the role of education as part of the nation building plan. The plan placed emphasis on the equal treatment of the four streams of education (Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English), Malay as the national language, and the study of Mathematics, Science and Technical Subjects. The announcement was made by First Education Minister Wong Nyuk Lin in a speech titled Spring Source of Our Nation.
The report begins with a 12-page historical overview and an 8-page overview of the education system then. The rest of the report details educational developments in the three years surveyed, with statistics and photographs.
Nation Building (1979-1990)
Popularly known as “the Goh Report”, this report gave a candid and insightful assessment of MOE’s problems. It outlines broadly the New Education System that introduced streaming so that appropriate education can be provided to students of widely varying ability. The report gives insight into Dr Goh’s approach to educational policy, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s views on the education system (through his personal response to the study, published as part of the report).
- Ong, T. C. (1979). Report on moral education 1979 / prepared by Ong Teng Cheong and [the] Moral Education Committee. Singapore : Singapore National Printers.
Call no.: RCLOS 375.17 SIN
The Committee was tasked to review the existing moral-education programme in schools and to make recommendations on the syllabus, instructional methods and selection of suitable teachers. It identified the strengths and weaknesses of the Education For Living and civics subjects taught respectively in primary and secondary schools; and proposed that they be replaced by a single “Moral Education” programme spanning primary and secondary levels under the charge of one subject standing committee. The report also laid the groundwork for the new primary-level Good Citizen and secondary-level Being and Becoming moral-education curriculum.
Following from the recommendation of the report on moral education (1979), the Good Citizen and Being and Becoming (developed by Dr. (Rev.) R.P. Balhetchet) moral education programmes were piloted in 1981. This report follows up on the first survey of moral education programme in Singapore in 1981. Conducted in September 1982, this report surveyed the teachers who were delivering the programmes. Their attitudes, perceptions of pupils’ attitudes, instructional methods, and perceptions of the success of the two programmes The report concluded that both programmes had merits and weaknesses; and provided recommendations on the implementation of the two programmes.
A report to the Minister for Education, Republic of Singapore based on a study trip to schools in USA and UK in 1986. It describes their observations of the characteristics of good schools, and lists recommendations on the curriculum, admission of pupils, greater autonomy for principals, provision of resources, and pastoral care and career guidance.
The Council was led by Dr Tony Tan, then Minister for Education. The report gave findings from public consultations and recommendations to help the disabled integrate into Singapore society, one of which included Special Education. The Council recommended that MOE have greater involvement in special education, provide funding for special education children up to four times that of children in primary schools, and provide land and schools for special education schools to help their long-term development.
The report recommends that vocational training and rehabilitation that is provided to disabled people be overseen and better co-ordinated through the establishment of a Vocational Rehabilitation Committee within a government ministry/ statutory board.
Future Learning (1991 onwards)
Report of the Review Committee appointed by the Minister of Education to review primary school education to better cater to the bottom 20%. It recommended at least 10 years of general education for all students, a revamp of academic streaming at the primary level, a distinction within the Normal stream secondary education between Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical).
- Singapore. Education Service Commission. (1992). Annual report. Singapore : Education Service Commission.
Call no.: RCLOS 354.595700895 SESCAR
The Education Service Commission was established in 1990, and functions to appoint, confirm, emplace (on the permanent or pensionable establishment), promote, dismiss, and exercise disciplinary control over all public officers in the Education Service.
Singapore. Ministry of Education. Education Endowment Scheme. (1993). Annual report [electronic resource] / Education Endowment Scheme. Singapore : Ministry of Education.
Call no.: RSING 379.11095957 SMEEES -[AR] The Education Endowment Scheme, commonly known as the Edusave Scheme, was launched in 1993. It aimed to enhance the quality of education in Singapore and to motivate pupils towards academic excellence through providing equal educational opportunities to all Singaporeans.
Institute of Education (Singapore). (1994). Institute of Education annual report. Singapore : The Institute.
Call no.: PublicationSG
S. (Singapore. Parliament) ; S. 46 of 1994.
Singapore. Gifted Education Branch (1994). Gifted education in Singapore : the first ten years. Singapore : Gifted Education Unit, Ministry of Education.
Call no.: RSING 371.95095957 GIF
This publication gives a brief history of the development of the Gifted Education Programme in its first decade, and gives account of its initiation in 1990 in Nanyang Primary School.
In 1997, MOE adopted “Thinking Schools, Learning Nation” (TSLN) as its vision statement. This vision was first announced by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1997, and describes a nation of thinking and committed citizens capable of meeting the challenges of the future, and an education system geared to the needs of the 21st century.
Chaired by Shih Choon Fong, this report introduces a new admission system that moves away from relying solely on “A” level examinations.
Chaired by Aline Wong, this report recommended that compulsory education be introduced up to Primary 6 in national schools for Singapore citizens residing in Singapore, subject to the exemption of certain categories of children (e.g. those with special needs, attending madrasahs). The Compulsory Education Act (Cap 51) was passed by Parliament on 9th October 2000 and assented to by the President on 16th October 2000. Compulsory Education was implemented in Singapore from the new school year commencing 1st January 2003.
This reports on Compulsory Education which was implemented in 2003 and its recommendations.
Chaired by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the key outcome of this review was the introduction of the Integrated Programme, a seamless upper-secondary and junior-college education in which secondary-school students can proceed directly to junior college without taking the General Certificate of Education (GCE) ‘O’ Level Examination. The JC curriculum was also revised to be broader and more flexible, with one significant change being the requirement for all students to study at least one subject outside of their main area of specialisation.
An overview of the Gifted Education Programme that was introduced in 1984.
Chaired by Hadijah Rahmat, the committee reviewed the teaching of Malay language in schools, and received approval for its recommendations in the following areas- differentiated instruction for Primary 1 and 2 classes, greater emphasis on oral skills, revision of syllabus and instructional materials (to be more engaging with clearly articulated learning outcomes), special programmes for Malay language in schools to encourage more students to study the language more deeply, and creating a community cultural milieu for the use of Malay.
Chaired by Gan Kim Yong, the key recommendations were: (1) Advanced Elective Modules (AEMs): 40h elective modules offered by some schools with polytechnics for exposure to practice-oriented learning approaches; (2) New Applied Subjects at ‘O’ level: ‘Applied Graded Subjects’ (AGS) jointly developed with polytechnics. (3) Direct Polytechnic Admission (DPA) Exercise: allow students to receive confirmed places in the polytechnics prior to taking their GCE ‘O’ level examinations.
Recommendations fall under three main thrusts: (1) Balancing knowledge with skills and values, by enhancing non-academic programmes and introducing more holistic assessments; (2) Investing in a quality teaching force, by increasing manpower and focusing on academic and professional development; (3) Enhancing infrastructure, such as single-session primary schools and support for social services within school premises.
The report examines the changing language environment in Singapore by better defining the varying exposure to English and mother tongue languages at home, as well as the impact of the curricula and teaching approaches introduced after the 2004-5 reviews. It also reviews the developments in teaching language in other countries.
(listed in alphabetical order)
This edited book gives an account of Nan Chiau Primary School, and how it functions as a “future school” that shapes future learning. The school implemented measures to improve student learning outcomes in a technology-rich teaching and learning environment.
First published in 1947, this is a historical survey that traces the changes in the educational system and policy of Penang, Malacca and Singapore from 1800 to 1925. Chelliah was a prominent local educationist, who was acknowledged by the All-Party Committee in their 1956 report for his “able exposition” on educational policy.
The book chronicles the transformation of teacher education in Singapore over six decades, from the beginning of teacher preparation in the post-war years to the leading role that teacher training plays in serving national needs.
The book argues that “the history of citizenship education in Singapore is essentially the history of crisis management in the context of a developmental state.”
By linking research in three distinctive areas- institutional reforms, leader and teacher development, and organisational management- the book presents a holistic picture of the transformations that have occurred in the area of educational research in Singapore.
This volume provides a multi-faceted and critical analysis of the Singapore curriculum in relation to globalisation. It first details reform initiatives established by the Singapore government to meet the challenges posed by globalisation. It subsequently examines how these reforms have been translated into programmes, school subjects and operational frameworks that are then implemented in schools and classrooms. Through this examination, the book reveals how the initiatives, together with their curricular translation and classroom enactment, reflect on the one hand global features and tendencies and, on the other, distinct national traditions, concerns and practices.
A TTC special publication that marks the Ter-Jubilee of the founding of Singapore (6th February, 1819-6th February, 1969). It provides readers a survey and access to selected materials on education in the last 150 years, from 1819 to 1969. It has chapters on developments in educational policy and schools of the four language streams – English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
An examination of the unified national educational system in Singapore and its use as a means of achieving national integration.
This title provides a wide-ranging view of the language issues in Singapore. It contains information accumulated from language research activities from the 1980s to the 1990s. Topics such as language and national identity, language and cultural maintenance, language and power as well as language and education are covered.
This volume is a compilation of 14 key writings by Gopinathan that span three decades. The essays are arranged thematically, providing an overview not just of his own career, but also reflecting the development and key concerns of education in the nation state that is Singapore.
- Gopinathan, S. (2015). Education. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies : Straits Times Press.
Call no.: 370.95957 GOP
This book belongs in the 50-volume series which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, Singapore Chronicles. It examines the impact of education in Singapore’s transformation by studying the social, political and economic contexts within which policy and practice are embedded. It also assesses the principles that shape policy formulation, and the success and failures of implementing them.
This book examines the construction and practice of creativity policy in Singaporean education, and contributes to the existing body of knowledge on creativity policy.
This book by a prominent local educationist of those times offers an analytical evaluation of the British educational policy in Malaya. The author recommended a single type (non-racial) of school to build a united Malaya.
This study which began as a research project in 1990 under Dr. K.C. Cheung, was driven by the aim to provide “a knowledge base for the design of better school improvement programmes.” It documents the views and experiences of 58 principals of exemplary schools in Singapore on learning conditions, and teaching and learning processes that contribute to achievement in their schools.
The publication gives a brief history of vocational and technical education in Singapore, and the milestones leading to the formation of the Institute of Techincal Education.
This book covers the development and implementation of Singapore’s ICT masterplans in schools. Drawing on internal government documents, public documents, and interviews with school personnel, the book discusses the masterplans and key programmes (such as teacher training, edu.MALL, Digital Media Repository, infrastructure, eduPAD, BackPack.NET, LEAD ICT@Schools and FutureSchools@Singapore, and the Learning Sciences Lab) that were introduced.
The book shares the Singapore experience in vocational and technical education that was made possible through strategic planning, organisational excellence, innovation and ingenuity. Through vivid first-hand accounts from its CEO, the book relates how the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) began to transform lives and change its image over five decades (1992–2007).
This is a candid and illuminating story of Lee Kuan Yew’s 50-year struggle to transform Singapore from a polyglot former British colony into an independent nation.
This collection of essays covers education development comprehensively from 1965 to 2009, touching on educational system, textbooks, teacher education, technical education, higher education, and using IT in education. This book aims to give a comprehensive analysis. It is a follow-up to a presentation of Singapore’s education system to policy makers on an Asia Education Study Tour sponsored by the World Bank.
This is the published Master’s thesis of Lee Ting Hui, also known as Lee Ah Chai. This book documents the political events that shaped Chinese education in Malaya, from the very beginning to 1941. Prior to 1894, most Chinese schools were organised by private institutions as the British government had no policy on Chinese education in Malaya. The British stance began to change when they realised how political events in China engendered the pro-China sentiments and influenced Chinese education in Malaya.
A carefully researched study of the history of Chinese schools in Peninsular Malaysia. The first chapter overviews the period 1786-1941 when highly politicised Chinese schools were founded throughout the peninsula. The varying and often repressive official policies and their impacts are detailed through World War II, pre-Merdeka and post-Merdeka periods. Many issues, including staffing, language, textbooks, syllabus, tertiary education, and extension are detailed and discussed. Both the national and private Chinese schools and their managements are shown to have had to deal with situations fraught with major difficulties as they work to safeguard the education of the major segment of the population.
This book gives an overview of the policies surrounding ICT in Singapore schools, and provides snapshots of its implementation through interviews/surveys with students and teachers. The author gives suggestions on classroom conditions and support strategies that are needed for effective integration of ICT.
Published in commemoration of the Ministry of Education’s 50th anniversary, the book traces the evolution of the school system from 1957 when the Education Art was passed.
This book discusses the origins and evolution of the four separately funded school systems of the Federated Malay States from 1874 and the determining factors influencing the British educational policy before the Second World War.
This book records Tan’s remarkable contributions to the founding of the Nanyang University.
“Presented to the International Conference on Employment & Training “Full Employment : Uncertain Futures”, 23-26 Sep 85, Perth, Western Australia.” It presents the vocational training infrastructure and how it contributes to meeting manpower development objectives. It also considers how the vocational training system can support employer-based training.
This thin volume begins with an overview of special education in Singapore, then moves on to frameworks for understanding special needs as well as intervention strategies. Its companion volume is Supporting students with special needs in mainstream schools : a linked system of support, which proposes systematic approaches to the teaching/intervention cycle.
This is the first volume in a series that deal with educational innovations in Singapore. It takes a comparative study of Singapore against high performing education systems around the world that have successfully implemented innovative educational policies that have both raised and sustained educational achievement.
This book examines the background, policy, implementation and impact of the “New Education System” that arose from “the Goh report”, in particular the streaming policy.
This book covers the latest educational initiatives like the IT Masterplan, Innovation and Enterprise, National Education and Knowledge and Inquiry. All these initiatives are part of the Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (TSLN) strategy launched in 1997. The objective is to develop a total learning environment in the country.
This book undertakes a scholarly critique of key aspects of Singapore’s education system in the past decade and a half, and makes predictions about its immediate future. The topics covered are: National Education, Teach Less, Learn More; the Primary Education Review and the Secondary Education Review and their implementation reports, integrated programmes; the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Information and Communications Technology masterplans, madrasahs, students with special needs, stakeholder relationships, and performance management in the lives of school and teachers.
A source book of information and insights on Singapore education, examining the evolution of Singapore’s education policy over three decades, the nature of the school curriculum and its delivery in classrooms, and a macro-analysis of the system of education.
This title debates the various challenges that Singapore’s education system face. Topics that are discussed include the effect of globalisation on Singapore’s education, the use of IT as a medium of instruction, the usage of Problem-Based Learning, the social equality of education and language education policies.
This book chronicled the development of Chinese schools during the colonial rule, prior to Malaysian independence. It depicts the Chinese organisations united politically to fight for Chinese culture and education in Malaya during the Chinese Education Movement between the periods 1951 to 1961.
This collection of teachers’ research into their classroom innovations gives reader a close-up look on the diverse teaching methods and issues in Singapore’s classrooms.
A historical account of examinations in Singapore with extracts from primary documents. Written by the Chief Executive of the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.
The study identifies three major difficulties that hamper the development of vocational and technical schools in Singapore, namely the low enrolments for secondary school technical stream, the low numbers of technicians and artisans produced (compared to engineers and scientists), and the dearth of qualified teachers.
This book discusses in detail each of the official languages in the state’s language planning and education policies.
The paper gives an account of the Japanese educational policy for Singapore, and how it was implemented through eradicating western and anti-Japanese influence, making Japanese the lingua franca of Malaya, and emphasising technical and vocational training.
This book examines the social impacts of the educational policies implemented in Singapore from 1819 to 1972. It focuses on the years from 1918 to 1959, during which the education policies underwent drastic changes and transformations under four different administrations, namely colonial rule, Japanese Military Administration, post-war colonial rule and early years of self-government.
- Winstedt, R. O. (1923). Education in Malaya. Singapore : Fraser & Neave.
Call no.: RRARE 370.9595 WIN
A 34-page overview on the developments of education in Malaya, including Singapore, from 1800s to the 1920s.
This is a collection of essays by one of Singapore’s most well-known and respected educationist, covering issues such as systems-level policies, teaching, curriculum development, teacher education and higher education. In 1969, Dr Ruth Wong joined the Ministry of Education as Director of Research and Principal of Teachers’ Training College. She retired in 1976.
This is a collection of twelve full texts and extracts from key official reports on education in Malaya, with a brief historical overview of the political and educational circumstances, as well as introductions to each excerpt.
- The 1870 Woolley report (Select Committee of the Legislative Council to enquire into the state of Education in the Colony)
- 1894 Isemonger Report (Committee appointed to enquire into the system of Vernacular Education in the Colony)
- 1902 Kynnersley Report (Commission of Enquiry into the system of English Education in the Colony)
- 1917 Vernacular and Industrial Education in the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines by R. O. Winstedt 5. 1919 Firmstone Report (Committee appointed by His Excellency the Governor to tadvise as to a scheme for the advancement of Education preparatory to a University in Singapore)
- 1919 Lemon Report (Committee on Technical and Industrial Education in the Federated Malay States)
- 1922 Wolff Report (Committee appointed by His Excellency the Governor and High Commissioner to consider the working of the system of Education Grants-in-Aid introduced in 1920 in the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States)
- 1925 Winstedt Report (Technical Education Committee)
- 1927 Elles Report (Committee appointed to draw up a Scheme for a School of Agriculture as a joint institution for the Federated Malay States and Straits Settlements)
- 1932 Morton Report (Committee appointed by His Excellency the Governor and High Commissioner to consider the system of Grants-in-Aid to Schools in the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States
- Report on Vocational Education in Malay by HR Cheeseman 1938
- 1939 McLean Report (Commission appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on Higher Education in Malaya).
The first authoritative documentation and analysis of the evolutionary processes that underpin the unceasing strive towards educational excellence in the formal school system of Singapore from 1965 to 1990. Co-authored by writers from MOE and NIE, it traces the development of education reform, school management, curriculum planning and development, educational technology, research and testing, and teacher education.
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