Chalk Talk: Can Singapore's schools really teach us a lesson?
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 15 March 2012
MPs on the influential Commons select committee for education have recently been on a trip to Singapore to see if they can pick up some tips from one of the world's top performing education systems that would help us over here.
They are not the only ones to extol the virtues of the Singapore education system in the past few weeks. Education Secretary Michael Gove is mightily impressed, too.
Perhaps the final word on the subject, though, should rest with Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board. In evidence to the select committee, he said: "Singapore is the size of the Isle of Wight with a population half that of London and you get arrested if you drop chewing gum on the ground, so you have to be careful what you compare yourself with." Precisely.
All is still not well on the academies front in Haringey, north London, where Mr Gove has been trying to force four schools to become academies against their will. Most have now bowed to pressure – but it seems that reluctantly converting to academy status is not an end of the matter: Mr Gove's department then wants to choose their sponsors for them.
Coleraine Park primary school wanted to explore whether another sponsor it had in mind would be more suitable than the Harris Federation favoured by the Department for Education. The answer was apparently "no".
I know the Harris federation has done wonders in turning schools around, but you have to wonder if it is right to give the Secretary of State not only powers to insist schools become academies but also to recommend the charity that then sponsors them. Just imagine if the job ever fell into unenlightened hands.
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