January, 26 2017
Educate Texas, through a privately funded grant, recently hosted a delegation of Texas leaders on a learning tour to Singapore, which is regarded as one of the best educational systems in the world. The goal of the week-long excursion was for these Texans to examine and carry back the innovative best practices and ideas to continue to lead, develop and improve Texas’ public education system.
George Tang, managing director of Educate Texas, sat down to tell us some of the things they brought back from Singapore.
Why go halfway around the globe, to Singapore, to explore education?
George Tang: Right? That’s the question! Singapore is this tiny country – only 277 square miles – that has had an impressive academic gain over the past 50 years and has been at the top of many impressive educational lists for several years. We wanted to gain firsthand knowledge and experience into the design, structure and resources that have led to that country’s evolution into an educational powerhouse.
Who went on the trip?
GT: We had 37 K-12, higher-ed, business and philanthropic community leaders from across Texas. Specifically, they were from 7 regions, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.
Who were you able to talk to?
GT: We were very fortunate to be able to meet with Singapore’s Ministry of Education, which is responsible for the public and higher education systems, and the National Institute for Education, the nation’s teacher-preparation and professional-development organization. We also conducted numerous site visits to schools, colleges and programs across the country, thanks to generous funding by Charles Butt to cover the tour expenses. Because of this, we were able to have many conversations and visits with leaders throughout the educational system.
What did you learn?
GT: We were all incredibly impressed by the strategic and purposeful design of their education systems to support the country’s economic growth. Everyone in Singapore now places an intentional focus on the education system and recognizes it as the foundation for the country’s refining prosperity. Only the top 30% of secondary-school graduates are considered to become teachers, and only 1 in 8 who apply are accepted. This differs drastically from the way we think about teaching as a career here in the U.S. In Singapore, they view teachers as nation builders.
Wow, that’s impressive
GT: Yeah! Once the teachers enter the system, they are fully supported through professional evaluations, targeted development programs and a highly competitive and differentiated compensation structure. Singapore also has a rigorous teacher-preparation program to ensure that every teacher is equipped with the understanding, skills and knowledge to be successful with the new generation of students.
So now what?
GT: Within the next several months Educate Texas will seek input from all of the learning-tour participants to compile a report with their observations and highlights from the trip as well as strategies they would like to implement. This document will be shared with Texas educators, elected officials and members of the Legislature, business leaders and the philanthropic community.
Stay tuned for more from Educate Texas about this insightful trip!