Mixed recipes for school system success

09 Oct 2010

 Big international education gatherings offer a chance for educators to seek new solutions to their own particular problems -- they seek a 'magic bullet' but the problem is the contradictory nature of the advice.

At the Bahrain education conference we heard recipes from two different parts of the world: the USA and Singapore.

From the USA, Dr Tony Wagner from Harvard Graduate School, said the big challenge now was motivating the 'Net Generation' and developing new skills. His focus was on new approaches to learning not on traditional teaching, arguing that students brought up on computers and electronic devices wanted 'coaching from adults who do not talk down to them' rather than traditional pedagogy.

For Dr. Wagner, there were 7 essential survival skills for modern students to achieve:


  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurial ism 
  5. Oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analysing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination


By contrast, Prof. David Hogan from the National Institute for Education, Singapore recommended a more traditional and managerial approach. He advocated a 'mix and match' approach to pedagogy, one which was 'pragmatic' and not just child-centred or teacher-centred.  

He cited 6 principles which explained why Singapore's school system had done so well:


  1. Long term strategic planning
  2. Strong commitment to developing capacity at all levels from ministry down to school and classroom.
  3. Systemic integration across ministry , schools and teacher training and research.
  4. At classroom level a 'non-sectarian approach' in which no particular pedagogical creed is adopted but which is evidence-based and pragmatic.
  5. A culture of continuous improvement.
  6. A public culture which expects high standards.

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