Educating Asian children in 'exam factories' won't equip them for the world of work
Educationalists and journalists have long beaten a path to Singapore to discover its educational secrets. Children within its school system perform better than any of their international peers apart from Shanghai, according to the PISA rankings, and a whole industry has grown up attempting to decode its formula.
The city-state is perhaps the world's most astonishing story of educational improvement. Its transformation from a low-skill low paid nation with high levels of illiteracy fifty years ago to a first world economy today with a 1 per cent unemployment rate provides inspiration and hope for policymakers everywhere.
But the story of ASEAN education goes beyond Singapore. The legions of educational tourists would do well to extend their trip to the region's other education systems, which have also taken giant leaps forward.
Asia makes huge educational strides
In the Philippines basic public education has recently been extended by two years to grade 11 and 12 – finally giving the poorest students the chance to study at senior high school and go on to the best universities.
Since 2010, the education budget has more than doubled, 30 000 new classrooms have been built and 43 000 new teachers hired to prepare for the effort. A bold new government voucher scheme has been introduced to allow students – where state provision isn't available - to enrol in private schools.
Vietnam caused astonishment when in 2012 it entered the PISA tests for the first time, and returned stunning results – scoring higher in maths than the U.K. and the U.S. with a ranking 17th out of 65 countries. (This from a country with a per capita GDP of only $1,600) It has invested heavily in education – making up a fifth of government spending, and shifted its curriculum away from rote learning.
But, for all the impressive progress in the region, international education rankings alone will not protect workers from the brutal forces of economic change that will sweep through the world economy over the next two decades – destroying entire job sectors, creating new ones, and demanding a constantly changing mixture of skills.
The recent Future of Jobs report published last year by the WEF Global Agenda Council on the same subject, based on a survey of executives in fifteen of the world's largest economies argues we are entering a "fourth Industrial revolution" in which over seven million white collar and administrative jobs will be destroyed through technological change Educating Asian children in 'exam factories' won't equip them for the world of work: