Changing Perspectives of Geographical Education in Singapore: Staying Responsive and Relevant

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Geok-Chin Ivy Tan

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Department of Geography, NTNU


Investment in education has always been a key national strategy to ensure Singapore's economic competitiveness and growth. Before the turn of the century, in 1997, a major educational reform with the official vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation (TSLN) was introduced by the then Prime Minister at the 7th International Conference on Thinking. The aims of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation were to develop critical and creative thinking, instil lifelong learning passion, and promote nationalistic commitment in the young. To support the TSLN vision several initiatives were implemented to promote thinking skills, National Education, and information technology in schools.Sequentially, to enable schools to implement these new initiatives another thrust called Teach Less, Learn More (TLLM) was introduced by the Ministry of Education. This paradoxical phrase is a call to teachers to be less dependent on the use of rote learning and to move away from teaching for tests and examinations. Instead, they are to engage their students with more studentcentered pedagogies to prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century. The focus of Teach Less, Learn More was on the transformation of teaching pedagogies in order to promote more active learning on the part of the learners. To support all these new thrusts and initiatives, the curriculum review committee boldly recommended a content reduction in all subjects thereby freeing up more curriculum time for more studentcentered pedagogies in the classrooms.Against this background, geographical education in Singapore has undergone critical transformations to be responsive and relevant to the needs of the changing educational scene inSingapore since the turn of the century. This paper will critically discuss the changes in terms of geographical content, pedagogy and assessments and also highlight the challenges in geographical education in Singapore as a result of these changes.