Why I think the Singapore Education System is Flawed

Why do we go to school?


Schools allow us to fully understand things around us as we need guidance from people who are more understanding of a particular subject. We as students go to school in hope of gaining new knowledge in that particular subject as teachers are the experts in that area.

But over the years of my school life, where did all that go? People just go to school nowadays in hope to do well in exams.

The common topics for everyone nowadays are:

“What is your GPA?”

 “How are you coping with studies?”

“Are you done with your homework?”

In Singapore, you will be labelled as either ‘stupid’ or ‘this guy can’t study’ if your GPA is low.

Why can’t they change their approach to:

 “What have you learnt in school today that you could apply in life?”

“Did you gain new knowledge in school today?”

Have we really lost the true meaning of education?

GPA is not everything in school


It is unfair to say that GPA is the main predictor of whether a person is smart or not. Here’s a quote from our former Assistant Director of Sports in the Sports School, Mr Vincent Ong (currently the Vice Principal of MGS), really expressed what I feel about the education system.

“As most of the National Schools competitions start winding down, most of our girls are now sitting for their exams. If for a moment, we are deceived into thinking that these exams are what define their education, then I feel we have sadly lost sight of the true essence of education.”

The school nationals just ended a week ago and many sportsmen are busy catching up with their studies as they got exams in a few weeks.

Sportsmen like us spend hours day in and out training for competitions like these to do our school and country proud, so if we were to be competing with students who study full time for exams, we would obviously be at a disadvantage. We’re tired from all the training sessions so it’s hard to focus on our studies sometimes, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that we are not as smart as them. It’s just that time is not always on our side.

I’m just glad that Mr Vincent Ong sees through a sportsman’s perspective.

How test are conducted

Personally for me I go to school because I find it interesting to learn new things, stuff like how my own body functions and what we can do to further enhance our sporting performance. (I study sport science and management)

I usually focus more on the topics that I can apply in life, examples are:

1)      How we can effectively lose heat in such a hot and humid environment in Singapore?

2)      The different muscle fibre types

3)      What food we must intake in before a training/competition

I focus more on these things because they would benefit me in my swimming career and my life as a coach next time. I would be able to know why some swimmers are suitable for sprints or endurance events and also watch their nutrition at the same time. It’s things like these that are important as a swimmer now and after I graduate.

But unfortunately, the stuff that comes out for exams are stuff that are not as relevant to life. The questions that come out are maybe a small section of the lecture notes that you missed out studying. And BAM! You drop a grade because you missed out studying that small section in your lecture notes and your classmates did.

So is gaining more knowledge the most important criteria in school, or is it basically just doing your best in passing your exams?

What happens after exams?

“One had to cramp all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.” – Albert Einstein

Most of my friends, including me, forget what we studied right after an exam as we cramp too much information right before just to do well on the actual exam day. We get so burnt out that we just feel sloppy and lazy for a week just to recover from exam stress.

So again, what happened to gaining more knowledge in school? Yes, we get better results, but does this truly make us a smarter person, or does this just mean that our capability to memorize information has improved?

We can’t change the education system

After saying so much, I do understand that it’s impossible to change the education system we have, so since we can’t change it, we would still have to study to survive.

However, I guess the best solution would be for Singaporeans (especially parents) to see things in a different perspective. I realize that parents can be quite result oriented when it comes to school (not all parents). There is a lot of stress given to children nowadays about how a good GPA can secure you a job next time.

I’m glad my parents did not stress me out in school as they also find that results do not define a person.

Like what my mum always say, “as long we(dad and I) know that you’ve done your best, we will be proud of you no matter what the result is anyway.”

With that said, it really encourages me to work hard in school, but not to the extent that it stresses me out so much that I find a strong need to outdo my friends. And it also gives me a peace of mind to train hard when it comes to my swimming because ultimately my passion lies in swimming, and I want to retire the sport having accomplished my goals that I set for myself. That is why to date; I can still swim full time and balance university while other sportsmen are already retired.

Thank you for everything Mum and Dad, because you have allowed me to live my life with no regrets.

On a side note

In our daily lives, there are many more important factors that define a person; that is your character and attitude. I personally feel that knowledge alone is not enough if you lack character and attitude.

If I were to ever be a boss of a company next time (if I were to be that is, haha), GPA would be the last thing I would look out for as for me, having a good character and attitude are the most important factors one should have. Your GPA may be 5 out of 5, but if you lack in those aspects, it would be hard for you to communicate with your future boss next time as communication breakdowns would be frequent.

I hope this post does not offend anyone, feel free to give your comments in the comments section below as this is just from a sportsman’s perspective.

Since we can’t change the education system, it’s time for me to hit the books again!


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7 Replies to “Why I think the Singapore Education System is Flawed”

  1. Hi,

    I do agree with you on the fact that the Singapore education is truly flawed where it only recognises and defines success by academic abilities and in this case results in examinations or GPA. The Singapore education system is indeed inadequate in measuring the talents and capabilities of students in Singapore and I believe there are other ways of measuring success in this society that we live in.

    However, have you ever considered why is it that you too believe that you are stuck in this system and have the overarching idea of the need to balance both studies and sport? Why is it that you can’t just focus on sports and be totally successful and contented with it? Why do you have to slog through all the hours to focus on both when you can jolly well focus on one and do the best that you can?

    I find that perhaps we are too engrossed in chasing this dream, this dream of success that many people try to achieve at all cost without fully developing themselves in other areas such as hidden talents or character. In Singapore, sport in this case is just a value added quality that we take on as individuals, hitting the books ultimately is the basis for our success. In taking up the sport and subjecting yourself to the trainings and constantly fight for success in this area, I think you’ve proven yourself to be more capable than what people think you are. You do not need to outdo your friends because you’ve already outdone them by throwing yourself into the pool at 5am in the morning and subjecting yourself to the various tortures of the training programme. Everyone has their own individual capabilities and qualities, we just need to recognise them on our own accord and strive for the best that we can be.

    Just my two cents worth 🙂

  2. I think many students, especially those from N-levels, are made to believe that they are weak in ALL subjects. This is entirely NOT TRUE. They are sent to N-level for extra years which may not be necessary:


    Singapore education system provokes self-fulfilling prophecy among students. Students who are sent to good schools are always very confident that they are good. Students who are sent to not-so-good schools are always very confident that they are not-so-good. Worst of all, students in “bad” schools always believe that they are bad. And their principals and teachers will always remind them that they are bad!!

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