Finland has a population of 5.4 million, roughly the same as what Singapore has. And that’s pretty much where the similarities between these two countries end.
Because the quality of education between these two countries cannot be any further apart.
Tuition is virtually unheard of, homework is rarer than precious metal and exams are conducted only when it is really required — maybe three times in one lifetime.
Sounds wonderful, right?
Therefore, here are 18 other reasons Finland is leading Singapore and the rest of the world in terms of education by about a mile — give and take, a few light years.
1. Pre-school teachers in Finland are required to have a basic three-year degree and many hold master’s degrees.
In Singapore, if you’re a woman without a criminal record, you’re pretty much getting the job.
2. The teacher-student ratio for pupils between three and six years old is 1:7.
This is virtually unheard of in Singapore.
3. Finland operates 24-hour childcare centres catering to parents who might be stewardesses, policemen and nurses.
Singapore operates 24-hour kopitiams.
4. Teachers of primary and secondary schools study for five years up to master’s level.
In Singapore, 19-year-olds do relief teaching in secondary schools.
5. Finnish pre-schools for three to seven-year-olds are focused on play. A play-based curriculum stimulates creative development and a curiosity for learning.
Singaporean parents try to make their 6-month-old infants read.
6. By law, Finnish children under the age of seven have a right to attend childcare regardless of family income or parental employment.
In Singapore, the law is used to deter criminals.
7. The top 10 percent of students to graduate from Finnish high school will pick teaching over law. It would be a miracle if we found 10 people in Singapore who did that.
8. This year alone, 2,000 applied for 100 spots in the primary school teacher-education programme in one Finnish institution.
This statistic sounds like the number of applicants for NUS Medicine.
9. There is no yearly appraisal or grading of a teacher’s performance, due to the rigorous training teachers have undergone in Finland.
In Singapore, most teachers get a C, while scholar teachers tend to get a B. True story.
10. Finnish primary school teachers make an average of US$30,500 (S$38,300) a year.
Male teachers get this pay because they served NS. Female teachers, tough luck.
11. Finnish schools are all equal — every school is a good school.
In Singapore, Raffles Institution is the best school.
12. In Finland, government spending on education makes up 6.8 percent of gross domestic product. Education is free from pre-school to university level.
If you’re going to university in Singapore, get a bank loan.
13. Education reforms in the 1970s scrapped private schools and schools become publicly funded.
Nope, not in Singapore.
14. Finnish children were ranked among the top performers in mathematics, science and literacy in the first Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) studies in 2000 and the second in 2003.
The study compares 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.
We need tuition to get the same results.
15. Streaming of Finnish students occur only at age 16.
Streaming of children in Singapore used to begin as early as 9 years old in the past.
16. Classes have an average of 25 students in Finland.
Classes have an average of 40 students in Singapore.
17. Finnish teachers design their own lessons and assess students based on tests designed by themselves.
Teachers in Singapore design lessons for teachers, who then assess students based on whatever energy they might have left after dealing with CCAs, HOD meetings, marking, remedial classes etc.
18. Finland has a strong reading culture. The Finns borrow more books from the library than any nationality in the world.
Singaporeans like to watch movies on their smartphones.