Lessons for South Africa from Singapore’s gifted education – A comparative study
Since 1999 South African learners have participated in various international studies but sadly the learners have continued to perform dismally, which brings to question the quality of their education. Meanwhile, Singaporean students have been among the top achievers in all these competitions. Many comparative studies have been done between different nations and Singapore, but in few, if any, of these studies the focus has been on comparisons regarding gifted education. Singaporean policies and practices on gifted education generally prioritise a commitment to engaging learners from all ability levels with appropriately challenging curricula and instruction. In this article we report on a comparative study between the Singaporean and South African education systems. Three frames, (a) political context (b) curriculum structure and (c) loose coupling shaped the analysis. Results show that both countries had similar challenges at the point of independence from colonial rule and yet, they responded differently to those challenges. Singapore implemented inclusive education driven by excellence while South Africa’s inclusive education is driven by equity without excellence. South Africa has a one-size-fits-all curriculum, whereas Singapore has alternatives that create multiple pathways for learners to reach their full potential. Although gifted education is being proposed in current South African pronouncements, there is no evidence of coherence in terms of its implementation. Meanwhile, Singapore has a coherent system that ensures their policies move from theory into practice. All these are lessons that South Africa can learn.
Keywords: comparison; coupling; frames; gifted education; inclusive education; Singapore; South Africa
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