Effective island-effective schools

Year: 1994

Author: Sharpe, Leslie, Gopinathan, Saravanan, Kings, Clive B.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Few would doubt that Singapore is an "effective" island and few who know Singapore would doubt that its school system is "effective". In a nation devoid of natural resources, most would acknowledge a close relationship between school effectiveness and socio-economic effectiveness. But what makes Singapore an interesting case study in the debate about school effectiveness is perhaps not so much the relationship itself but its direction. In most developed nations, the drive for school effectiveness has stemmed from concerns about general social and economic ineffectiveness. Singapore, by way of contrast, has seen remarkable rates of economic growth and social development in recent years and its school system is generally recognised as being highly successful. The drive for school effectiveness derives not from a sense of weakness but from a desire to ensure continued strength. This, we believe, has resulted in a characteristic "pick and mix" approach to overseas offerings which has produced a uniquely Singaporean contribution to the effective school movement.

This paper sets out to describe and explore the changes normally associated with the effective school movement, within the context of a general drive in Singapore for excellence and effectiveness. By drawing a number of cross-cultural comparisons the paper will attempt to tease out how the notion of school effectiveness has come to take on a particular meaning within the Singapore context. It will be argued that the introduction of effectiveness measures into an already effective school system has had important consequences for the resolution of a number of dilemmas commonly debated in the school effectiveness literature.