Improving the education system must be a key priority for all countries, as it bridges the gaps between dissimilar cultures and promotes understanding among people, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He was addressing nearly 1,400 school principals and teachers from 40 countries at the ninth World Convention of the International Confederation of Principals here. Deeming education the 'most vital investment' societies could make for the future, he said it was vital for building a society with a sense of cohesion and identity of 'who we are' in a rapidly changing environment. 'It is crucial for developing economies if they are to go beyond being developing economies to become developed economies.' He said the convention was a chance for the participants to share their experiences and glean good ideas.
Recalling Singapore's journey in education, Lee said the country had 170 primary schools and same number of secondary schools. With 3.5 % of the country's GDP spent on education, good outcomes were achieved. However, it was no easy task for Singapore to achieve progress in education, as only 60 % of the students completed secondary school until 1980. A host of reforms and consistent efforts made a marked difference. Besides alterations to the curriculum and teaching and learning approaches, the government made efforts to motivate good students to take up teaching. This meant raising the scale of teachers significantly and providing a great scope for professional and career development in the teaching profession. The government also gave financial resources to schools and the autonomy to use it effectively. Moreover, schools were also authorised to structure teaching as they deemed fit, to try out new approaches to teaching and learning and look beyond the syllabus.