Singapore has a stereotype that it is a country filled with many laws and that all of her citizens follow each and every one of them. No gum is allowed. No jaywalking. No eating and drinking on the public transit. Singapore has been closely tied with laws, fines, and discipline.
The Singaporean culture is quite reflective in the classroom in terms of discipline, and thus the classroom is managed very well. Students understand what is expected out of them in the classroom. They are all well-behaved; however, when the teachers leave the room, the students would become very loud and noisy, similar to how American students would act.
I was only able to observe the more well-behaved students since I was placed into the high streaming class. As I walked through the school during transition of classes, I see the less behaved students in the hallway. They were more rowdy and noisy than the other students. Other student teachers from NIE had told me how lucky I was to be observing a P5-1 class because they were the best-behaved as well as the smartest of their class. The student teachers had complained about substituting for a P3-7 or a P4-6. Their faces would display an emotion of distraught as they think about how much they would have to tell the students to behave and to complete their work. If the student becomes too loud and rowdy, s/he would be sent outside of the classroom. S/he would stand outside next to the door until the teacher calls him/her back into the classroom. The teacher would talk to the student after the lesson and if that kind of behavior persisted, the teacher would phone the parents. The students feared getting into trouble with their parents.
Since the typical classroom size in Singapore is usually around 40, it is also hard for the teachers to control the class. I had talked to my CT and asked her how she was able to control the P5-1 students. She said that she made sure that the students understood that she had authority. The students had to respect her as their elder and as their teacher. My CT had also told me before that sometimes, she would give the students some slack and they would be able to be a bit rowdy. If she, however, loosened the control a bit more, they would become uncontrollable. She also said that she was lucky that P5-1 was a high streaming class, and the students were well-behaved.
It was expected of the students to be obedient and respectful to all teachers and administrators. Students would greet every teacher with a small bow when they encounter one. I was always caught off guard when students bowed for me as I walked past. Students also bowed and greeted the teacher as s/he entered the classroom. After the lesson, the students would say their thanks and bowed to the teacher. Students in Singapore are very respectful. It is part of the society to be respectful of elders and those with authority.
It is just as difficult to manage a classroom in Singapore as it is in the States. There are those who are better-behaved and there are those who are more rowdy. The difference is just that there is a difference between the high streamed classes and the low streamed classes in terms of behavior. Singapore also had more students in a classroom to manage.