Unlike many of the international pre-practicum students abroad, I was not able to successfully complete a practicum placement. Though I could not attend a local school multiple times to observe lessons and to have discussions with the students, I was very fortunate to be able to visit two different schools. After visiting both schools, I realized that schools in Singapore are different from schools in America in two very distinct ways. Firstly, it seems that both schools have clear and focused missions and values that are enforced in their schools. Another big difference is that these schools use various different modes of learning that are incorporated into their school environments.
The structure of the elementary schools in Singapore is different from the elementary schools in the US and is more similar to that of the middle and high schools in the US. They have different teachers for each subject. So what surprised me the most and reminded me that I was in Asia was seeing the students show respect to their teachers by standing up and saying in unison, “Good morning/afternoon Ms. ________” when a subject teacher walked into the classroom. This is one way I saw the schools enforcing their values upon the students. Their values and missions are also very clearly written and explained on their respective school websites, which are often updated. Lastly, students attending either school must take character and citizenship education classes once a week where they are reminded and educated of these school-wide and nation-wide values.
I remember learning, in my Teaching Reading course sophomore year, the importance of creating an environment conducive to learning. In this course, we learned about how text outside of just textbooks and worksheets, such as posters and graded work hung on the wall could also be a source of education. I have seen such examples in schools in the US, but in Singapore, I saw how these schools use every space possible to create an educative environment for their students. For example, in both schools, the hallways were painted with a historical timeline of Singapore. In West Grove Primary, the hallway leading to the art classroom was decorated with information of different artists and their paintings. The most interesting environmental learning setting I found at West Grove Primary was the “Memory Lane” hallway. It was a kind of museum set up in one of the hallways that walked the students through the various different cultures existing in Singapore and their history with the use of traditional costumes and other artifacts to make this learning process more engaging and interesting. One last way the students at West Grove Primary are educated by their school environment is through their small outdoors farm and garden.