Education student on exchange to Singapore
Last autumn you went on an exchange in Singapore. You and one other student from the teacher’s training programme were the first to take part in this new exchange. Which university did you study at?
I was at Nanyang Technological University where Bertil Andersson is vice-chancellor. He was formerly vice-chancellor at Linköping University, so the relations between the two universities are excellent. There were about 45 of us there from Linköping University. Most were engineering students, but Nanyang has many other programmes. I was at the National Institute of Education, which is part of the university.
You’re training to be a senior high school teacher in history and social sciences. What made you apply for an exchange to Singapore?
Singapore ranks highly in international rankings of schools. It’s known for its well-educated population. I was curious to see how they do things, and was keen to experience Asia.
Sweden recently had poor results in the Pisa study. After a semester in Singapore, have you come to any conclusions?
That we can learn from each other. In Singapore the teachers and the entire education system place extremely high demands on the pupils and students. It’s far too much pressure, and many of them suffer a great deal from it. For senior high school pupils, it’s normal to focus completely on schoolwork from 8 am to 11 pm. So it’s no surprise that many are under enormous amounts of pressure, and get into trouble. Whereas in Sweden we have ended up at the opposite end of the scale. The Pisa results show clearly that we’re dropping, in terms of knowledge. In Sweden it’s nearly as if homework has become a dirty word and I have actually experienced that teachers postpone an exam so that the pupils can go to a hockey game or a concert. Grades are being inflated. Pupils and parents can pressure teachers to give higher grades. I think this has a lot to do with the system of independent schools. Pupils and parents become customers who can make demands and threaten to switch schools if they don’t get their way. The principals are focussed on the vouchers that accompany the pupil, and as a result of this the teachers can be pressured, directly or not, to give higher grades than they should. We neglect the fact that the state is also a customer, who wants a well educated population.
Do you have any other reflections after your semester in Singapore?
That I came away with a lot of subject knowledge. For instance I have studied political geography, identity and society, as well as educational psychology. The perspective was southeast Asian, not western European, and it has been very rewarding, broadening my horizons. Then there’s the whole thing about heading off – you really learn to take care of yourself.
Your student life in Singapore was different from in Sweden. Sharing a room with a local student, and seeing up close how hard they work on their studies. How did you manage in this environment?
I worked hard, finished my courses with good marks and had time for travel. So I was so happy to manage both of these things – learning a lot as well as experiencing new things.
In one year you’ll have completed your teacher’s training. What will you take into the classroom from your semester as an exchange student?
I want to focus on conveying knowledge to the pupils, and placing demands on them. But I am concerned that there will be reactions from the principal if the demands are too high. If the school has a shortage of pupils, the principal can be tempted to lower the demands. This is especially detrimental to pupils who don’t have well educated parents. I hope I don’t have to experience this. All pupils have a right to a good school, where they really learn something. I come from a working-class background myself, and I know how important this is.
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Last updated: 2017-02-13