The 1960s were tough years for Singapore. As the people geared up for independence, critical challenges such as the lack of national unity, insufficient schools and unskilled workforce quickly became evident. Education was the way forward to ensure our survival.
Review of the Education System
A commission of inquiry was set up in 1962 to review the education system. The key findings were documented in the 1963 Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Education. The report contained recommendations to review the structure of the school system, teaching methods as well as teacher training.
1963 Final Report of the Commission of
Inquiry into Education.
Courtesy of National Library Board, Singapore.
responsibilities of the
Ministry of Education.
Building More Schools
As Singapore became self-governing in 1959, education and schools became crucial to the development of the new nation. The population was booming in the 1950s and 1960s. To ensure that every child would have a place in school, one of the top priorities of the Government was to build enough schools for every child of school-going age.
Before the 1980s, many people lived in Singapore’s off-shore islands. To provide better education for the islanders, primary schools were built in the more populated islands such as Pulau Ubin and Tekong. They had the same curriculum as the mainland schools.
By the mid-1980s, many island schools closed down as more islanders moved to work and live on mainland Singapore.
A Rugged Society
When Singapore attained independence in 1965, the Government envisioned a rugged society comprising citizens who were physically fit, tough and ready to work hard to build a nation.
Creating Shared Identity
Singapore needed to create a shared identity as a new nation. The Government began putting in place a national system of education to foster racial harmony and strengthen the ties between people.
Schools were constructed with a similar look and feel to create a common identity. Common spaces in school like halls and canteens were added to promote social interactions. Integrated schools were also created during this time, bringing students together from two or more language streams to study within one campus.
To foster a sense of national unity, all students sing the national anthem, Majulah Singapura, raise the state flag and recite the pledge each day during morning assembly. These daily practices strengthen our national identity and nurture the Singapore spirit among students.
Local folk songs like Di Tanjong Katong, Munnaeru Vaalibaa and Xiao Bai Chuan were sung in music classes to connect students with their heritage and cultural roots, as well as learn more about their peers from other ethnic groups.
Preparing a Skilled Workforce
Singapore’s economy grew rapidly in the 1960s but lacked a skilled workforce to meet the challenges of industrialisation. To better prepare students for the emerging industries, the Government accelerated the development of technical education and established more technical and vocational schools.
Technical education was implemented to cater to the needs of a labour-intensive economy. Technical schools were also built and workshop facilities were added to regular schools. The first technical schools, Tanjong Katong Technical School and Queenstown Technical School, were opened in 1956.
The Government saw sports and games as a good way to cultivate teamwork and a healthy spirit of competition in schools. Together with clubs and uniformed groups, these Extra Curricular Activities (ECAs) were aimed at developing well-rounded students outside the classroom. In 1975, ECAs were made compulsory for all secondary school students.
Singapore Youth Festival
The first Singapore Youth Festival was launched on 18 July 1967. This annual event celebrates the accomplishments of students in sports, arts and music. Over the years, it has become a platform for students to showcase their artistic and musical talents.
Physical Education (PE) was added to the curriculum during this era. PE was seen as essential for developing students’ sportsmanship, teamwork and motor skills. Students also engaged in friendly competition with their peers during their school’s annual Sports Day.