Around the world, countries are integrating investment in education as a key to improve their international competition. How they tailor and prioritize in investments in education systems reflects national beliefs and priorities. It is particularly evident in the governments’ determination to gifted and talented children based on how broadly gifts and talents are identified and nurtured. This assignment presents a comparison of two contrasting education systems in Singapore and Finland to show how different mechanism can be incorporated in identification of gifted and talented children within two countries of comparable wealth, size, and academic achievement. The essay proceeds to support recommendations tailored to distinct priorities and contextual factors that may obstruct gifts and talented identification strategies. The following two subsections presented below gives a brief review of each country with the discussion outlined before making the comparison.
Singapore is a country in South-East Asia, a part from being densely-populated, the nation is multi-cultural city-state with estimated population of 6 million. It is “highly developed and successful free economy” (CIA, 2018a). Singapore from the gross domestic product (GDP) measure, the country is among the strongest Western European states. Also, it is attributed to strong education system and work ethic founded on strong national developments and cultural priority (Neithart and Teo, 2013). Singapore’s academic achievement on Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) dependably puts it in the top countries around the world with good education systems in identification and development of gifted and talented children (OECD, 2018).
The initial “screening for giftedness” is held in the completion of grade 3 where all learners are taken through locally designed national testing exam program where top 1% taken to the Gifted Education Programme. It is necessary to note the exams are in two stages, screening then selection. Every month of August, all children take English language and mathematics test before undertaking general ability tests in October. From the assessments completed, over 500 students in Singapore join Gifted Educational Programme in a choice of nine primary school which all offers similar programme of curriculum enrichment.
Learners who fail to make it to the top tier that proceeds to the Gifted Education Programme at the completion of grade 3 are presented with an opportunity of selection based on their achievement in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Although the PSLE exam will not transition to entry in gifted programme, it allows for learners to stream into Express, Normal (technical) or Normal (academic) courses. Also, the education system in Singapore allows for any willing parents to register their child for individual exams in recommendation of registered psychologists who uses IQ tests to screen for cases of Exceptionally Gifted Children. However, such situations are rare for children in grade 3 at around 3 cases per 100,000 (Singapore MOE, 2018a).
Finland is a country located in North Europe and densely populated with estimate of over 5.5 million and majority of this population are concentrated in the south (CIA, 2018b). The country’s population is nearly similar to that of Singapore, its post-war “diversified modern industrial economy” led to its economy being among the highest per-capita incomes globally as the government prioritize education. Nevertheless, there is evident a much stronger social justice agenda that is presented in the egalitarian policies. This means that all learning centers in the country are considered to be of high quality and able to meet the students’ needs regardless of their capabilities. Thus, there is little emphases on the selection of pupils in gifted and talented educational programs in Finland as most children simply attend their nearest school.
The methodology employed in Finland impacts on the identification of gifted and talented children as the state assumes there are “no significant diffrences in teaching quality between public and special schools [for the gifted]” (Tirri and Kuusisto, 2013, pp. 84-5). The other challenge experienced in Finland is low selection of gifted children based on low priorities due to lack of differentiation in learning. Differentiation as used by other countries including Singapore is aimed at making education suitable for all reducing the risks of wasting gifts and talents by not identifying them sooner in the lower grades. However, Finland’s PISA performances place the country among the top 3 states around the world with Finland ranking the highest-achieving nation in Europe (Tirri and Kuusisto, 2013).
Prioritization of education is relatively similar in Singapore and Finland but differ in financial investment. Finland has a higher financial investment in education probably twice in the rate of GDP compared to Singapore (World Bank, 2018). Finland’s investment in education reflects the country’s social justice goal which views learning “as a means of looking after its weakest members” (Kuusisto, 2013, p. 86). However, the difference is made when gifted and talented school going children in Finland study from the same classrooms with their peers working together, whereas those in Singapore makes special provision to have such learners in separate classrooms out of the mainstream classes.
Assessment in the dual states is similarly differing well. In Finland, class teachers are responsible for identifying and supporting gifted and talented learners in a holistic sense. Finland putting the onus on tutors; they are among the most highly trained and qualified teachers in the world with majority holding master’s degrees in education and research (Sahlberg, 2010). Teachers in Finland also subscribe to the principles of social justice and egalitarian values, holding the learners’ growth mindset (Laine, Kuusisto, and Tirri, 2016). Through such classes, all children involved have the potential to become gifted and talented. It is necessary to note that identification is an ongoing process and qualitative for that matter in Finland unlike in Singapore. Differentiation is effectively incorporated to nurture and challenge the learners to grow; “the Finnish educational system is highly developed with regard to gifted education, even though is not referred to in such terms” (Tirri and Kuusisti, 2013, p. 88).
Singapore appears to embrace an egalitarian valuing mechanism of each pupil as equal, however, it pushes every child to working extra hard, a learning strategy described as “not as Chinese as China or Western as England” while aligning with an incremental perception of ability in every subject and curriculum activities (Neihart and Teo, 2013, p.291). It implies that learners are presented with the right opportunities including time and space to search for their “hidden gifts”, showing how essential all children are and deserve better environment to establish their gifts and talents (Neihart and Teo, 2013, p. 291). Nevertheless, it is the “moral obligation” to identify and shape the most of children’s gifts (Neihart and Teo, 2013, p.291) an idea that makes Singapore’s assessment more intense compared to Finland’s. historical context also influences the educational development of gifts and talents in Singapore than Finland. According to Gyor (2011), the former has as a centralized economic development based on the meritocracy to prevent dominance of the ruling Chinese elite. Acquiring the top 1% or 5% is the primary pillar for retaining a positive elite, which makes Singapore “a talent-friendly society” (Gyori, 2011, p.147). This partially true considering that the system only base on rewards to talented students in the view that they are more important to the country’s development. It is contrasting to Finland’s view of talents as an individual’s development other than being more of the state’s development.
Nevertheless, Finnish education system at least recognizes learners’ exceptional talents. The Finnish government together with the Nokia Company offers boarding school free education to 20 pupils whose education is accelerated to have them complete schooling a year earlier (Tirri and Kuusisto, 2013). The twenty individuals are selected from among the leaners with top scores in the “excursion weekend tests” (Tirri and Kuusisto, 2013, p.90) being the only selective tests offered in Finnish education. It is evident that Finland has a strong educational value of equity founded on the teacher’s judgment for students’ performance and abilities; however, examination is also used on selection basis to distinguish the most elite learners a strategy that is similar to the education system in Singapore that identifies exceptional 3 students per 100,000 learners (Singapore MOE, 2018a).
It is noteworthy that Finnish government has enrolled the use of acceleration through grade-skipping or by condensing, with the system in place, students’ ability is measured on differentiation other than classroom achievements (Tirri and Kuusto, 2013). This approach is significant for use since it considers other measures to identify gifts and talents among learners other than dependance on academic qualifications. Davis et al. (2011) states that acceleration is not based on the gifted and talented learners going faster instead, tutors teaching at the rate the students find comfortable. Conversely, research asserts that previous scholars argue differently on the issue of acceleration that the process seem appropriately and strictly reserved for the gifted and talented children (Davis et al., 2011).
Nevertheless, there still exist an egalitarian rational in learners’ acceleration where individuals can be accelerated based on distinguished capabilities are observed by their teachers. Learners can therefore accelerate when they feel comfortable and ready to undergo the process since it is a personalized decision to make. The Singapore educational system acceleration and enrichment is much strict with cut-offs placed higher and learners must attain to be categorized as gifted and talented- this opportunity is only presented once in the student’s lifetime to join the main gifted programmme (Neihart and Teo, 2013). Luckily, students in Singapore are presented with little provisional ongoing assessment to determine whether the pupil is gifted and let the programme remain significant to students. Whereas in Finland, identification and placement of gifted and talented students is much more formative unlike it can be though of as summative in Singapore.
The international educational comparison depicts that Singapore and Finland systems are both highly developed and not just raising positive elite of the world but also creating attainment across all fields of career development. In both educational systems, gifts and talents are nurtured regardless of whether students meet formal qualifications as gifted and talented. From the above assessment, it is difficult to assert that one country is superior to the other based on the identification or nurturing process to raise gifts and talents among learners. However, Finnish education system can be seen as more flexible in identifying and supporting individuals with gifts and talents throughout their academic life. In contrast, Singapore identifies gifts and talents among students in a narrow range compared to Finland accompanied by specialization with enrichment opportunities. Also, both nations base their judgements on gifted and talented students on a combination of exceptional examination performance and qualitative expert assessment, students are expected to submit their uniqueness at any age.
The identification systems in Singapore and Finland for gifted and talented learners does not have similar consensus making it difficult to conclude on the comparison made. It is arguable that both systems should present similar consensus and consistency within the country’s national social values and priorities. Furthermore, a good identification regime such like the one presented by Finnish government is aware of the current provisions in determining gifted and talented students. Thus, it is not all about finding the top 10% well performing learners instead identifying the most suitable children for the talent development programme based on the assessment. In this regard, the gift and talent identification systems in both nations are ideally suited in respect to the country’s educational situation. Finally, the states incorporated in this study were selected for their contrast of quantitative system used in Singapore and qualitative system embraced in Finland, therefore, it seems that a combined measure could enhance both educational systems. Finland could increase on teachers’ judgement and objectivity while Singapore adds on flexibility to accommodate more children with diverse gifts and talents. Click here to Place Your Order.
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