In understanding the motivation as to why students choose to study in Singapore’s private schools, it is vital that one should grasp the background on the educational system of the country. It is equally important to get the supporting rationale as to what are the benefits that studying in private schools can provide the students in their learning stages. There are various studies that have been made that provided this study some initial insights on the advantages of studying in private schools.
The developments of students do not merely deal with the academic achievement but also on how they can cope with life after school. Furthermore, these said developments’ implication and significant role in relation to the country’s growing economy.
Singapore is considered as the “premier education hub in Asia, offering a rich, diverse and distinctive mix of educational services in a safe, cosmopolitan and comfortable environment.”(Singapore Education Guide 2008-09) It is internationally acclaimed for its quality education thus drawing the world’s top institutions to the country. Annually, new batches of international students from all parts of the world arrive in Singapore to experience world-class educational programmes that fuse perspectives from both east and west and all levels. These students truly expect that they will receive a fulfilling and motivating learning experience in which their anticipations are met. As shown in one report, the student population is consistently increasing wherein from 50,000 in 2002 the number has grown to over 85,000 in 2007 and is expected to reach 150,000 in 2015. (Singapore Education Guide 2008-09)
Apart from the highly-advanced and updated facilities, one thing that sets Singaporean education to be exceptional is its focus on providing students with global exposure through international exchange programmes and other immersion programmes. (Singapore Education Guide 2008-09) Students from the Primary and Secondary Schools are likewise encouraged to spend some time overseas as part of their curriculum to acquire global perspective. This endeavor is in preparation for their life after school to where they have already acquired the skills and abilities to survive the growing competitive environment, and be set for integration into the global community and highly dynamic workforce.
Enrolment at Singapore’s private schools has been growing rapidly. Based on recent reports by the World Bank, World Development Indicators of year 2009, the literacy rate in Singapore is marginally high. It is said that 76.9% of children enrolled in Primary school, and 64.4% for Secondary school. This is determined by getting the ratio of children of official school age (as defined by the national education system) who are enrolled in school to the population of the corresponding official school age. 34% is the gross enrollment ratio wherein this involves the total enrollment, regardless of age, to the population of the age group that officially corresponds to the level of education shown. Moreover, there were a total of 1203 private educational institutions in Singapore and 642 of which are commercial schools. These private schools are said to be complementing or acting as supplementary education for classes in commercial and business studies, IT, language and fine arts courses. These private commercial and specialty schools offer courses with strong demand from local and international students. (2009) They further offer courses on various levels such as certificate, diploma, and bachelor and post graduate. “In Singapore, only the government universities have the license to issue degrees.” (2009) Likewise, these schools do not receive any government funding unlike Australia or Canada.
2 Review of Related Studies on Students’ motivation in choosing Private School
Introducing market mechanisms to the school system, namely introducing competitive pressure so that [these] schools will improve, has been advocated some time. (Dolton, 2003) Competition would allow students to choose among existing private and public schools and this choice [made by the] students would [encourage] schools to improve their qualities. (Nabeshima, 2003) More and more parents opt to let their children study in private schools. In fact, ‘because the loss of students to private institutions may have adverse consequences for the heads of public schools, increased competition from private schools should also have a positive effect on the effectiveness of resource use in nearby public schools.” (Wößmann 2000) Furthermore, Shleifer shows that from a contracting perspective, private ownership of schools, combined with choice and competition, establishes strong incentives fro cost reduction and qualitative innovation which are missing in publicly run schools. (Shleifer 1998) In most ways, private schools rely on students’ performance to enable to acquire as much students as possible since they are governed by markets. Thus we say that “a large number of privately managed educational institutions and of privately provided funds should go in hand with superior performance.” (Wößmann 2000)
Singapore considers education as one of the most significant aspect in the growth of their economy. The benefits and advantages of Private Schools are the motivators as to why students aim to study in the said institutions. The private schools in Singapore provide the quality of education to both local and international students and even those who are working adults but still pursue education.
There are notable advantages why students choose to study in Private Schools. One major advantage is the size of the class; they usually have smaller classrooms that allow teachers to provide individualized learning atmosphere. It is said that “parents and educators almost universally identify small classes as a desirable attribute of successful school systems and class size reduction initiatives have been implemented widely.” (Fer, 2004) Since each student is given ample attention, dropout rates are apparently lower. It does not only have a positive effect on the academic performance but small classes may also result in positive peer effects. It cultivates a significant relationship between teachers and students since the approach is more personalized. A “positive relationship between instructor and the leaner is crucial if students are to be successful.” (Fer, 2004) When students perceive teachers’ motivation as a sincere interest in helping them to succeed, the motivational and emotional impact of the feedback tends to be more positive. (Tucker, Sojka, Barone, & McCarthy., 2000)
Furthermore, the diverse ensemble of cultures provides an important impact on the learning experience of students. Foreign students bring along with them their cultures and ethnicity that they also get to share to their peers. Through this, students are exposed to people from various socio-economic classes that contribute greatly to develop the students as well-rounded individuals. This level of exposure will contribute greatly to the students’ Emotional Intelligence development or EQ. Researchers found that students with high EQ tend to be better learners, more confident, optimistic, creative, as well as being flexible, happier, successful at solving problems, being able to cope with stress with a higher self esteem, with fewer behavior problems, and also being able to handle emotions much better. (Abraham, 1999. Cooper, 1997. Hein, 1996)
Private schools view education as a continuous lifelong process. One aspect why private schools are most preferred by students is its innovation and flexibility. Since they do not receive funding from the government, they are more flexible to develop programs and applications best suited to the needs of the students. Their main objective is to provide the best for the students since they consider learners and parents as clients. In the continuity of the business, it is important that they are proactive to meeting their needs. In addition, private schools offer the prospect for integration of age groupings. Learning is not so much focused on age; therefore even the younger students may have access on the experiences and erudition of older students. Finally, given the unperturbed guideline and flexibility on the age of the students, even working adults find private schools more accommodating to meet their learning needs. It also provides the working class the chance to upgrade their academic proficiency from the courses it offers.
Some commentaries provided by foreign students summarize the advantages of the school system in Singapore:
“Singapore is a good eye-opened because it is cosmopolitan, well developed and safe. It is a good place to create an international network of friends if you know how to work it. The mix of different cultures here lets you learn a lot about different Asian cultures without having to move around too much. What I love most about this country is its ideal environment: It’s safe and very easy to get around plus get to meet a lot of students from other parts of the world.”
“Singapore is a perfect place to study abroad. The staff and facilities at the prestigious NUS make life easy for the countless exchange students who share the same interest of living in and learning about different cultures. From the food to the people, you can have a new experience in Singapore everyday. To top it all off, Singapore is also the perfect place to live when traveling throughout the region.”
____________. Principal Leadership for private schools improvement: The Singaporean perspective. Retrieved on July 23, 2009,from http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/waoe/yuv.pdf
__________. Singapore Education Guide 2008/09 For International Students
Abraham, R. (1999). Emotional intelligence in organizations: A onceptualization. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs, 125 (2), 209-225.
Cooper, R. K. (1997). Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace. Training & Development, 51(12), 31-38. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from Proquest database.
Dolton, P. (2003). “A Review of ‘The Economics of School Choice’.” Economic Journal 113 (485); F167-F179.
Fer, S. (2004). “The Qualitative Report.” Volume 9 Number 4. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from < http://www.nova.edue/ssss/QR/QR9-4/fer.pdf>
Hayasaki, E. (2002), “Class-Size Reduction Initiatives Faltering,” The Los Angeles Times, May 18.
Hein, S. (1996). Emotional intelligence for everybody: A practical guide to emotional intelligence. Clearwater, Florida: Aristotle Press. Retrieved December 17, 2001, from http://eqi.org/eqe96_1.htm
Shleifer, A. (1998). State versus Private Ownership. Journal of Economics Perspectives 12(4): 133-150.
Tucker, M. L., Sojka, J. Z., Barone, F. J., & McCarthy, A. M. (2000). Training tomorrow’s leaders: Enhancing the emotional intelligence of business graduates. Journal of Education for Business, 75(6), 331-338. Retrieved July 23, 2009, from Proquest database.
Wößmann, Ludger. (2000). Institutions of the Education and System Performance: The International Evidence. Kiel Institute of World Economics. Retrieved July 26, 2009 from < http://www.isnie.org/ISNIE00/Papers/Woessmann.pdf>
 Raphael Dela Pena Cruz, 20, Filipino. Student in the Diploma in Hotel Management programme.
 Eric Weiler Pratsch. Exchange student from University of Virginia to National University of Sinagpore.