Did MOE’s top official declare that Singapore has been “winning the wrong race”?


Writing in the August 2017 edition of Australian Teacher Magazine, a participant of National Institute of Education’s Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference claimed that a top official of the Ministry of Education said that Singapore has been “winning the wrong race”.

The participant, Walter Barbieri (Director of eLearning at Adelaide’s St Peter’s College), quoted the Director General of the Ministry of Education (MOE), Mr Wong Siew Hoong, making that comment after juxtaposing Singapore’s stellar PISA results against OECD data on student wellbeing.

“Before over 1500 delegates, Director General of the Ministry of Education, Mr Wong Siew Hoong, projected graphs depicting Singapore’s stellar PISA results. He then juxtaposed these to OECD data on student wellbeing, and also of innovation in the economy, revealing Singapore in the lowest quartile. His conclusion was stark: “we’ve been winning the wrong race”.

Wong Siew attributed Singapore’s PISA success to standardised test drilling and a culture of compliance, only to retort: “we’re building compliant students just as the jobs that value compliance are beginning to disappear”.”

The MOE has decried that the Australian article is “fake news”. MOE said in its Facebook that it had clarified this with the website and asked that they remove the article. The article is still up at the time of writing this report.

MOE also released the full video of Mr Wong’s talk “in the interest of transparency”.

Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Monday, 28 August 2017

Mr Barbieri tweeted about the MOE conference on 31st May and said: “ won the race twice, but even they admit that the future needs creativity, innovation and values: not test coaching.”

source: https://twitter.com/BarbieriMr/status/869782520379965441


  1. There’s no political will to remedy the situation. They want a pliant population who will not question authority. Changing the education system will open the pandora’s box and they know that.

  2. The whole system has been designed to identify the top talent to form a Singaporean elite which will continue to uphold and propagate PAP’s values and ethos, so that the state power will remain in the hands of the few and the masses which are dispensable will be educated enough to just serve the state machinery.

    • Sadly they are not the elites at all!. when I an aged retired have to point mistakes made by CPF Board & Ministry of Law! & yet they are not owning up to all those mistakes!.

  3. Now then we realised … Our system is designed for the mid level to be compliance to the very top with no questions asked…even to extend of the brown rice lunches.

  4. Now the MOE director-general will deny everything and claim that he was misquoted. Typical pattern.

    However, that should not distract us from the well-known fact that Singapore students are well-drilled by the exam-oriented system so as to do well in standardised tests and some are chosen to represent the country in international tests, so that MOE and the PAP government can claim the boasting rights.

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