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SINGAPORE: In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and today, as the world celebrates the International Day of Education, Singapore stands out as a shining example of the transformative power of education.

Over the past six decades, Singapore has transitioned from a developing nation to an internationally recognized economic powerhouse, despite its young age, with education playing a pivotal role in this remarkable journey.

Back in the early days of its independence, Singapore faced the challenge of limited natural resources. With only a deep-water port to its name, the nation’s leaders astutely recognized that investing in its people through education would be the key to unlocking accelerated development.

Fast-forward 58 years, and Singapore has not only met but exceeded expectations, solidifying its position as an educational powerhouse with a globally renowned education system.

The success of Singapore’s graduates speaks volumes. They have made significant contributions across various fields worldwide, from scientific and technological advancements to academic research, business, and finance. The nation’s commitment to excellence in education is further emphasized by how the nation boasts an average IQ score of 105.9.

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Singapore’s rigorous approach to education has led to it placing third in a recent compilation of the top ten toughest education systems around the world.

But this approach has not been without its challenges and has sparked concerns about the potential impact on students’ mental health due to the demanding nature of the education system.

A survey conducted by Rakuten Insight in May 2022 revealed that 63% of respondents aged 16 to 24 experienced increased stress and anxiety over the past year.

The survey results may show that a tough education system, often associated with academic excellence, may pose significant drawbacks for students in terms of the potential impact on student’s mental health, with heightened stress, anxiety, and burnout resulting from the pressure to excel in demanding exams.

Critics have also argued that an overemphasis on rote memorization and exam performance may hinder the development of critical thinking and creativity, leading to a narrow definition of success that overlooks personal growth and individual passions.

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This intense focus on academic achievement may also contribute to inequality and a diminished love for learning, highlighting the need for a balanced approach that considers the holistic development of students and promotes a diverse range of skills and talents.

The authorities have taken some steps to alleviate the stress students face, like abolishing the streaming system in secondary schools, but students’ mental health remains a critical issue for policymakers.

Singapore, meanwhile, continues to demonstrate its commitment to progress and innovation in education. The country is now addressing the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in education, incorporating lessons on responsible AI use instead of fearing these advancements.

The Ministry of Education emphasizes this approach as part of Singapore’s National AI Strategy and the EdTech Masterplan 2030, enhancing the capabilities of the Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS) with AI learning tools.

The SLS now serves as a platform where students not only harness the power of AI for generating ideas and designing templates but also learn responsible usage. Proper citation and fact-checking of AI-generated information are integral components of this educational initiative, ensuring that students are not just consumers but responsible creators and analyzers of information.

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The incorporation of AI tools aligns with the nation’s broader vision of preparing students for a future where technology plays an increasingly prominent role.

As we celebrate the International Day of Education, Singapore’s achievements stand as a testament to the transformative potential of education. Despite the challenges, the Singapore education system serves as a beacon, reminding the world that with strategic investments and a commitment to innovation, education can truly be the most powerful tool for peace and development.