In October 2016, 37 education officials and business representatives from Harlingen and other parts of Texas, visited Singapore to learn about the country’s world-class education system. Among the visitors were Harlingen Superintendent Art Cavazos and Harlingen school board member Dr. Nola Perez. On their trip, the group sought to learn the nuances of Singapore’s educational success as reflected on international student assessments. Singaporean students have scored consistently well on such assessments as the Program for International Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
According to Cavazos, the Ministers of Education and Labor work closely together to determine the educational outcomes required by the workforce; thus, curriculum development accords to the needs of the workplace. Students are placed into career tracks, based on their interests and skill sets. The three career tracks are: technical, polytechnic, and university.
Also, Cavazos remarked that industry professionals are directly involved in the education system, ensuring that the knowledge learned is updated and relevant. The opposite applies also: teachers are directly involved in the industries that are a part of their teaching field. This creates a concise means of communication and understanding between both ends of the education pipeline, so that the demands of the workforce are met.
This trip reflects the recent increase in exchanges not only between professionals, but students as well. Asia is one of the fastest growing destinations for American students, with nearly 35,000 students studying abroad in the 2014-2015 academic year. Also, international students studying in the US have surpassed one million, an all-time high; the majority of whom came from Asia. In the last year, over 4700 Singaporean students traveled to the US to attend institutions of higher education. Texas is the third largest state in terms of international university students from Asia, with over 32,000.
Steven Shao is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the George Washington University.