In August 1978, then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee was tasked to lead a study team to identify problems in Singapore’s education system and propose solutions for reform. The government was of the view at the time that a thorough review was crucial to align the education system with the rapidly changing social and economic needs of the country. A key aim of the exercise was to consider how education policies and their implementation could be made more flexible to enable each child to learn at a pace suited to his or her ability.
Submitted on 9 February 1979, the Report on the Ministry of Education 1978 (also known as the Goh Report) identified three main shortcomings in the education system, namely, high education wastage, low levels of literacy and ineffective bilingualism. These problems stemmed largely from the peculiar situation created by existing bilingual policy in which the languages of instruction (primarily English and Mandarin) were not spoken at home by some 85 percent of school children. This troubling state of affairs was exacerbated by the switch from Chinese-stream to English-stream education over the preceding two decades, which witnessed the accelerated establishment of English-stream schools, along with the mass recruitment and training of new teachers to the detriment of the quality of teaching.
The Goh Report pinpointed weaknesses in the policies, systems and procedures of the Ministry of Education (MOE). Foremost was the failure of the education system, with its rigid and uniform curriculum, to cater to differences in absorption capacities and rates of learning among students. Another factor was the lack of long-term planning and specific objectives to guide the curriculum, for example, there was no clear definition of “effective bilingualism”.
Having identified the problems in education and their underlying causes, the study team proposed several recommendations that became the basis of the New Education System (NES). Among the major changes brought about by the Goh Report was the streaming of pupils into different courses at the upper primary and secondary levels depending on their language proficiencies and academic abilities at Primary 3 and Primary 6 respectively. The report also made recommendations to improve the organisational effectiveness of the MOE, one outcome of which was the establishment of the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore (CDIS), which began operations in June 1980.
The Goh Report was endorsed by parliament on 30 March 1979.
1. P. M. Raman. (1978, August 17). New team to study education. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Soon, T. W. (1988). Singapore's new education system: Education reform for national development (p. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 370.95957 SOO.
3. The Straits Times, 17 August 1978, p. 1.
4. Goh, K. S. & Education Study Team. (1979). Report on the Ministry of Education 1978. (p. 4–1). Singapore: Singapore National Printers. Call no.: RCLOS 370.95957 SIN.
5. Soon, 1988, p. 9; Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, p. 1–1.
6. Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, p. 1–1.
7. Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, pp. 4–1.
8. Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, pp. 4–3, 4–5, 5–1.
9. Soon, 1988, p. 1.
10. Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, pp. 6–1 - 6–4.
11. Goh & Education Study Team, 1979, pp. 6–5 - 6–8; Yip, J. S. K., & Sim, W. K. (Eds.). (1990). Evolution of educational excellence: 25 years of education in the Republic of Singapore. (p. 73). Singapore: Longman Singapore. Call no.: RSING 370.95957 EVO.
12. Fong, L. (1979, March 31). All 'ayes' for Goh report. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.