Friday, June 08, 2007

Educating educators

Singapore's effort to become an educational hub took another big knock with the troubles at the Froebel Academy - a privately run school that provides mainly Early Childhood programmes as well as its flagship Chinese Diploma in Pre-School Education.

Following so closely on the heels of UNSW (Asia)'s closure, it is no wonder that students at this academy are alarmed at any sign of irregularity at the school, such as unpaid salaries, delayed certificates, etc. The breaking point came when students found the school closed for unknown reasons, although the operators seem very much to be alive and kicking, though invisible for now. It is probably better that they do not make public appearances lest they get pelted with eggs and cause a riot in the process.

Privates businesses, even in education, can fail or close or both, just like in any commercial enterprise. But if the government is serious about making Singapore an education hub by riding on the good track record of its education system that has been established for more than 30 years, then it must exert greater supervision over any and all private educational institutions or academies sprouting up all over the island nowadays. At this point in time, the government is taking a hands-off approach, preferring to let bodies such as CASE validate the trustworthiness of these 'schools'. Beyond registering these schools, the MOE does not seem to be monitoring them as closely as it would seem necessary.

Look, Singapore's reputation for the quality of its education sector is well-deserved. But I would hate to see a few high profile failures bring down this reputation overnight. The powers that be needs to do something, and do it fast, though not in the manner in which UNSW was coaxed into setting up a full-service campus on the Island just to be closed in one semester. This must be a world record of sorts, though one that Singapore certainly does not want to be known for in the long run.

Meanwhile, the Froebel Academy saga continues...

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