Rethink. Reinvent. Revolutionize: Reflections on Singapore’s Leadership with 21st Century School Reformation

I recently returned from a trip where I spoke in Bangkok at the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) Conference and in Singapore at the International Association for Scholastic Excellence (INTASE) Conference. The following article was originally posted as part of my blog series on the Huffington Post where I am sharing experiences and insights I gained from my trip. 

 

21st century reformation

 

I just returned from Asia where I spoke to educators at the NESA conference in Bangkok and to 1200 school leaders from 13 countries at the International Association for Scholastic Excellence (INTASE) conference in Singapore. Most of the attendees in Singapore were leaders in their schools, spanning the entire education spectrum:

 

18% – Primary level (7-12 years)
15% – Secondary level (13-16 years)
14% – Tertiary level (17-19 years)
29% – Ministry of Education, Singapore
23% – Others (university, colleges, private consultancies, etc)

 

There were many interesting and inspiring topics covered during the conference, and a few concepts that especially struck me that could improve education in America.

 

High Standards. While students in Singapore hold the best PISA scores, their educators realize that students also need to develop creative, innovation, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial skills to be prepared for the complexity of today’s professional world. It was these topics that I was asked to address. Whether their grads are going to discover the next scientific break-through, the most cutting-edge architectural structure, the most imaginative start-up, or the next service company, academic prowess alone won’t cut it. The rethink, reinvent, and revolutionize theme is at the core of the Singaporean education system and workforce. In a culture that has transformed itself in one generation to become a world-class city, these are people who never rest on their laurels no matter how great their achievements.

 

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.

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From Tragedy to Transformation: Harnessing Our Indomitable Spirit

After this week’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, I wrote an article on the importance of harnessing our indomitable spirit in tragic times for the Huffington Post. As more details are unveiled hourly, it becomes more  important to tap into our unconquerable spirits to get through the terror of this event and, eventually, begin to heal. The following is a section from my recent article I find to be just as relevant today as is was hours after the bombing.

For all those affected by the recent tragedy, I hope you may find wisdom and direction from the ancient Korean Martial Arts doctrine that I learned years ago in Tae Kwon Do. The fifth tenet is: indomitable spirit. 

Baek-jeol-bul-gul / 백절불굴

The word indomitable means “unconquerable,” or impossible to defeat or frighten. The “spirit” is the person’s core being, their willpower, cheerful & positive attitude, and desire to succeed. Having an “indomitable spirit” means that your fortitude, enthusiasm, and moral character are never diminished regardless of the hardships and adversities you face. Your determination to prevail is never vanquished, even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable odds, or seemingly overwhelming opponents. This concept is reflected in the following popular saying: “It is not so much the size of the dog in the fight, as the size of the fight in the dog.”

Continue reading at the Huffington Post  for examples of inspirational people who found their indomitable spirit when faced with personal tragedy.

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Infographic: If the World Were 100 People Where Would You Be?

Check out the infographic below for a fascinating look at a scaled-down version of the world we live in.

If the world were 100 people:

  • 1 out of 2 children live in poverty
  • 5 speak English
  • 22 have access to a computer
  • 17 are unable to read

Are you surprised by how common or uncommon your demographic is on the world scale?

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Is It Time to Reinvent the Remedial College Course?

Remedial college courses were designed to give opportunity to students, however, a recent report shows, for many, remedial classes can be an expensive sense of false hope.

Half of all undergrads and 70 percent of community college students will take a remedial class, according to the article “National Group Calls for Big Changes in Remedial Education.” Of those, the study found less than one in 10 students who took three or more semesters of remedial math completed the first-year college-level math course they need to take to graduate.

Not only does having to take multiple remedial classes — or repeating the same remedial course — cause a setback in the time it takes to graduate from college, it also takes a financial toll on the individual, the state taxpayer, and the federal taxpayer. While the demand for remedial education shows there is a great need, the effectiveness of developmental education in America is under question.

As the country recovers from the recession and the workforce demands more higher-skilled workers, it’s no surprise many adults are returning to school. However, many will require taking at least one remedial course to revive their rusty academic skills. In Florida:

  • 85 percent of students who took a remedial course were 20-years-old and over in the 2010-11 school year.
  • Four in every five first-year, full-time students over 20-years-old had to take a remedial math course.
  • 90 percent of students over age 35 had to take a remedial math course.

13th Grade: Older, Returning Students Strain Florida’s Community and State Colleges

Though remedial courses may not be the answer for all students, they have afforded many students a chance at earning a college degree when it would otherwise be out of their reach. The conversation requires us to examine not only where higher education is failing, but where the K-12 school system can improve to prepare their graduates with the skills to succeed in higher ed and land a job. Will a college and career emphasis in K-12 be enough to prepare more students for math in higher ed? Will the number of students failing remedial courses in reading, writing, and math ask us to reevaluate the basic skills a college graduate needs to earn a degree?

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Higher Education Quality Struggles without Accountability

By 2020, 75 percent of jobs will require a college degree, up from 62% in 2009.Without any form of higher education, today’s workforce faces a dismal future in a world that increasingly demands high-skilled workers who are equipped with degrees and real-world work experience. But, even though the demand for educated workers is high, it doesn’t mean it makes it any easier for aspiring degree-holders to enter college, pay for college, or get a worthwhile education.

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Success Wanted: Interpersonal Skills Required

What makes a person successful? Some attribute their success to hard work, while others attribute it to luck, mentors, brains, or social skills.

In a recent three-part series on NPR, people from all rungs of the economic ladder are interviewed on why they either are or are not financially “successful.” In the first installment, Bob Hatley, president and CEO of Paragon Commercial Bank, tells his tale of going from a childhood with limited means to a millionaire. Hatley says: “People who use their family as an excuse not to achieve, I have no patience with.”

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At 6-Year High School, Students Earn Diploma and Associate’s Degree

Our nation has a demand for more students entering college, more college graduates, and more career seekers who are prepared for the workforce. But how?

We’ve recognized that the pipeline to a college degree starts in early childhood. If students aren’t reading at grade-level by third grade, their chance of graduating high school is significantly decreased. More high schools across the country are also doing their part to graduate more students and send more grads to two-year or four-year college degree programs. Internships, service learning, summer enrichment, and AP courses all give high school students a look at life beyond high school; a perspective that can be integral in connecting a K12 education to graduation and a purposeful career.

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Filling the Opportunity Gap: What Tuition Costs and What’s In Your Wallet

Economists tell us that there are certain commodities that we will pay for no matter how high the price is: such as gasoline. A college education is one of those highly valued commodities; no matter how expensive it gets, we still need it, so we do whatever it takes to get it. As if to prove this concept, the cost of a college education has tripled in the past thirty years, according to Pew researchers, and that trend is showing no sign of stopping soon (see “Is College Worth It?”). Students and families are certainly feeling the strain, but when will they break?

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Middle Class Values: How Americans Are Going to Get Out of the Recession

The middle class is essentially the heart of America. Whatever their economic situation, Americans predominantly identify themselves as middle class. According to a Pew Research study cited by Robert J. Samuelson in his opinion piece “Saving the Middle Class,” only 7% of Americans define themselves as lower class, and only 2% define themselves as upper class. In a stark contradiction of the fiscal reality, “Nine of 10 Americans locate themselves somewhere in the middle class… 15 percent in the upper middle class; 49 percent in the middle class; and 25 percent in the lower middle class.” As Samuelson points out, “People don’t define themselves out of the mainstream.”

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Transfer: Connecting 21st Century Skills to the Real World

Many call for students and grads to possess 21st century skills, but few know how to measure whether or not a student has mastered 21st century skills.

A group of education and science experts recently released a report that aims to “define just what researchers, educators, and policymakers mean when they talk about ‘deeper learning’ and ’21st century skills,” according to Education Week. They found skills can be divided in three categories: cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills. However, what was most important and proves to be the hardest to implement and measure is the underlying skill that gives value to all these skills: transfer.

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