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Educational Research for Policy and Practice

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 231–246 | Cite as

Managing the paradox of control: the case of ground-up implementation of active learning in Singapore’s primary schools

  • Christina Lim-Ratnam
  • Matthew Atencio
  • Christine Kim-Eng Lee
Original Paper

Abstract

The Singaporean education system has recently shifted emphasis from being highly centralised and standardised towards one that aims to promote innovation and autonomy at the school level. Yet, the concomitant move towards a more decentralised and flexible curriculum enacted and controlled at the local level has not been straightforward. Consequently, Hargreaves, Shirley, and Ng have described five paradoxes of educational and social change that characterise Singapore’s continued performance in academic achievement. One of these paradoxes is the paradox of control: How could the Ministry of Education (MOE) release classroom decision making and curriculum development to teachers and schools, while maintaining overall control across the system? They respond that the MOE maintains a fine balance characterised as bottom-up innovation with top-down support that requires further investigation. In this paper, we illustrate the implementation of an active learning curriculum in four primary schools to illustrate this approach of ‘top-down support for bottom-up’ curricular innovation in schools. In Singapore, the ‘Teach Less, Learn More’ movement has ignited school-based development of innovative curricula to bring about active learning, with the intention of developing pupil attributes such as creativity, collaboration, and self-confidence. Our case study explores how practitioners implement a curriculum that is meant to nurture a more emancipatory spirit in students that builds up their confidence and collaboration through active learning. A key premise is that such a curriculum requires practitioners’ autonomy to interpret the goals and desired outcomes and to plan their pupils’ learning experiences.

Keywords

Active learning Curriculum reform Teaching/pedagogy  Primary/elementary years School change 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Ministry of Education, Singapore under Grant OER 11/10 CL.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Lim-Ratnam
    • 1
  • Matthew Atencio
    • 2
  • Christine Kim-Eng Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Group, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology, College of Education and Allied SciencesCalifornia State University East BayHaywardUSA

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