This is an excellent article about Singapore, published on the BBC site.
Dr Lim Lai Cheng, former head of the prestigious Raffles Institution school in Singapore and director at the Singapore Management University, explains the push for character as well as qualifications.
“Schools have become highly stratified and competitive. More advantaged families are better able to support their children with extra lessons outside of school, such as enrichment classes in mathematics, English, dance and music.
Those who can’t afford this have to depend on their children’s own motivation and the resources of the school to catch up.
This social divide continues to widen because the policies that had won the system its accolades – based on the principle of meritocracy – no longer support the social mobility they were meant to bring about.
So work is in progress to tackle anything in the system that seems to be working against social cohesion.
Government policies are moving away from parents and students’ unhealthy obsession with grades and entry to top schools and want to put more emphasis on the importance of values.
Schools have been encouraged, especially for the early elementary years, to scrap standardised examinations and focus on the development of the whole child.
To enhance equity, the education ministry has also attempted to spread resources more evenly across schools by rotating experienced principals to schools that need more attention and paying more attention to academically weaker students by strengthening vocational and skills training.
All round, government leaders have expounded a wider definition of success beyond academic grades.
The media and elite schools have been discouraged from showcasing top students and their academic achievements.”
Contrast what you have read above with the New Zealand system, focusing so relentlessly on National Standards. Add the New Zealand Initiative push towards greater measurement and the publication of the results and you cannot get further from the position Singapore has adopted.