Learning from the World: Singapore and Shanghai

International Learning


Seeking to learn from two of the world’s highest performing education systems, a delegation of US education leaders travelled to Singapore and Shanghai, from October 21-29, 2011. Organized by the National Public Education Support Fund and the Education Funder Strategy Group, in partnership with Asia Society, participants included federal and state officials, and leaders in philanthropy, teachers’ associations, and non-profit organizations. The delegation visited schools and post-secondary institutions, met with ministry/commission officials, teachers, principals and students as well as with leaders from US business and government.

The goals of the delegation were to:

  • Understand how Singapore and Shanghai had become top-performing education systems and what have been the key system drivers for high achievement;
  • Examine the human resource development process for building effective teaching and leadership capacity throughout these systems; 
  • Learn about processes for achieving equitable student opportunities and outcomes; and 
  • Gain insight into how these education systems are innovating and responding to the workforce demands and skills needed for advanced 21st century economies. 

The group reviewed background materials on each of the two systems, including chapters from the OECD report Strong Performers and Successful Reformers by Kai-ming Cheng from the University of Hong Kong on Shanghai and Vivien Stewart from Asia Society on Singapore. In addition, Linda-Darling- Hammond of Stanford University and Kai-ming Cheng accompanied the group and provided further context and research findings. All the participants found it exciting and eye-opening to observe these top-performing systems first-hand and engage in high-level dialogue about the policies and practices that support their success. about the strategies.

This report summarizes the discussions at the meetings and site visits and describes the lessons learned from Singapore and Shanghai. The challenge now is to bring the lessons home. Of the myriad observations and insights, what are the highest priority lessons for the U.S? And what follow up actions should federal and state officials and philanthropies undertake as a result? This report is intended to be grist for that discussion.

Read the full 2011 Draft Report from the U.S. Education Leaders Delegation on highlights and key lessons from Singapore and Shanghai.

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