Waikato principals
visit Singapore

The Foundation’s education director, Jeff Johnstone, joined 30 school principals from the Waikato on their visit to Singapore in April.

The purpose of the trip was to experience Singapore and learn about that country’s education system. For many of the principals, the visit was an “Asia 101” experience that opened their eyes to the Asia-New Zealand relationship, Johnstone says.

“The value of in-country Asia experiences for New Zealand principals and teachers is for understanding the impact that Asia will increasingly have on the lives of their students.”

The group visited a number of local schools including Innova Junior College, Wellington Primary School and Sembawang Primary School. Being in Sembawang was a trip down memory lane for one principal - David McNair of Gordonton School - who had been a teacher at the New Zealand Force School in Sembawang in the 1980’s.

Watch a video of the trip

The principals also visited the Canadian International School and United World College of South East Asia, where they heard presentations from teachers, including from New Zealand teachers working at the schools.

Between school visits, the principals had a chance to explore and experience some of the sights of Singapore, including visiting the island city-state’s botanic gardens and markets.  

Towards the end of the trip, the group was hosted by the New Zealand High Commission. Deputy High Commissioner, and former High School teacher, Mary Thurston gave a “candid” overview of New Zealand’s relationship with Singapore and provided insights into the county's education system, Johnstone says.

The Singapore education system is very structured and hierarchical compared to New Zealand’s self-determining schools model, Johnstone says.

“This [the structured nature of Singapore's education system] provides more consistency across the sector but can potentially lead to less innovation and flexibility of approaches to learning.

“New Zealand students generally have more opportunities to self-direct and take more ownership over their own learning.”  

He says the principals will be able to follow up from their experiences by accessing resources and events organised through the Foundation’s Educators Network.

New Zealand and Singaporean principals, teachers and students can learn a lot from each other, Johnstone says.

“Opportunities like this trip provide valuable opportunities for educators from both countries to learn about how we can provide a better education for our students.”

The trip was organised by the Waikato Principals’ Association and led by Nathan Leith, principal at Berkley Middle School in Hamilton. Leith participated in the Foundation's 2010 Singapore trip.