Global education lessons: Singapore leads in STEM, now takes on the arts

Just as the US is abandoning funding of arts programs in schools to focus more on testing of core subjects, a leader in math and science education turns to the arts as a way of improving “entrepreneurial” thinking it admired in Americans. Will it beat the US at it’s own game?

Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 1, 2013

By Tom Benner

Chew Jun Ru knew he wanted to become a musician back in high school. But the eldest of four had parents who shared the traditional Singaporean view of the arts – they insisted he find a career with a solid future.

“It was crazy at the time. They could not believe what they were hearing,” says Mr. Chew, now 24. “It’s just music. I’m not doing drugs. It’s not something I should be ashamed of.”

In June, Chew – who plays the erhu, a traditional Chinese two-stringed bowed instrument – graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, an undergraduate arts institution here. In August he left for Beijing on full scholarship to the China Conservatory of Music.

His ability to win over his parents – they couldn’t be prouder now – speaks to the growing acceptance of, and focus on, arts education.

Innovation and creativity are seen as increasingly important to core curricula in this traditionally buttoned-up financial center, at a time when American schools are cutting back on arts. Singapore‘s embrace of the arts isn’t just for art’s sake, but because of the growing recognition that arts education is crucial to Singapore’s growing innovation-driven economy.

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