Geography Education In Singapore: What Are The Schools Doing Right?

In many countries, changes have been made to the education system in recent decades so that it follows trends in scientific development, makes the most of technological advances, and is as close to students as possible. According to PISA results, Singapore students have performed exceptionally in recent years. So let us look at the data from a very extensive analysis of the state of geography education there to try to find out what we can improve in our work by following their example, no matter where we live and work.

The teaching of Geography and Economics in the country has undergone major changes of a purely conceptual nature in the last four decades. The concept of teaching has been reframed from learning about individual countries and regions to understanding the interrelationship between people and changing environments, which reflects the paradigm shift of university geography itself (Agnew & Livingstone, 2011; Agnew, Livingstone, & Rogers, 1996; Cloke, Philo, & Sadler, 1991).

Singapore’s education system is believed to be flexible and responds to environmental changes very quickly. In recent decades, four main phases in its development can be identified, starting from learning about places, countries, and regions through learning to acquire skills with the student himself or herself being the central focus.

By the mid-1970s, topics were organized to revolve around location and descriptive information about it. Since then, many innovations have been introduced to help students understand the interaction of people with the environment, the importance of making informed decisions about the use of natural resources, taking responsibility for actions and their consequences, understanding and respecting the cultures of different people around the world, and taking responsibility for protecting the environment.

If we look in detail at some of the documents available online*, we notice a few key things:

  • the titles of all topics are questions – they start with what, how, and why;
    the objectives everywhere are about stimulating discussion, thinking, and analysis;
  • an exercise called “geographic investigation” is present as a concluding theme, in which children learn the whole process of collecting data, critically analyzing it, visualizing it, and drawing conclusions about processes, and phenomena;
  • the competencies that are defined (see picture below) as objectives to be achieved include building confidence in students, the possibility of self-learning, active citizens who have high self-control, and social sensitivity to the problems of society, among many others.

How To Improve Critical Thinking And Creativity Skills In Students Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) And Satellite Images Interpretation?

There are a few ways that critical thinking and creative skills can be trained in students by learning with geographic information systems and satellite images. One way is to have students identify patterns in the data that they are looking at. Another way is to have students come up with hypotheses about what might be causing the patterns that they are seeing. Finally, students can be asked to come up with solutions to problems that they see in the data. By doing these things, students will be able to develop their critical thinking and creative skills.

Scientists have long proven that spatial thinking can be developed not only in early childhood, but also in adult life, and each person is capable of improving this with constant practice in real life. This type of thinking helps us navigate our way around town, through nature, and even has a direct bearing on our ability to drive and park. Many professions require good spatial thinking, so we should not underestimate it.

Professionals use different terms for this important aspect of geography education in school, and beyond, of course. This topic could be called ‘digital geographic competences’, ‘digital geography’ or ‘digital geographic literacy’.  Here are several ways we can make geography lessons innovative and interesting to young kids:

  1. Use free web GIS portals to showcase the basic geographic terms, instead of paper maps. There are plenty of websites, offering cool maps with real time data, for example,,, etc. You can chaeck our free lesson ideas here.
  2. Introduce some simple satellite image interpretation activities – like why using a drawing to show a volcano, when you can use cool real satellite image, like these from the Copernicus website.
  3. Try out some free web mapping tools like Projects in Google Earth, Google MyMaps or even QGIS.

What do you think about introducing geospatial technologies in the geography classes?

In what direction should the teaching of Geography in your country change in order to become adequate to the XXI century?

What do teachers need to meet the new demands of students who are becoming more and more digital?

*Look here and here.