1st Edition

Comparing High-Performing Education Systems Understanding Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong

By Charlene Tan Copyright 2019
    270 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    270 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Comparing High-Performing Education Systems provides original insights into the educational structures, ideologies, policies, and practices in Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Taking as its basis their global reputation and consistently strong performance in formal assessments, the author provides an in-depth analysis and comparison of these three education systems that draws on cutting-edge research.

    Chapters explore the dominant cultural and educational norms in Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to give a wider picture of these high-performing education systems. The performance of students in international large-scale assessments such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is considered, alongside an exploration of attitudes to schooling, tutoring, and assessment. The book shows how Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong exemplify an East Asian Educational Model (EAEM). Such a model –

      • is rooted in and shaped by Confucian habitus: unconscious and ingrained worldviews, dispositions, and habits that reflect the standards of appropriateness in a Confucian Heritage Culture;
      • aspires high performance: a balance between academic excellence and holistic development; and
      • utilises educational harmonisation: the art of bringing together different and contradictory means and ends to achieve desired educational outcomes.

    Informative and thought-provoking, this book is a useful reference for policymakers, researchers, educators, and general readers on high-performing education systems, school reforms in East Asia, Confucian influences on education, and cross-cultural policy learning and transfer.

    List of Appendices, Chart, Figures, Photos, and Tables

    List of Abbreviations



    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Chapter 2: Performance as Testing: International Large-Scale Assessments

    Chapter 3: Formal Assessment, Private Tutoring, and Confucian Habitus

    Chapter 4: Beyond High-Stakes Exams: Holistic Education in Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong

    Chapter 5: Educational Harmonisation and an East Asian Educational Model (EAEM)

    Chapter 6: Pragmatism in Singapore

    Chapter 7: Correlative Thinking in Shanghai

    Chapter 8: East-West Balance in Hong Kong

    Chapter 9: Conclusions and Implications





    Charlene Tan, PhD, is an associate professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She has held visiting appointments at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore; Institute of International and Comparative Education, Beijing Normal University; and Centre for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy, City University of Hong Kong.

    'Comparing High-Performing Education Systems provides an interesting and timely analysis of education structures and policies in Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Often touted as global reference societies, these high achieving PISA jurisdictions are often seen as models to emulate in other parts of the world. Rather than simply describing the key characteristics of these education systems, Professor Tan offers policymakers, academics, and the general reader a balanced perspective on both the educational outcomes and holistic development considerations within these nations. This nuanced analysis allows the reader to move beyond a superficial understanding of academic excellence to a deeper appreciation of cross-cultural comparisons.' - Louis Volante, Professor of Education, Department of Educational Studies, Brock University, Canada 

    ‘Charlene Tan’s focus in this book is on Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, but the analysis she provides of those contexts has much wider significance for educationists.  In her exhaustive and rigorous account, Tan demonstrates the fundamental importance of deep cultural experience in shaping educational outcomes. With her ability to blend insights from both the East and the West in discussing philosophical, political and policy matters, Tan has produced a book that will prove engaging for readers from a wide range of countries. Her work is characterised by an admirable clarity in its style and an enviable breadth and depth in its substance. This book warrants careful examination by scholars, policy-makers and practitioners and will serve as a model for others seeking a critical understanding of performance, pragmatism and harmony in contemporary education.’Peter Roberts, Professor of Education, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

    'This book has theoretical, practical, and policy ramifications. For educational theory, the book contributes to a nuanced understanding of the EAEM including concepts, features, mechanisms and illustrative examples. Practically, the book sheds light on how to identify CHC and students’ learning and assessment for school administrators and other related educational practitioners. At the policy level, the book identified how the national policy is formulated, enacted and evaluated in different educational contexts.' - Gang Zhu, Faculty of Education, Institute of International and Comparative Education, East China Normal University, China

    'Comparing High-Performing Education Systems is a must-read for scholars interested in educational reform from a comparative and global perspective. The book might be of special interest for educationists who are genuinely interested in understanding the complex and profound historical, cultural and political roots behind the performative approach of East Asian education systems. This robust review of education policies and practices in three East Asian HPES moves forward performance accountability literature with Tan’s conceptualization of the interplay of global-local spaces and formal-holistic assessment.'Priya Goel La Londe & Antoni Verger (2020): Comparing high-performing education systems: understanding Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2020.1803548