Grades don't matter? A curious message from Singapore's Education Ministry

Singapore government attempts to dial down pressure on students in uplifting ad through DDB Singapore.

SINGAPORE - With a reputation of having the best education system in the world, Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE) measures up with an astounding number of in-house commercials produced. For example, the MOE posted six videos for last Friday's Teacher's Day celebration alone.

It is a matter of debate whether the high number of MOE commercials directly correlates with its education success, yet the government rarely tries to be more subtle in bringing home its policies through the commercials. The ministry has different YouTube channels for topics such as physical education, character and citizenship education. The recent Teacher's Day series is clearly an effort to lend a sentimental touch to the government's teacher recruitment drive.

The 'Madam Pua' video above, released Monday, represents a breakaway from the MOE's emphasis on education excellence. Based on a true story, the three-minute video captures the disappointment of a student named Shirley after she fails her geography test yet again. She questions her teacher, Madam Pua, the titular character, on her "Well Done!" remark over her dismal score, to which Madam Pua replies, "You've worked hard, and made a big improvement. Isn't it more important?".

Singapore consistently tops the rankings in OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, perhaps at the expense of highly stressed students and parents. The government seems to be aware of the stress issue; The Straits Times reports that the government has revamped the primary school assessment system to eliminate peer grading.

The underlying message from the 'Madam Pua' video to students seems to be that it is okay to score less than an A, as long as they have done their best. Responses to the video on Facebook have been mixed, with some reminiscing about their teachers and others pointing out that good grades are still important for students to make the cut.


Agency: DDB Group Singapore
Managing Director: Rowena Bhagchandani
Creative Directors: Khalid Osman, Lester Lee, Mahesan M
Art Director: Sid Lim
Copywriter: Michael Chin
Planning Director: Frederick Tong
Planner: Koh JiaEn
Senior Account Manager: Audrey Khang
Senior Account Executive: Joseph Tan
Producer: Bettina Feng, Hidayah Asari
Traffic: Chan SuetLing

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