Singapore is Changing their Education System with Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology Singapore

Singapore has taken several key elements and applied these concepts to its education system. The country already has a well-respected education system, and this elevates it now as a progressive education system that other countries can learn from.

Besides education, positive psychology researchers in Singapore are also interested in how people spend their time, whether playing video games or taking care of sick relatives.

With an adult literacy rate at 96.4%, as well as a high rate of adults older than 25 with some secondary schooling, Singapore is impressing many people with its commitment to a positive education system.


What Can We Learn from Singapore’s Positive Education Initiative?

Singapore’s education system is impressive in a global context.

The previously mentioned literacy rates influenced Singapore’s ranking in the Human Development Index. This index measures a country’s human development by considering factors like health, education, and income.

According to that index, Singapore is ranked the 11th-best country in the world. The country’s powerful education system is probably boosted by its focus on positive psychology measures.

School-based interventions in Singapore are not just remedial measures—they also include proactive factors, which are key to successful positive psychology interventions (Chong et al., 2013). In general, many positive psychology interventions in Singapore are meant to give students a knowledge of how to deal with daily challenges rather than teaching those lessons only after problems arise.

Positive psychology interventions in these schools aren’t limited to preventive approaches. When students are found to have learning disabilities or behavioral issues, school psychologists will bring in the students’ parents to figure out a cooperative intervention. If the problem is severe, the school will refer the parents to outside resources, showing that positive psychology in Singapore schools is both proactive and reactive.

The fact that Singapore’s school system is based on positive psychology exposes the value of a psychologically informed approach toward education.


How is Well-Being Influenced by Different Types of Passion? 

The importance of positive psychology in Singapore has gone beyond its education system–it has also been the location of important positive psychology research. That includes one study focusing on what drove adolescents in Singapore to spend their time playing video games (Wang et al., 2008).

The goal of this research was to measure certain aspects of these gamers’ lives, such as engagement, positive affect, and other components of positive psychology, based on what kind of passion they displayed. 

This study identified two types of passion. The first is a harmonious passion, defined as a passion that leaves room for other hobbies and daily activities, leading the researchers to consider it non-addictive. The second is an obsessive passion, a type of passion that is in conflict with one’s other passions, leading scientists believe it is the most addictive kind of passion. (For more information on the difference between harmonious versus obsessive passion you can check out this free PDF.)

The researchers found that most of these gamers had a harmonious passion for video games and had high levels of positive affect as a result.

This type of experiment might not seem like a typical positive psychology study since it involved no form of intervention. Rather, the researchers aimed simply to understand the effect of the internet on gamers’ well-being.  


Can Finding Meaning Help with Burnout Prevention?

Researchers in Singapore are also interested in how adults spend their time. One such study focused on familial caregivers (Ng et al., 2016).

The researchers set out to understand why caregivers spent their time looking after relatives. They found that caregivers were motivated by personal fulfillment, societal expectations, and practical need (i.e., they were the only people who could do it).

Researchers also found that caregiving could be burdensome to some people, and they discussed possibilities for preemptively supporting these individuals before they reached burnout. Caregivers who are taking care of a relative because of external pressure are more likely to burn out than those doing it because of intrinsic motivation.

Helping people in the former group find meaning in their work could reduce their chances of burnout.


Singapore: The Leader of Positive Psychology Education in Southeast Asia

With the breadth of research being done in Singapore, the country understands the relevance of positive psychology, and the country has become somewhat of a hub of positive psychology in Southeast Asia. For example, Singapore was the location of the 2008 positive psychology conference Simply-Happy.

This conference featured several leading positive psychologists from around the globe, including Martin Seligman, considered one of the founders of positive psychology, as well as David Chan, a leader of Singapore’s positive psychology movement and a professor at Singapore Management University.

But Singapore’s status as a hub of positive psychology is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that it’s home to the School of Positive Psychology, a university with a vision of providing “an accessible platform for high-quality positive psychotherapy courses, training programs and seminar workshops for all esteemed individuals and aspiring psychology professionals.”

The school offers programs in psychotherapy, counseling and, of course, positive psychology and applied positive psychology.


A Take-Home Message

From classrooms to universities to conferences, Singapore has become the home of positive psychology in Southeast Asia. Based on its high Human Development Index score, Singapore appears to be thriving, making it a role model of positive psychology.  Nations looking to increase the well-being of their citizens can look to Singapore as an example.

Do you know of other countries using the benefits of positive psychology for their education system? We would love to hear about them in our comments section below. 

Chong, W. H., Lee, B. O., Tan, S. Y., Wong, S. S., & Yeo, L. S. (2013). School psychology and school-based child and family interventions in Singapore. School Psychology International, 34(2), 177-189. doi:10.1177/0143034312453397

Ng, H. Y., Griva, K., Lim, H. A., Tan, J. Y. S., & Mahendran, R. (2016). The burden of filial piety: A qualitative study on caregiving motivations amongst family caregivers of patients with cancer in Singapore. Psychological Health, 31(11), 1293-1310. doi:10.1080/08870446.2016.1204450

Wang, C. K. J., Khoo, A., Liu, W. C., & Divaharan, S. (2008). Passion and intrinsic motivation in digital gaming. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(1), 39-45. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0004

About the Author

Joaquín Selva is a writer who was first introduced to psychology through behavioral neuroscience research. This research experience was focused on addiction with the hopes of ultimately helping people change their habits. Joaquín was born in Nicaragua, now lives in the United States, and believes positive psychology teachings can improve people’s lives in both countries.

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