The Online Citizen

Education, Happiness and a paradigm shift

July 18
17:37 2011

Ghui /

Singapore is a relatively young country. While we have a distinct culture, our outlook on our way of life and the direction we want our society to take is very much still in transition.

When Singapore first attained independence from Malaysia in 1965, the government was focused on nation building, housing needs and job creation. In our infant years, we sought stability above all else. Perhaps things could have been done better, perhaps not. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Time has passed and we have now achieved stability and a first world economy. So, what’s next?

There has been much discussion on the need to improve our education system. Our education system has been criticised for giving too much weight to memory work with too little emphasis on creativity. In the same vein, PAP politicians have been criticised for lacking initiative and being only able to parrot party lines without critical analysis. Quoting the article dated 13 July 2011, entitled “Is the current Singapore the Singapore we really want?“, Vivian Chueh had this to say: “In school, we were told to memorise things word by word and at most of the times, we don’t even understand the meanings.”

An uncreative schooling begets an unimaginative crop of graduates. With the PAP’s reputation of only recruiting “elites” who would have undoubtedly done well academically, the correlation between the education system in Singapore and the politicians it has produced is undeniable.

In the government’s quest to strengthen Singapore’s economy in the past, it channeled all its resources into producing graduates to meet this demand. Hence, over the years, there was an emphasis on professional degrees such as medicine, law, engineering and accountancy. Our pre-university education was designed to push students in those directions. Very little thought was put into education for the sake of learning. The overriding mindset was education as a means to an end.

This pervading mindset was enforced by the government and then reinforced by our parents in a relentless cycle such that learning stopped being enjoyable or stimulating.

Even if one enjoyed a particular subject, if the school deemed that he/she was not doing well enough, he/she would be persuaded to drop that subject lest he/she pulled the school ranking down! Not only is that demoralising, it also wears down one’s desire to learn. It reiterates the message that learning is not for pleasure but only to achieve a tangible result at the end.

While an education should serve the purpose of enabling students to find jobs in the future, there should be a balance between fulfillment in learning and career practicalities. In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive and should not be viewed as such.

In the article dated 13 July 2011 entitled “Stress: Government plays a part – Dr Ang Yong Guan“, he states: “Letting children play when young is the prevailing attitude. Most Danish pick careers that interest them – money and status generally don’t matter. Success to the Danes means being happy – having somewhere to live, enough to eat, and being surrounded by friendly people.” Incidentally, Denmark has been noted as the “happiest” nation in the world. It is important to note that while Denmark is a “happy” nation, it is also a developed country. It boasts a hugely successful design industry and is home to famous brands such as Royal Copenhagen, and the iconic Lego!  It is also home to one of the most renowned children’s writer of all time – Hans Christian Andersen.

Like Singapore, Denmark has very few natural resources and relies almost entirely on human resources. If Denmark can achieve that balance of being both a developed country with a “happy”, well-rounded and creative population, so too can Singapore.

A key difference between Singaporeans and the Danes is clearly mindset. While they focus on picking careers that suit them, we focus on picking careers that would make us the most money. While this is admittedly a gross generalisation, it is certainly a justifiable one. The quest for money pervades every aspect of our society. From the cars we drive to the type of houses we live in to the schools our children go to, all are pursued to achieve that enviable social status of being rich (in the material sense).

While there are many factors that contribute to this mindset, a large part of it stems from our education system and our motivation for education. Instead of learning to better ourselves, we focus on learning to enrich ourselves monetarily. This in turn leads to reinforcing a system that will emphasise on teaching subjects to achieve that end. Perhaps, this is why so little emphasis is put into subjects such as history, geography, literature and philosophy as these are deemed to be “airy fairy”, subjects that will not help one “make money”.  In that endless pursuit for wealth as a society, we have lost sight of the joys of learning.

I strongly believe that everyone will do well in that which interests them. There is no such thing as useless knowledge and the quest for learning should be a broad based one, especially at primary and secondary school levels. At that stage, young minds are still inquisitive, still seeking, still inquiring. Their learning should not be hampered by a system that arbitrarily tells them what subjects are deemed “fluffy” and what are deemed “useful”.

If the passion for all forms of learning is instilled when young, it will provide grounding for the future. If children are exposed to a broad range of subjects in their pre-university years, they will be more equipped to choose what they would like to pursue in university. They would have a “real” choice as opposed to a system that will pigeon-hole them into “arts” or science” students.

Why can’t people be in careers that they also enjoy? Who is to say that the pursuit of so called “useless” subjects cannot translate into meaningful careers? Let students rediscover the pleasure of learning for learning itself. A healthy attitude to learning would breed a more productive workforce anyway.

Besides, since our nation is no longer in survival mode, we now have the luxury to shape our national outlook! Being a young country whose outlook is not set in stone, why not take this opportunity to re-evaluate?

All the criticisms leveled at our politicians and the education system point to one thing – we, as a society, need a paradigm shift. Instead of the endless pursuit of social climbing, let us take a step back and take stock of what is really important. Perhaps, then, we can figure out what truly makes us happy and in that process, free ourselves to become more creative.

 
  • regressive

    Of course, having an education to get a good job is key. Why bother studying if it don’t put food on the table? It’s ridiculous to expect people to study history, geograhy and literature. These subjects have no value and can’t contribute to the country in anyway.

    Ang Yong Guan is dumb to say let children play when they’re young. If that’s so, how can children develop a good backround of key subjects and skills like english & math which are so essential for getting good jobs? Study hard first, before thinking of play.

    As for Denmark being one of the happiest nation, is because they have no ambition. Just having somewhere to live, having enough to eat, and surrounded by friendly people, and they happy? Pathetic bunch of people they are. No wonder Denmark is a country that never seem to progress.

    In short, study hard first, study practical & relevant subjects. Get a good job and buy a nice house and have a nice car, then we’ll be happy. Pragmatism leads to happiness.

  • andrew leung

    PAP decided to flood the market with cheap graduates. Singaporean students must be prepared to study 12 hours per day. There will be increasing difficulty in finding jobs in Singapore. Non graduates will compete for 3rd world salaries.

  • OMG Regressive

    Denmark is one of the most progressive and developed countries in the world! Please don’t utter such ignorant statements! It is embarassing!

  • Sad for regressive

    @regressive–
    So you would rather have a nice house and a nice car all by yourself even if it means having to be surrounded by unhappy people all the time? No wonder Singaporeans will always be living in a 3rd world country no matter how wealthy we become.

  • AJ

    regressive is just that – regressive!!!

  • AJ

    Dumb & Dumber statements:

    “It’s ridiculous to expect people to study history, geograhy and literature. These subjects have no value and can’t contribute to the country in anyway.”

    “Ang Yong Guan is dumb to say let children play when they’re young. If that’s so, how can children develop a good backround of key subjects…..”

    “As for Denmark being one of the happiest nation, is because they have no ambition. Just having somewhere to live, having enough to eat, and surrounded by friendly people, and they happy? Pathetic bunch of people they are. No wonder Denmark is a country that never seem to progress.”

    In short, ‘regressive’ is exactly what it says on the tin – REGRESSIVE!

  • andrew leung

    PAP Education system is to produce worker bees. The bees will work till they die to take care of the Queen bee.

  • progress the regress

    Denmark’s government contribute so much $$$ on education that not only Danish kids schooling is FREE but they also get FREE textbooks, stationaries, Danish cookies & school lunch! The $$$ comes from the high tax that “rich” people in Denmark paid, and in Denmark social equality is so strong that even a “poor” Danish fella can be happy doing what he or she like to do without having to toil just for food on the table…..the $$$ from Danish government also comes from 2 of my favorite Danish exports……Lego & Danish cookies!!!

  • CS

    What people do not understand is that the so called airy-fairy subjects actually trained very important life skills, including communication skills, critical thinking and analytical skills,
    problem solving skills, creative thinking skills, ability to pick up new subjects or information rapidly,
    well-roundedness and a broad perspective,
    ability to deal with ambiguity. These are all critical skills in workplace today.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/HandsonLearning-Strategies/191912650840?ref=ts#!/note.php?note_id=10150190405716750

  • progress the regress

    if education is just for the sake of making more $$$$$ why don’t we just teach the kids how to print $$$$ using the correct paper materials and correct ink…..like one of those “airy-fairy” skills I always wanted to “learn” when I was a kid…. =P

  • JJ

    Hey regressive..

    dun talk cock.. buy a nice house & a nice car and we’ll be “happy”?

    sorry to say that if one can be that shallow… im sure he/she will be shallow enough to be happy with just a “nice house & car”.. they will always want more.

    im 35 now and since 27 yesrs old ive previously bought with my own money & owned 3 brand new alfas (147 2 litre sele, 147 GTA 3.2l and 156 GTA 3.2l Selespd), 1 W204 Merc AMG C class and i am onto my 2nd W212 AMG E Class merc.. i lived in landed property most of my life & recently moving to an apartment… got a pretty wife & 2 girls..

    AM i happy because of the house & cars? NO.

    But i sure am happy when my 2 young daughthers greet me like im a superhero when i return home from work everyday..

    I wish i can so “easily” be satisfied by material things & excusing it as being “pragmatic”… but i know it is never ending & never enough.

  • Pingback: More on education. | memento mori

  • mice is nice

    regressive, 18 July 2011

    “Get a good job and buy a nice house and have a nice car, then we’ll be happy. Pragmatism leads to happiness.”

    you are so right about this, but its our govt’s job to provide those good jobs that will pay for the nice house & nice car. but lately, some newbies have been demanding that people do their job (give “constructive” feedback, ideas) so they can get free rides in their sponsored cars, & people subsidised housing. liddat how can people concentrate on their job? then their job who do for them?

    i thought some were said to be ministerial material, how come so short of talent themselves? if i hire someone & that someone only know how to sit & wait for others to do his/her job, i might as well pay that/those other people instead. lol…

    anyway, when buying a house, make sure its yours legally. when people slog for decades only to be leasees (misrepresentation? con job?), no wonder S’poreans are not a very happy buch.

    you must be a lucky devil, enjoying your life while gloating at the misfortune of others.

    -.-

  • mice is nice

    dear Ghui,

    you sound a tad too critical (IMPO) of Vivian Chueh. part of this article seems to appear to be chiding Vivian Chueh for her views.

    words like “An uncreative schooling begets an unimaginative crop of graduates.” is rather judgemental. it also belies the fact that those students do not have the power to change their environment (yet?), even if they have the desire to.

    even working adults are at the mercy of powers-that-be. speaking for myself lah, lol…

    last time i play “snake & ladders” board game i also dun understand the message. now i know,… that hard work alone will not get you to the top, there are always snakes around that will rob you of the efforts you put in! & only those “lucky ones” enjoy the privilege of scaling up ladders of career advancement!

    XD

  • andrew leung

    PAP keep the education system to churn out more government officials and more workers for the companies/industries that EDB attract here. 50 years is enough to tell you our education system is not producing world class top talent.

    They must start to invest in education from kindergarten right up all the way. They must create space for people to develop their talents right from young. Now they are just sorting out the kids like trash in conveyor belt. They will just get more cheap trash from overseas.

    PAP better start to open the wallet, cheapskate investment will yield low returns. The Education Minister is just trying to keep the status quo and take million dollar salary. What to do when your PM is a dummy, you cannot outshine him.

  • http://sturmdesjahrhunderts.wordpress.com guojun

    don’t feed the troll..!

  • Going upstream

    There IS a group of Singaporean students in Singapore. They are not bogged down with tests they can’t grasp, they do not have endless remedials, tuition, after school care. They get lots of sleep because they dont have to work till late on homework or get up before the sun rises to go to school. They get lots of field trips every where in Singapore and beyond, learning opportunities on areas they love like baking or singing or gymnastics or what have you. Their teachers love them and want them to pursue what they are good at and they will tailor the program to each individual child so that they can develop in that area.

    Is there really such a group in existence in Singapore? Yes. They are homeschoolers.

  • Ovs Sporean

    Going upstream

    Thought you are describing ovs school children. Its like that where we now live, and holiday means holiday, no remedials or extra classes.

    Best part is, the children here know much more things than Sg children. They hv depth in their learning, whereas Sg tries to cover as much as they can so that children can pass exams, scratching the surface without proper or much understanding.

  • Ghui

    Dear Mice is Nice,

    I am not criticising Vivian Chueh at all. On the contrary, I am using her words as an example to illustrate how our current system can be improved upon. If students are instructed in a certain way and pressured to learn a certain way, they may find it hard to change even if they wanted to.

    So in case, there is any misunderstanding, I categorically state that I have no intention of criticising Vivian at all. I actually applaud her letter and am using it to make a point. I hope this clarifies. Many thanks.

  • Delilah

    Hi, I am quite surprised that this can be taken as against Vivian Chueh in any way. I actually thought it was very supportive of what Chueh was trying to say. I think they are making the same point. That the education system needs to be changed. I believe Chueh herself is advocating the same. I believe the statement on uncreative schooling is targeted at PAP leaders and not at all at Chueh. The article makes that clear when it talks about the recruitment of “elites”.

  • Delilah

    I think to take this as against Chueh is perhaps reading a little too much into the article. The target is the education system and Chueh’s letter is being used to back up that point. The gist of both articles are really saying the same thing. Let’s not read something that really isn’t there into the article. It defeats the purpose in my opinion.

    Well done Chueh and Gui!

  • Invincible is lonely

    Pay PM $4m per year, the rest peasant pay #3,500 (for minister), $1,500 for MP (partime + $500 xtra for fulltime).
    Then PM will be at peace and make all the decisions.
    No opposition to argue with him. He is a lonely champion.

  • regressive

    @progress the regress

    You said “Denmark’s government contribute so much $$$ on education that not only Danish kids schooling is FREE but they also get FREE textbooks, stationaries, Danish cookies & school lunch!”

    Yes, they get so many things free but do you know how much taxes they pay? And while textbooks, stationery and lunch are free in their schools, what about the quality? Their education don’t give as good a foundation in english & math like ours, and they serve unhealthy food in their schools, causing the children to be overweight.

    While Denmark overall is not a bad place, I think Singapore is still much better in all aspects, from quality of life to housing to healthcare to education.

  • aza

    Like Singapore, Denmark has very few natural resources and relies almost entirely on human resources. If Denmark can achieve that balance of being both a developed country with a “happy”, well-rounded and creative population, so too can Singapore.

    - We are brainwashed by LKY that Singapore have no resources, and depended on Human resources.
    Therefore, our HR professional have a concept and that one with a better education paper have a better promotional chances than a lesser education person. It is not based on meritocracy though that person is more creative, work harder and contributed quietly.

    Don’t believe me? Some of the subordinate employee will gossip, compare and tend to follow the better educational boss.:)

  • xxx

    Singapore has no real talent; It is faked, it produced many paper academic graduates who looked at the white with a inferior complex whilst superior over the lesser educational locals. They are not humble, and probably the result of the pressured/misconception of the parents that (paper) educational is your future. Study hard and score the examination paper well. That’s your task (fullstop).

  • Dr. A

    Dear Ghui,

    Much applause on a well-written article!

    I am sure most if not all SCs and SPRs who have had the opportunity to study, live and work locally, and overseas (in one of these “happier” countries) would agree wholeheartedly with your words.

    I have had the opportunity to work with parents and their kids, as patients, and it is well observed that kids from “happier” and developed countries are more involved, inquisitive and excited to learn new things. It is also well observed that many, not all, local kids, would rather sit on the sofa and play their handheld entertainment devices.

    I grew up with rope-learning locally, and it did not help much going through medical training overseas as that required solid understanding in fundamental topics across all subjects. Sure I did a whole lot of memory-work and scored As when it came to written, theory exams, however, when it was time for on-the-spot “vica voce” examinations, it was an entirely different ballgame where ones critical thinking and sound understanding of the topics were strictly tested. I found myself having to re-learn the way I studied and learnt before I managed to pass my viva-voce examinations.

    It is sad to see Regressive possessing such short-sightedness and misguided concepts regarding the true definition of happiness. Money may bring short-term gratification but I would not define it as happiness in its truest form.

    Car = S$150k
    House = S$400k to S$1.5mill
    Holiday = S$10k
    Family, friends and true happiness = Priceless !

  • andrew leung

    PAP try to artificially increase the University’s ranking by importing foreign students/lecturers en mass. The Education Ministers are also incompetent to raise Singapore to International Standards by attraction, they try to induce them here with scholarships and allowances.

    PAP policy is always take Singaporeans money to spend on themselves and foreigners. They like to bend over backwards for them. This is due to PAP inferiority and incompetence.

  • andrew leung

    PAP need to send those Foreign Lecturers for English course and NIE course how to teach. Please don’t short change our students on lousy Lecturers.

  • Mikel

    I think its important to be clear on what we’re using as basis for comparison. Denmark is geographically and demographically different from Singapore. Denmark has far more natural resources than Singapore. Firstly, sure, they have a population of 5 mil, similar to us, but their land is 50 times bigger. what does this mean for you and me? Basically, if you spread everyone out evenly, you only have about 100 Danes in 1 km2. We have more than that in a single hdb block. Secondly, Denmark just so happens to be one of the worlds exporter of crude oil. If you consider all these, coupled with their very long history, dating back to the early 13th century, its not surprising they are more well off then us.
    I agree we need to change the education system but its still very important to do fair comparisons.

  • AJ

    Mikel

    Cut the long story short, just think about what happens if PAP runs Denmark.

    1. Increase population to 100 mil.
    2. Keep proceeds from natural resource (crude oil) to reward themselves & hoard in reserve.
    3. Squeeze the people, make them work hard (like slaves)
    4. Run education like a conveyor belt sorting out the best, the rest rejects.

    It is not about comparison of geographic, it is comparison of govt.

  • AJ

    You can give PAP the best country (big with natural resources) & the people under them will suffer. The country & themselves might prosper but the masses of people under them will be poorer off all round (money, social, culture & politic).

  • mice is nice

    dear Ghui, 19 July 2011

    thanks for your quick reply. good to clarify, cos the statement that i quoted from your article did (to me) came across to imply students are uncreative.

    of course, not every student under the current education will always yield striaght A’s. so yes, you are right to say that the education system largely yields what its intented targets are.

    maybe to “someone”, those that remained more creative are freak results?

  • Paradigm Shift

    Here is an interesting clip on the paradigm shift needed in educating for the future.

    Also want to check out Sir Ken Robinson’s speech given on TED entitled “Do schools kill creativity?”

  • Robert Teh

    @A J

    Good analysis. Denmark’s brand name products are plentiful. Their citizens are empowered to be creative in their governing system laying emphasis on practical knowledge application.

    Given our autocracy, the emphasis is on promoting the leadership image of one man. He managed to get away with praising himself for leadership by concepts and assumptions. Such a system neglects empowering of citizens. The constant talk about talent ended up with ministers getting all the largesse of ridiculous lottery-like self-writte pay cheques. Only a few closely connected elites stand to benefit from such a system.

    Denmark does not play such a leadership or talent card. It does not keep playing with property and profiteering from land sales or taxing and privatizing all essential services to show off their superficial success.

    One is real pro-people system which support true competitiveness and creativity. The other is pulling the wools over people’s eyes to claim superficial success.

    By playing the last IR card after experiencing impasse in upgrading to value-adding knowledge-based economy, the leaders began to show their lack of ability to run the economically pro-people pro-knowledge application economy.

    So there is no choice but to sacrifice the interests of citizens – import foreigners that push up property prices and claim success.

    Just watch the IR and foreigner card is only a stop-gap measure. It is not a true competitive management of the economy. Soon leaders will have to face reality again – lack of ability to promote the promised knowledge-based value-add economy.

    You will see the ministers will once again be making excuses blaming on world recession and our own labor costs while covering up all real problems.

    The long-talked about promotion of creativity and entrepreneurship cannot work because people are not truly being empowered in practical knowledge application like in Denmark.

    I once suggested in a post to Feedback Uint to learn from Denmark’s practical knowledge application. Soon, Dr. Tony Tan went to Denmark for a survey. Nothing happened ever since.

  • http://None Jonathan Wang

    IN PURSUIT OF EDUCATION

    Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught.

    However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. A child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on without being taught these things.

    Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant.

    It is believed that what we learned below the age of 10 years old will remain with us permanently.

    The young brain is like a garden and can be cultivated.
    The objective of education is learning, not teaching.
    What he learns either at home or in school will provide a data storage. When a person sleeps, all the new things he has learnt during the day will be stored and file away in his brain which he can recall at will.

    The young brain can be cultivated and useful knowledge is recalled when needed.

    The teacher benefits from the students by learning from the students. In most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Most of what is remembered is remembered only for a short time, but then is quickly forgotten.

    In order for real learning to happen, lessons should be thought-provoking and interesting for the inquisitive mind of the young child to capture and retained. Cultivating an analytical brain is very important and retention of the knowledge learnt is vital. This helps the child to analyze each situation and improves his level of competency in understanding each problem.

    It is a fallacy to believe that learning is simply to pass exams. There is too much stress in our education system to pass exams and to excel in obtaining as many As as possible.

    Memorization or rote learning to pass exams cannot meet the learning process and students will only end up learning nothing.

    The aspect of learning through explanation has been overlooked by most commentators.

    Coincidentally, students learnt from each other in their daily interaction in schools. There is an unfailing ability to build a bridge between their minds.
    Exposed constantly and largely influenced by the internet age and TV, children have become much more intelligent with a higher IQ.

  • Delilah

    Mice is nice, I would counter that with a further statement. There are definitely creative ones within our system but I think that they could have been even more creative in another system where creativity was encouraged. From my own perspective, I did very well in school but when I went to uni overseas and had to speak up in class, make impromtu presentations, I really lost out to my european/amierican classmates. I don’t think that I tried less hard. I don’t think that I was uncreative when born. I just think that that part of me was not developed. I think that is the point of what Chueh and Gui are trying to say. Many students are uncreative but its not their fault. And even creative students are not as creative as they can be. It is not theoir fault. Creativity has to be nurtured. I doubt even Chueh would have construed the article the way you have. What benefit can Gui derive from criticising Vivian?? They are on the same side.

  • AJ

    Thanks, Mr Robert Teh.

    I am further educated in UK & spent quite a few yrs here now. To sum up my feelings about Sg edn, I wish I had been educated in UK right from the start – pre-school!

    The Danish edn system sounds not too diff from UK’s, or may be the whole West’s. Many Sporeans are misled by the concept that the harder you work (at remembering facts), the more you learn. It is quite the opposite actually.

    It makes me laugh when everything the SG ministries do contradict what they learn even in Maths & Science. Whats most off putting to me is the tight grasp in myths instead of applying what research shows.

  • Progress the Regress

    “Yes, they get so many things free but do you know how much taxes they pay? And while textbooks, stationery and lunch are free in their schools, what about the quality? Their education don’t give as good a foundation in english & math like ours, and they serve unhealthy food in their schools, causing the children to be overweight.” – Regressive

    Below are the lists of Nobel Laureates from Denmark, population 5 million:

    Jens Christian Skou, Chemistry, 1997
    Niels Kaj Jerne, Physiology or Medicine, 1984
    Aage Bohr, Physics, 1975
    Ben Roy Mottelson, Physics, 1975
    Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, Literature, 1944
    Henrik Dam, Physiology or Medicine, 1943
    Johannes Andreas Grib Fibiger, Physiology or Medicine, 1926
    Niels Bohr, Physics, 1922
    August Krogh, Physiology or Medicine, 1920
    Karl Adolph Gjellerup, Literature, 1917
    Henrik Pontoppidan, Literature, 1917
    Fredrik Bajer, Peace, 1908
    Niels Ryberg Finsen, born on Faroe Islands, Physiology or Medicine, 1903

    Source: Wikipedia

    Singaporeans, would you rather more Danish ang moh FT coming to S’pre or you prefer more FT from PRC, India, Philippines, Myammar etc? Maybe can try to attract millionaires in Denmark to migrate to S’pore due to LOW TAX~!…..

  • mice is nice

    Delilah, 19 July 2011

    our education in the early years probably set out to achieve success in more measureable ways. measureable in rather tangible ways, like monwy maybe?

    it has worked in the past as the economic realities were different. creativity is a skill, like sporting, musical or other forms of talent. some have more of one than the others, yet some have a more than 1 talent.

    it would be wrong for S’pore’s education to shift like a pendulum, its focus on creativity. you are not wrong to try harder at being more creative, but is that how creativity works its “magic”?

    you may not agree with how i have construed the message that writer, Ghui, had intended. but let’s stop short of assuming Vivian Chueh “… have construed the article the way you (as in, i) have.”

    i know its never the students fault for being “products” of this education system, i would never blame an individual (the students) when the fault lies with those who are or were responsible for crafting the system.

  • Delilah

    Mice is Nice, I am not at all disagreeing with the premise of what you are saying. All I am saying is that we are ALL on the same page. So let’s not pick at things which detract from the gist of what we all feel. I think everyone is in agreement that the education system needs to be changed. Me, u, Chueh, everyone on this chain except Regressive perhaps. I don’t think anyone here is being critical of anyone individual but the system. That is my only point. Creativity needs to be nurtured because as you said, it is not magic. Please don’t read more into it.

  • Delilah

    And above all, please don’t take anything too personally. This is an open discussion. I am not assuming that Chueh is anything. My only point is that I have read both articles plus Kelvin Oh’s article and have come to the conclusion that all 3 articles are really saying the same thing. From that, I come to the logical conclusion that the writer can’t possibly be criticising Chueh and if Chueh took it that way, it would be unfortunate. But I don’t think she did because there is nothing in it that criticises her at all!

    Also I have realised that I have been calling Ghui Gui! My apologies!

  • mice is nice

    Delilah,

    eh, as humans with emotions, people sometimes act, & sometimes react to things & words. while Ghui has already said there is no intention to criticise the other writer Vivian Chueh, i also have quoted a line which i felt does somehow imply it could be interpreted as such.

    i have no idea why you have to tell my how i should be taking things, personally or not. you coming to Ghui’s defence seem rather personal to me, since you have assumed what Vivian Chueh’s thoughts are.

    assumptions add nothing to any discussion. why are you doing this?

  • Delilah

    Hey Mice is Nice,

    I am not assuming anything on your part. All I am saying is that I can’t logically see why Ms Chueh would be offended. U are entitled to what you feel as I am entitled to what I feel. Ok, let’s make things simpler. Let’s not bring Ms Chueh into this.I think her letter is great and Ghui appears to think so too.
    Moving on, we shouldn’t pick at small inconsequential things that detract from the general point.

    Why do i do what? I don’t understand. You are entitled to have a point of view and I am not?

    I am not going to respond further.

    1. I don’t see how it could have been seen as insulting to Ms Chueh, implied or otherwise.

    2. U have asked me not to make assumptions but you yourself made assumptions by assuming that Ms Chueh would be offended.

    3. We are on the same page. Please can we not argue over such small things?

    4. My opinion is that it is not offensive. Your opinion is that it is even though the writer already clarified otherwise.

    Let us end this. You will probably reply but I won’t be. You can have the last word if it is that important to you.

    Thanks!

  • knn

    eh u all two marchiam cheong hei can. Eh mice is nice. people already say its not offensive liao and not meant to be, then let it go can? wa lau flogging dead horse man! I don’t know la. My English not that great but I really don’t think offensive leh. Somemore I think Vivian so clever to write the letter, she won’t be so petty and think people insulting her one la. Somemore they are both on the same side mah!

    As for you Delilah, u also sibeh cheong hei can! We know your point liao. U still keep repeating and repeating. Maybe Mice is Nice knows Vivian ma! That’s why ultra defensive!

    Anyway, can we forget it liao not? This writer’s point is to ask for change in the education system not for a lesson on how to ressurect a dead horse. wa lau eh!

  • Robert Teh

    @A J

    What you said about the need to apply knowledge as the main strategy in education is quite true. I observed during early days a certain Japanese engineer I ever worked with in a civil engineering firm. He came to my office to do design works on upgrading of drive shaft of a clamshell dredge. After he finished the designing, I expected him to send another to do the assembling and fitting. I was surprised he came back to do supervision all by himself doing every thing from setting up, surveying centricity, and clearances, heavy lift, rigging, down to the testing.

    What a practical knowledge applicator.

    But look at our education system, what our ministers seem interested is to prepare general academic education emphasising on maths, science, for passing of examination. We do not have ministers of the calibre who could lead in going into full fledge knowledge-based economic restructuring who could prepare such engineers like this Japanese engineer to handle all the challenging knowledge works required to upgrade the economy. They could only stand from afar expecting junior staff to do all such knowledge works.

    The emphasis is on top-down conceptual leadership system doing a lot of talking and assumptions.

    The execution is left to the lower staff who had not been well trained in practical application.

    The Orchard Road flooding is a good example of engineers and leaders not applying practical knowledge in their works. The ministers should take ownership of execution. What we saw is ministers giving excuses when facing real problems.

    That is why we should not overrely on generalists, lawyers and accountants to do paperwork all the time. There should be a good team of real practical knowledge workers to take the economy to the next level. These people can be groomed.

    One good example is Dr. Goh Keng Swee. He knew what is really required to start something from scratch until we see a whole lot of results.

    This kind of practical knowledge application are not found among all the million-dollar talent ministers even though they are paid by millions. We have a lot of software engineers. They are under-utilized. Singapore should be able to add values to many products just by adding software to differentiate and add values as I have posted in another thread on Tan Jee Say proposal to cut off incentives for certain manufacturing activities which are not paying returns.

    What the education system need to do is to produce students who are curious to study how things work for promoting knowledge-based value-adding industries talked about for years. What we are seeing is all the taxing of people and playing with property which are not necessarily helpful.

    After the fever from the IR and large-scale importing of foreigners we may be back to the old moribund economic management again just before the recent recession. It is like the blind leading the blind.

    Singapore is destined to be stuck at the low base of economic activities with property play and investment incentive scheme. Foreign investors know better what kind of practical knowledge workers we have.

    Yet our leaders prefer to talk like they are better than Denmark. Where are all the knowledge workers producing international brand name products?

    Let the real Hard truths come out in the open. The education system we have will one day produce a lot of educated unemployed. People are no longer as they assume easily taken for a ride.

    Many good and talented people have migrated to other countries due to lack of opportunities here in regard to such knowledge works. One robatic engineer was found to be looking for a job here for more than six months as posted in the FU. Many software engineers changed jobs rather than being prepared to upgrade knowledge-intensive manufacturing.

    True talent are always sidelined or wasted as the system only produced academic graduates with straight As but few true blue knowledge workers capable of contributing to economic and cultural vibrancy.

  • mice is nice

    Delilah,

    maybe i can see what u can’t? what u have been doing is impose ur views on me, that isn’t the right way to go about discussing a topic.

    quote, 19 July 2011:
    ” I don’t think anyone here is being critical of anyone individual but the system.”

    that above may not apply to everyone doesn’t it? maybe u dun realise that not everyone shares ur opinion.

    sometimes, small inconsequential things” makes a world of difference. doesn’t all the “small inconsequential things” add up to the entirety of govt’s influence in our lives?

    this isn’t about bruised ego here. i have never assumed to know Ms Vivian Chueh response.

    maybe u (or some other poster) can quote where i said or implied that i assume Vivian Chueh would be offended? i hope its not a case of seeing what u want to see.

    i have already accepted that Ghui isn’t out to pick on Vivian Chueh, till you posted ur displeasure on how i form my opinion.

    this line says it all:
    “1. I don’t see how it could have been seen as insulting to Ms Chueh, implied or otherwise.”,…
    but i am not u, dun u get it?

    sometimes, its not about having the last word. if its a meaningful discussion, why not go all the way, instead of shying away. even critical thinking skills need honing. if u dun have the stomach for it there is nothing i can do.

    -.-

  • mice is nice

    Robert Teh,

    what to do, some people live & work in ivory towers. do not know reality on the ground. that is why excution fail, cos execution of ideas is at ground level. & the success or failure depends on the level of excution. i am just not sure why then they have the executive powers ah…

    the Wright Brothers do not just draw up flying machines, they build them, tested them & took ownership of their own failures. & they din blame earth’s gravitation forces for their planes failure to lift off!

  • Not him

    Tony Tan – presidential hopeful indicated that foreign students pay 60% more fees than locals. I wonder how many percent pay fees at all and how many receive scholarships compared to locals. Why did he allow local uni fees to rise from $2,000 to $10,000 per year? Should it not be free as investment for the local population? Now we aee saddled with huge study loans while foreigners (supposedly foreigners last) gets it free…..

  • Not him

    That is the problem with our tax structure and govt – erp, maid levies, taxes, all go to this huge hole known as temasek holdings and GIC and never see the light of day to provide free sec, pri, kindergarten and uni education. Our RESERVES is just one huge monster that needs to be fed and sees no cap limit. And that is ridiculous.

  • Panthothenic

    Ghui, a very well-written article. Comprehensive coverage on the aspects of education in modern society. We need more articles like this to put Singaporeans in proper perspective. Please write to TRE too, so as to sooth out the polarized landscape in their articles.

  • david

    The glue has been flogged out of this dead horse completely already.

    This “paradigm shift” is impossible because you can’t survive in Singapore studying “what you enjoy”, chiefly because you cannot sustain your costs of living.

    Albeit European countries are expensive, the European Economic Community, conducive labout movement laws, welfare and employment benefits as well as far developed tertiary, artistic, service sectors can support traditionally more risky jobs such as the arts, non-traditional sciences (geography, archaeology, etc.)

    What we have is the Asean region and the bulk of our $1.7trillion GDP is typical of a developing region – manufacturing, raw materials, etc. We’ve got the high cost of living without the developed market around to support this “paradigm shift” because there’s simply insufficient demand in our region.

    The only option is to uproot to Europe or the US and adopt the “global citizen” mentality but it’s a different ballgame uprooting to a neighbouring country compared to a neighbouring continent. Finally, the regional bloc employment and labour laws are hugely in favour of existing residents of the respective regions – for many people, factoring these barries to entry in, it’s not sustainable for most people than to find jobs that allows citizens facing first-world costs of living in a developing market/region.

  • Chanel

    Below is a ST article (dated 20 March 1997) quoting Tony Tan. I have added the unspoken hidden meanings and my own comments, in parenthesis and capital letters, in this article.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    DRAWING TALENT [i.e. foreigners] – THE NEW UNIVERSITY FEES.

    20 March 1997
    Straits Times

    On Tuesday, the two universities announced changes in their fee structure to pave the way for a single fee to be charged for all courses except Medicine and Dentistry. Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, who oversees university education, spoke to reporters on the key issues, which we highlight here.

    THE university fee and admission changes announced on Tuesday are being made with one aim in mind: to attract the best young talent from Singapore and ABROAD [Tony's real aim is to increase foreign student intake with this new fee structure] to the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

    Both will embark on new efforts to attract quality students FROM THE REGION AND BEYOND, to RAISE THE PRESENCE OF FOREIGNERS in the student population here.

    But Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan told reporters on Tuesday that Singapore students need not worry that the move will mean fewer places for them [Oh really!! Is Tony saying that we have unlimited university places? The HARD truth is, for every foreigner taken in, one S'porean is displaced].

    His assurance: every Singapore student who makes the grade will get a place in university [what does he mean by "makes the grade"? Obviously, the entrance hurdle can be raised so that fewer S'poreans can qualify to make space for more foreigners]. “NUS and NTU today have enough capacity to take in all Singapore students who have the capability to study at NUS and NTU and who can meet the entry requirements [again, see how deliberately vague Tony Tan is here]. There is no difficulty,” he said. [yeah, no difficulty....because those S'poreans who are ousted by foreigners just have to pay a lot more money to study abroad!! Of course our millionaire minister thinks it is no big deal]

    He added that the universities now had “more places available than can be filled by Singapore students [really???? Then why did so many S'poreans study in Australia?? Because they love to spend more on university education??] of the right quality and also by any anticipated increase in good quality foreign students [Come on. The really good ones would not choose to study in S'pore!]“.

    Dr Tan, who is the minister overseeing university education, said that the changes were necessary to build up the universities into world-class institutions [fast forward 15 years to 2011, are our universities any closer to being "worldclass"??? Hmm...where do our ministers send their kids to university nowadays? Harvard? Oxford? MIT? Yale?].

    “You can have the best lecturers, good facilities. But unless you have good students [he really means "good" foreign students], standards in the university cannot rise,” he said.

    So in admitting students, the universities will adopt a “need-blind” policy, to take in every talented student, with a guarantee of financial help if it is needed [we now know many foreigners are given generous scholarships funded by S'pore taxpayers, but how many needy S'poreans received sufficient financial aid??].

    “That is the main change in the new admission policy,” he said.

    The fee structure is also being changed so that all students except those in medicine and dentistry will pay the same annual fee of S$5,500 by next July.

    FOREIGN students will PAY LESS too. Asean students now pay 50 per cent more than Singaporeans and those from elsewhere pay 100 per cent more. But from this July, all foreigners will pay 25 per cent more than Singaporeans [so S'poreans ended up paying more and foreigners paying less!!!! Is this Tony's idea of "S'poreans first"] and, from next year, they will pay just 10 per cent more [S'poreans would be screwed again the following year. Unbelievable!!].

    This change is aimed at drawing foreigners who might otherwise be daunted by the cost of living here and the strong Singapore dollar.

    But Dr Tan said that the foreign students who come “must be better than Singapore students [are they??]“.

    The universities will cast their net wide for foreign talent, from neighbouring countries, as well as from China, India and perhaps even Europe and the United States.

    The universities will market themselves abroad, at educational fairs, by advertising and, when invited, by talking to students who might consider coming here. [see our govt goes all out to give full scholarships to foreigners, but stinge on aid to S'poreans]

    This is what good foreign universities do, including top American universities such as Harvard, Yale or Princeton, which come here to market themselves to junior college students. [the BIG difference is these Ivy League universities don't dish out full scholarships to applicants!!! Foreigners queue to get a place in these universities paying unsubsidised full tuition fees]

    Dr Tan said that the impact of the fee and admission changes would not be immediate [this is the only consolation he can give]. Students entering university this year would have already chosen their subjects, but he expected the message to get through to those in the first year of junior college or those taking O levels this year [of course the message will "get through" because they have no choice but to pay more].

    “It will take a couple of years before these two policies show any discernible results,” he said. [fast forward 15 years to 2011, what is the result, Tony??]

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