It is no secret that the world is going through some kind of socio, economic and political change. There have been movements ranging from #metoo, shock election results and greater support for both the extreme left wing or right wing version of politics. In some way, these various changes are brought about by people to correct the imbalances that they see in the world. With these global shifts in attitudes, it is no surprise that we need to re look the status quo.

Education is traditionally seen as a great social leveler and it is therefore logical for the government to recognise that these institutions need to also move in line with the change. It is heartening that Minister for Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung acknowledges that Singapore’s education system is at the crossroads.

Singapore’s education system has long been criticised for an over emphasis on rote learning at the expense of critical thinking, public speaking skills and being well rounded. This is the system that many of our ministers and top civil servants are trained. Does this bode well for our aim to be an innovation hub?

While answering questions during a Q&A session moderated by Professor Euston Quah, President of the Economic Society of Singapore at the Economic Society of Singapore Annual Dinner 2018, Ong stated that “the change has already begun”, in relation to changing the attitudes of learning in Singapore.

While I applaud that he has recognised the need to foster a joy of learning, learning to deal with failure and the need to be aware of different skills and competencies within the education system, I wonder what exactly has the Ministry of Education (MOE) done to begin the process of change? It would be helpful for the minister to elaborate more on the changes that have begun.

Another point I would like to note aside systemic structures and societal attitudes is the importance of dedicated teachers. You can have the best system in the world but without the teachers to apply the system, it is futile. Do we appreciate our teachers enough? Do we incentivise them enough? In this, I am not just talking about a good wage. I am talking about attitudes and perceptions.

What message does making teachers pay for parking at their own schools send? What message does asking teachers who have paid for parking to move to other lots so that a minister may park for free at a prime spot send? To me, it seems like it is telling teachers that the job that they do is not important enough. It is disheartening and demoralising message.

I would like to see how Ong would have answered this question.

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