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To Fix a Mocking Peasant

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Best and Brightest, but from where?
MEEK
mollymeek

Mr. Philip Yeo is saying that parents should diversify their children's education experiences. As CNA reports, "[t]his is because children will face new and as-yet-unknown technologies, industries and jobs." Lest readers think that Molly is going to start whacking Singapore's establishment figures again, allow Molly agrees with this point.

Nevertheless, the way CNA reports it leaves Molly feeling unsettled.

CNA reports that:

"Singapore's top civil servant Philip Yeo said Singapore cannot afford to have its best and brightest students only in a few top schools receiving the same system of education."


I won't say this is elitist. It is just elite-centered. Firstly, there is this notion that there is a group that is supposedly "the best and brightest" and they will fare well regardless of the sort of education they receive. This isn't true at all. Put our top scholars in a different education system with different emphases in terms of subjects, content, etc and they might just be average students.

Secondly, I am tempted to ask why education should be diverse for only a particular group of people. Why assume we must have different people emerging with different strengths only in this "best and brightest" group? Note that the point here isn't that each person in this group must have diverse talents but that within this group, there must be different people with different sorts of abilities. This is true, but shouldn't this be the way to go for everyone and not just one amorphous group of talents that might never be. As it is reported, "[t]he Chairman of A*Star said the greater the diversity of backgrounds and talents, the better Singapore would be able to respond and compete in this new world." Absolutely. But why just care about a "best and brightest" group that we cannot even identify precisely because we want people to have strengths in niche areas.

Mr. Yeo's basic premise isn't at all controversial or new. People have been making similar points in forums for years already. It's the particular emphasis on an apparently identifiable "best and brightest" group that is unsettling. So, does this mean that the rest of us who are not identified as "best and brightest" should be contented to settle for a homogenous and homogenizing education?We can't identify the best talents in diverse areas beforehand. They will spring up from everywhere and will not be confined to your usual suspects.

Shouldn't the education system as a whole be reformed to allow different talents to flourish instead of trying to keep in sync with the latest government-inspired "hub"? (Now there is this idea of a philanthropy hub. What now? Flag Day becomes examinable?)

"Mr Yeo has urged parents to take the "bold step" of sending their children to different types of schools, such as St. Joseph's Institution International." The additional questions we have to ask are: 1. Who will be able to afford it? and 2. Who will be allowed to enroll in "different" schools, including international schools?

The ideal is nothing bad, but the means of attempting to realize the ideal are questionable.


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Slaughter cows when famiLEE is affected

(Anonymous)
Could it be to avoid further embarassment to an old man who somehow sent his dyslexic grandson to SAS despite MOE rules then?
http://singabloodypore.blogspot.com/2006/04/lky-breaks-moe-rule-to-enrol-lee-hsien.html

Just like "quitter" is quietly dropped from GCT's vocab since one sprouted in his own family.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goh_Chok_Tong
>Goh is married to Tan Choo Leng... their daughter, Goh Jin Theng, is in London with her English husband, Lee Craven.

Re: Slaughter cows when famiLEE is affected

Wah, her husband has such a nice name. Lee certainly has a nice ring to it.

About education

(Anonymous)
Oh my god. Philip Yeo was from SJI. Gods, I hated that school. $150/month, and they expect you to contribute to the school by selling $150 worth of raffle tickets. And they talk about christianity too. It was a damn money minded christian school.

But that's all off topic, so I'll say something about the undesirability of students in a "few top schools receiving the same system of education." How can you manage to diversify education? I'm in university right now, and I'm learning about principles discovered 50+ years ago. The problem is, most of education is like a tower of cards. You need time to build up the tower so you can have some chance of understanding the knowledge later taught. Take this example:

Basic arithmetic (primary school) --> algebra and trigonometry (secondary) --> fourier analysis (maybe Junior College/Polytechnic) --> Microelectronics fabrication: Predicting thickness of silicon deposition and other functions (university). (Formulas and principles discovered around 20+ years ago!)

All this takes time, and you can't really learn much of the knowledge at the top if you diversify too much of what you learn. Unless if you take more time, but most people can't really spend 30+ years studying (nowadays. In the past the chinese scholars graduated, so to speak, at around 35 years of age).

The problem now is that there is too much to study nowadays, and we can't really diversify too much, as I said earlier. I'm talking too much cock, so I'm signing off now.

As I mentioned, I think the point made is not for each person to diversify what s/he learns. The problem Philip Yeo sees (if I don't get him wrong) is that we are churning out people who are way too similar to one another and thus don't have enough diversity among people (rather than within a person). I think this is true.

Then there is the suggestion that the "best" people should not all go for the same thing and my contention is that we can't really be talking about the best people anymore. Or at least those who are currently deemed the best need not be the best if we are looking for diversity.

The further question is why it is up to parents dare to let their children be different by sending them to schools that are different. I think the education system should be offering all students a real chance to be diverse. But, ultimately, does this come with a price that some people can't afford?

Re: About education

Having an education system that allows diversity to breed isn't enough. A conducive environment, including a society that not only accepts but encourages diversity, is necessary.

Pardon the sweeping statement, but I think that the current "cowardly" (for a lack of better word) mindset of our society creates a conservative milieu that frowns upon deviation from the norm and, in fact, can be rather unforgiving to those who fail when they veer off the beaten path. Given how the Singaporean society has been moulded over the years by some myopic policies and consequently the increasingly harsh realities of life here, that is not surprising.

Hence, changing the system has to be tied in with changing attitudes.

Absolutely. That's why all the "reforms", the abolition of streaming and ranking, etc, amount to nothing much. People rank and stream in their minds.

And our idea of forgiving those who fail is sending them to the ITE to get a cert and feature one or two "success" cases.

Excuse me, are you a Minister?

(Anonymous)
Our dear Mr Yeo talks like a Minister, behaves like a Minister.

Funny, with his "capabilities", he did not attend any tea parties. Maybe, he did but the top guys like someone on the outside to doing things that MIWs cannot do, take on risky projects and losing money. Do not want to dirty their white shirts, you know. Failures must not stain the white shirts. The top guys may have sprinkle some magic "white" powder onto him.

If so, no wonder he is such a cocky guy, he must be his master's favourite son.

Re: Excuse me, are you a Minister?

He might be inviting bloggers to a coffee session instead of going to tea parties.

breaking the mould??

(Anonymous)
I am not sure if going to different schools will make a difference. I think it would be more appropriate to develope passion and a more flexible system. I also agree that it should be done across the board where students have options to pursue their passion. In doing so they might discover gems in a 'normal' school. If you have a larger sample size, usually you would discover more things. The normally not so bright student might sparkle in the right environment. Besides not all students in top schools have bright minds. Some just have deep pocket :)

The Singapore tend to have a trend of following what the big shots say in education. If Mr Philip Yeo says this and it sounds good and logical, the next the we realise schools began to implement systems and parents who could afford it are frantically trying to secure a position in the new programme. In the end we might produce jack of all trades, masters of non(I hope I didn't misunderstand him about being multidisciplinary cos I didn't read the article.) Our education systems always churn out efficiently people to meet the nation needs like a production line. It is a efficient way of doing things like how we produce thousands of test tube washers that end up selling test tubes instead. People study a certain subject or enter in a certain field because there is money to be made and not because they are passionate about something. I say most not all pursue a certain discipline because it ensure security. The heart of our choice is at survival not self actualisation. Thanks for reading my rambling. Just a loosely support hypothesis which might completely be false :)

Re: breaking the mould??

"People study a certain subject or enter in a certain field because there is money to be made and not because they are passionate about something."

Then sometimes they realize there is no money to make in the first place. Think: Life Sciences Hub.

eugenics of education

Apparently that is the "proper use of education" - the best should be "best-er"; as for the academically weak, ah let them be.

Re: eugenics of education

Except that the best might not become "bester" and the rest remain the rest...

This is the same Philip Yeo, who boldly proposed just a few years ago that EVERY single Singaporean undergraduate should do a basic degree in Engineering first, before doing anything else.

Hahaha!! Did he really say that? I can't remember. Well, maybe a few years later he will change his mind again...

Are the different kinds of schools really that different?

I don't think diversity can be so easily and neatly packaged and taught... ironical, no? If we think we can define diversity as 'racial, fields of study, religions etc' only and then continue to say other 'alternative lifestyles and hobbies' are unacceptable, then I don't think we have diversity.

'Different' but sama sama lah.


therealkaizer,

good point on the different kinds of schools. Should diversity result from different education, different points of veiw or just different people in different fields?

So far the establishment may only hold the first one acceptable and the second some what conservatively and selectively acceptable. The third type of diversity is just not going to cut any ice here. It is the third one that singapore has the least willingness to deal with, and that will be our failure.

Yeah. But, of course, we can have different people in different fields and them have most of them jobless simply because the economy isn't vibrant enough.

-------
"good point on the different kinds of schools. Should diversity result from different education, different points of veiw or just different people in different fields?

So far the establishment may only hold the first one acceptable and the second some what conservatively and selectively acceptable. The third type of diversity is just not going to cut any ice here. It is the third one that singapore has the least willingness to deal with, and that will be our failure."

But I do think that schools can have niche strengths instead of them all trying to make students who score 10 A1s... Unfortunately, we don't quite have an education in sg. It's more like an exam-prep system. We can't have diversity. We must have students who do well in every single darn subject and get medals in sports CCAs and then do a million hours of community work to pretend that they are still human beings.

SJI?
he was from there...

Yup, he was speaking at SJ International's ingural ceremony.

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