Saturday, December 09, 2006

We've got Universal Studios setting up shop on the southernmost tip of continental Asia! I got my wish for exciting coaster rides within driving distance after all! That's the good news. The even better news is that by the time it's ready in 2010, I should be able to get in on senior citizen rates! "Please remove dentures and all other prosthetics before riding the Lethal Weapon 6 for your own safety. Thank you!"

While the politicos and moguls are talking about the impact the Genting-Star Cruises deal will make on tourism arrivals and length of stays, I wonder if Universal is considering to use the theme park here for more than just rides and family entertainment. The possibility of Universal setting up a real movie studio here using Asian locations and talent hasn't been discussed yet, but it's worth thinking about. For both Universal and us, there's an opportunity to break into cinemas worldwide with quality storytelling and high production values... can't blame me for dreaming, right?

Looks like we're putting a lot of our economic eggs into the MICE/tourism/hospitality/family entertainment basket in the coming decades. Are our current batch of students being properly prepared for this industry? I'm sure currently we can produce a very able, very competent crew of engineers who can fabricate and maintain the stuff in their blueprints, but who's designing the blueprints? We've got penny-pinching, meticulous accountants who are great at counting money, but whose money is it? And will all the service staff and the guys in funny animal mascot costumes be from our vast pool of foreign talent 'cos our own local employment-seekers are too self-centered, too individualistic and too easily embarrased (paiseh) to entertain our guests?

In our immediate future, our working population can no longer be made of unquestioning assembly-line robots. We need people who can relate to people, understand them and integrate across cultures without prejudice, and be less obvious with keeping an eye on the profit motive. We need people who can respond to rapidly changing situations, and be empowered and able to act on good decisions quickly. We need creative, imaginative people who can weave interesting and credible narratives with whatever abilities and talents they have on hand.

Our schools willl have to make the paradigm switch, as will our students and their parents too. Though our curriculum rigour need not change, our end result needs to be students who are knowledgeable, yet fun-loving, sociable, active and adventurous. All this, and a healthy dose of common sense too.

Am I asking a bit much? Yes, as long as we keep knowledge an individual, competitive, have-or-have-not commodity. Instead, if in our schools we can develop a culture in which knowledge is freely shared and open-sourced rather than individually hoarded (for obtaining meaningless marks on exams, no less) I'd say that would make content learning much less work, then at the same time we can learn to think and have fun too.

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