Sunday, August 07, 2011

Welcome to the hive

Sometimes, when I look at my kids and how diligent they are, slaving away at tutorial worksheets and ten-year series questions, I wonder if they're in school to learn or to work. People here say we learn by doing work. I agree, but the learning is limited. The kids' minds are on the next test, the next exam and getting them done as quickly as possible. They feel most fulfilled when the assembly line keeps churning out something for them to put together. Give them that and a set of clear instructions and they're happy to just follow the rules... there, next?

Sounds like a dream classroom scenario, doesn't it? We have compliant children, steadily crunching through numbers and text, moving from one piece of work to the next until we graduate them and take delivery of some new raw material to put through the mill.

These are the worker bees of society that we're cranking out. They're the ones who, no matter what qualification they attain, operate best by following instructions. Without much view of what's over the peak, they're content to just continue slogging up the slope because that's all they've been told to do. I'm getting this observation from working friends (who have not been completely passed through the education mill) who've been observing their co-workers, so I'm not speculating about this.

We haven't figured out how to properly realign the horse and the cart and let the learning drive the work instead. Work is easier to target and manage because it is easier to observe and quantify universally than learning which is more vague, amorphous even. We reward the hardest workers who can follow the procedures most accurately, holding them up as a shining example for the rest to envy and emulate.

And thus we perpetuate the myth that the best jobs go to the best exam-takers. When the time comes for them to present themselves to the working community, the myth is shattered. Among other things, they blame their job situation on 'foreign talent'.

But really, how difficult a choice is it for employers? Worker bees are numerous, identical and replaceable. Employers prefer employees who show more interest in life experience than textbook knowledge and exam skills. Employers prefer employees who are hungrier, who don't come with a sense of entitlement (born S'porean, scored straight 'A's, done National Service...) and probably those who have a better sense of global realities, and can supervise themselves on the job instead of going what-do-I-do-now-boss?

Let's not sell our kids too short, though. There are some exceptional individuals who have proven themselves out-of-the-box thinkers -- self-motivated individuals who don't mind bending the rules to pursue their dreams and flights of fancy. Too bad the bulk of them are criminals, like this guy. And yet, despite his education, he hasn't enough logic or reasoning (let alone a sound debate strategy) to hold a credible argument against his accusers.

1 comment:

Elim said...

my kids do learn--they learn to reproduce an essay that i like, the good little essay-churners. HAHHAHAA. and obviously there's a problem because i'm not perfect.and when you make an imperfect copy of sth imperfect... not good. >.<