Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Driven the wrong way

Lack of drive in Singaporean students a worry

I'm not sure I agree that Singapore students lack 'drive'. Singaporean students are notorious 'muggers', burning the midnight oil with their study texts, tutorial sheets and homework assignments. So, no, Singapore students are driven enough. The problem is that in our society, everyone -- adults and school kids alike -- is negatively motivated.

What I mean is, we do what we do for the wrong reasons. We work to avoid negative consequences, rather than for positive feedback. Our society is motivated by fear and punishment, and the fear of punishment. Have you noticed that you work harder at classes taught by teachers you fear most? The ones with the loudest voices, sharpest tongues and most creative punishments are high on your priority list; while the ones who encourage you and try to understand your problems and issues, well, their tasks can be postponed to another day. 'cos they understand.

It's also true of the adult world. Our society is full of warnings that threaten fines for social infringements, our citizens call for summary dismissal when they perceive our civil servants and ministers have let them down somehow (flooding, train delays, and escaped terrorists come to mind), and our workforce keeps its nose to the grindstone fearing the next economic downturn resulting in another round of retrenchments. But when things go well, our citizenry thinks it is their due; hence no word of thanks, no gratitude expressed.

With this kind of attitude, who wants to work any harder? Who would risk his ricebowl trying anything new, that may or may not be an improvement over the old ways that have worked well enough before? Why step out of our comfort zones and face being ridiculed or pilloried when mistakes -- and there will be mistakes -- occur?

Our society believes in getting it right the first time, and since it was already done right once by someone else, let's just keep doing the same thing over and over again, 'cause then we can't go wrong. Yes, I'm looking at you with a baleful eye, so-called "Best Practices".

It would be well and good if Singapore somehow froze in a time capsule at about the period when Mr Goh Chok Tong once confidently declared "more good years", but it hasn't. We've moved on and our society, as has the globe around us, changed and keeps on changing. Singaporeans fear change because we once had it so good. And now, despite all our hard work, all the promises, we feel that doing things the way we used to do them will bring the good old days back.

Those days are well past us now. We need Singaporeans to recognize that we live in a new world. The old promises no longer hold true and we must look for new promises grounded in our new reality. We need to find the courage to sail the winds of change once again, and we need to rebuild a strong core of skilled sailors brave enough to tough out uncharted seas ahead. With that in mind, change must begin in our schools...

Your turn: how should schools change, and how will these changes be constructive in developing a local core workforce that is ready for tomorrow? Today.


Gary said...


Do you recall the ruling party's politicians talking about sacred cows and slaughtering them? Just how many do you reckoned should be slaughtered and how many have been slaughtered to date?

I hold the thesis that in Singapore the govt has always been the one who wants to decide the directions -whether it be social, economic or political. Anyone who dares to step beyond its OB markers, and there are loads and loads of such markers, either gets character-assassinated, punished and/or bankrupted or at best publicly reprimanded, ignored, unacknowledged or unrewarded for his pains.

Living in such a milieu, you would agree, is the worst possible conditions for nurturing a positive and proactive citizenry. The govt has seen it fit, and in many ways it still does, to circumscribe, curtail and make citizens 'heel' to its expectations and demands. Don't have to look too far for examples: LKY's threat of retribution during the 2011 May 7 GE against Aljunied residents if they 'dare' to vote in the opposition and of course how his son LHL has CIRCUMSCRIBED the work of the Ministerial Committee (who is chaired by an acolyte of his) with his TOR, are but only two of scores of many instances and examples. The govt will ALWAYS wants to have the cake and eat it too. It is forever selectively dragging out questionable/isolated illustrations as scaffolding to prop up its shaky stand completely ignoring the larger picture or consideration and not above uttering factoid (half- and 'incomplete' truths) to bolster its argument with scant regards for the insult it is actually throwing at the people's with such atrocious behaviour.

If you want the people to reform, the top must change its own modus operandi too. One is only too aware that an objective of the govt to mass 'import' overseas labour into the country is to enable it to continue doing things in a self-serving way never mind that it is detrimental to the country and people's general well-being. For how is it justified to allow the mass import of foreign cheap labour which undercut Singaporeans' wages or worse, deprived them of jobs by being replaced with cheap foreign labour? By all accounts only the govt and the employers gained from the process, leaving average Singaporeans, literally the poorer for it

A dishonest govt cannot expect the people to deal with it with open arms. People would be the best judge of the signals it sends out. The unfortunate thing is that the govt seems to sometimes even believe in its own propaganda that is being constantly disseminated, at its behest, by the country's state controlled Main Stream Media. It looks inevitable that when the govt repeats or denies without regard to its true merits or validity often enough, even the source of the dissemination would end up believing its own lies!

Min Seah said...

Hi Gary,
If you don't mind, I had to respond to your comment in a new entry. I do explain why there. :)

Gary said...

Be glad to hear it. :)
That's what the net is for.