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.