Why I might leave Singapore

Well, I knew it was bound to happen. My first World Cup inspired post ( though it has nothing to do it). As I was waiting for the Germany-Portugal game to begin, I updated my FB status,

"Hmmm. Portugal for the win. Ronaldo with the Hat-trick. Cannot bring myself to like the Germans. WWII propaganda..."

(Yes, Germany whacked the Portuguese, with Mueller getting an Hat-trick) I was  a History student up till my A levels. Disliking Germans and Japanese were probably one of the few take-aways I took from the Singapore education system. Much of who and what I am today has to be credited to what I chose to do outside of  the classroom.  This is precisely the reason I think I might leave Singapore.

You might be laughing at my reason. The young adults complain about National Service. The working adults complain about foreigners taking away our jobs. The older ones complain about CPF and the increasing minimum sum. Most of us complain about the Ruling Party and their tactics.  Here I am telling you that I might leave Singapore because of the Education system.

Each year, more and more people bid their farewells to Singapore. The main reason why most of us stay rooted here despite the increasingly difficult conditions is because we compromise( Yeah, some of you'll probably stay because you love your country .. good on you). The truth is that I, too have compromised on several occasions.
All of this compromise will stop for me when I have my first child. That is when everything changes. All the compromises stops with me. Now, I would stop at nothing to ensure my child gets nothing but the best. It is then I might leave this country. Let me tell you why.

Our Education System

A education system that focuses mainly on your ability to mug is what we have.  A system that puts a child's academic inclination above everything else. A system so harsh that the moment you fall, it will take a monumental effort to recover from it. A system that does not  think about you, when that should have been the priority.
Why are secondary schools differentiated mainly by grades?   Why is there even a Normal Technical Stream?  A student who has not blossomed academically at the age of 12 suddenly becomes a student fit only only for Technical Education? How many students in ITEs and POLYs are studying a course of their choice? Why are there different entry requirements  to  different courses of studies?  Why are there foreign students here on Singapore scholarships?

The PSLE, if you ask me, has to be scrapped.  An exam for 12 year olds, that will classify all students according to their academic grades. You end up grouping these students according to their grades and call it Secondary Schools. For those who end up in Normal Technical Stream, that is probably the end of the road unless you fight hard against the system.  4  years later, you have another exam ( O Levels), where you grade them on General Subjects. Those who have done well have the option of going to Junior colleges where they are given an additional 2 years to figure out what they want to specialise in. Those who do not make the cut are shoved into polytechnics, where they forced to choose their specialisation at the age of 17.

You are not even allowed to vote for a politician that will stay in power for just 5 years, but you are forced to choose a course of study that will more or less determine your path in life.  When I meant choice, it does come with terms and conditions. The choices available to you are based on your grades. Why does a student who wants to take a Diploma in Mass Communications has to have attained better grades in subjects that have nothing to do with Mass Communications?  One needs to have have attained better grades to gain admission into Mass Communications as compared to Electrical Engineering. Are they trying to say that the Mass Comm student has to be smarter than the Engineering student?

For those who have entered the workforce, you would realise that employers look beyond academic qualifications. They look at organisation skills, interpersonal skills, ability to work in a team, ability to work independently with minimum supervision, to work under pressure, leadership skills etc. These are skills which one can develop through the Singapore Education System if one wishes to do so. It requires an extra initiative from the student and these skills are almost never graded. These skills are usually developed outside of the classroom.

In life, your paper qualifications might get you a job. From then onwards, its these soft skills that matter. I want my child to receive a holistic education, not just one that nurtures him to be book-smart and to be a model employee.

Suggested Solution
Well, enough complaining, you might say. Let me give you my suggested solution. I believe that each of us are naturally gifted in our own ways.  Pre-school should be most about fun and character building, instead of trying to get a head start on the Primary 1 syallabus. Primary school should be about finding out those natural talents.  Secondary schools should be differentiated based on  skills and talents and the focus should be on honing these talents. The existing subjects should remain but not be graded. The focus should be on learning and not testing. For those late bloomers who have not have been selected into these special secondary schools, they can be drafted into general schools which will continue to identify their talents.

Let our kids study a tertiary education of their choice. Instead of the entrance requirement for teritary level course based on grades alone, let each course have  their own relevant entrance criteria. It could be a specific assessment. For those who actually believe that there is a science behind the cohort size of each course and we have to manage the supply of new graduates of a particular course due to the demands of the economy,  look no further than the number of foreigners who are slowly creeping their way into almost every profession.

Perhaps our system should be focused on grooming our talents to be the best they can be.

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