Friday, November 29, 2013

Parents vs Education System

A discussion on Singapore's education system will almost always come face to face with kiasu parents. The logic goes like this: Yes Singapore's education system is not perfect. We have teachers that keep leaving to become private tutors because they actually get the pay they deserved teaching at Learning Lab, the elite enrichment school. And enjoy the work they do i.e. teaching. Not like now, where public school teachers are doing a bunch of ECAs and other unrelated stuff like preparing a visit for Ministers etc.

Ok, next issue: our education system focuses on teaching ahead of the curve. In the past kids learned multiplication and math problem sums way later. Today they are doing these before they enter Primary One. Maybe in 20 years, Primary One kids will have to solve differential equations or do Laplace transformation. Geez, that would be fun.

But wait, that's because kiasu parents wanted to game the system and went for enrichment to arm their kids with Primary One knowledge before they enter Primary One. It's the parents fault, as long as they remain Kiasu, with a capital K, no matter how we improve the system, parents will find a way make their kids one up. It's not the system fault. It's the kiasu parents fault. Kiasu parents, wake up, stop being so kiasu and make life difficult for everyone else.

Oh yeah! That's the final answer to solve our nation's greatest problem. Yes, final answer. Ask all the parents to stop being kiasu, wake up and get a life, maybe make a few more babies and stop doting and worrying too much about their single child.

Just tell the parents, "Stop being kiasu!" Why didn't anyone think of it?

Come on...

Parents will be parents. Singaporean parents are not more kiasu than Chinese, Koreans, Japanese or Americans parents. The original Tiger Mum came from the States. Everyone is just working in their own best interest. Yes, this sometimes conflict with the interest of the community but it can't be helped. There is even a term for this: tragedy of the commons. It happens everywhere. Girls wearing high heels to gain that height advantage. Hey, let's ask all the girls in the world to break their heels! That should work. Fishermen over-fishing the shared ocean. The global arms race etc.

The solution obviously cannot be asking all parents to stop being kiasu right?

It is changing the system. Dis-incentivise parents to act in a kiasu manner. I have discussed in previous posts about how the Singapore's elitist education system concentrates resources in the best schools, creating paths that benefits only good students and causes the issues we face today. It's just unwinding all these.

I think we are moving slowly that in that direction. PLSE scores will be scrapped. That's a good start. In time, we should create multiple avenues to higher education, not just making it more difficult via through-trains and what not. Bring up the lowest denominator, not just bringing up the best and leave the rest behind. In the army we are taught, "leave no man behind". The education system has to follow that through. Learn from Mindef!

This is Aloysius after he was the first to run away and left all men behind. Lobang and his whole platoon mocked him by singing,"Training to coward, fight for myself, whole of my life, leave all men behind."

Yes there will always be those really, really kiasu parents who will compete to the last decimal point. Every test score, every ECA, musical instruments played, sports, maybe even countries visited/toured that could earn bragging rights. But just let them be. This is a marathon with no end. What's more important is to instill in our children tenacity, adaptability and ingenuity. Teach our kids to appreciate learning and then compete intelligently.

For that, we need the Singapore system to change. Luckily, it looks like it's changing.