If I had kids in the future, I wouldn’t send them to school in Singapore. Why? Look at me. I am a failure of the system. It’s probably going to take a decade to right the damages the system has done me.
If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that to thrive in this world, it’s not to do what everyone else is doing, it’s to do what you’re good at and be the best in the world for it. Since the time I was ripe for a college education, my mom has been telling me, a business degree seems the most marketable one around, in the tone that suggests I’ve made the most frivolous choice for my future. Never mind I have zero business instinct; if I had to sell something, I might end up being persuaded to pay the person for having it. What sub-prime crisis, nosebleed interest rates, I’m only just beginning to recognize these terms. It almost takes a few years off my life expectancy to plough through finance related news articles I’ve been trying to read to keep up with the recent saga. Oh right, the most important point to note is with my A level grades, I can’t even get myself into Biz school. I’m not trying to absolve myself of the blame but guess what’s the real reason? Everyone is trying to get in because everyone says that’s where the moolah is. I’m not interested and it isn’t even remotely because of sour grapes. Of course, nothing against people with genuine passion in finance.
I remember years ago, when we were worrying about admission into college, Debra gave me the statistics. You know the statistics, I can’t remember exactly but it’s the one about how many percent of the cohort gets dropped along the way and eventually only like 15 to 20% (??) get to Uni. I felt better at that time, after hearing the stats. Stupid ego. Really. Who feeds us those statistics? I’m ready to bet it’s the government. It’s deluding us into a state of security in our ‘intelligence’, stroking our ego and telling us “don’t worry, you’re smarter than all those people, that’s why you’re here!” Total BS. The reason we’re here is only that we’ve survived the system. It’s nothing to be proud of because surviving the system doesn’t mean we’re particularly intelligent. It’s only because we manage to understand elementary Biology and/or Physics and/or Chemistry. It’s only because we’re competing in a system that leaves out many people who are extremely talented in other unexpected ways, and who are actually tons cleverer than us. In other words, we are competing in a system that rewards mediocrity and alienates unique talent.
Imagine you’re amazingly talented in some obscure field. You sit through 6 years of primary education where you’re drilled Mandarin and Math and Science. You’re kicked around in school by your classmates and teachers who think you’re some kind of a retard because you just don’t get what they’re teaching in school. The principal calls your parents in every other time and complains subtly about how you pull down the overall performance statistics of the school and that they should probably send you to a school for the ‘special’ kids where you belong. These 6 years have probably repressed your natural talents anyway and severely undermined your self-esteem and your belief in your abilities. You’ll probably be lucky enough to scrape the PSLE and get yourself into the normal stream at some neighbourhood school where you face even more discrimination and hang around other kids who probably went through the same hell you did. All of you lose faith in the world and commit hideous crimes so that people will for once pay attention to you but instead they put you in a home for delinquents. Blah blah blah (I know I’ve painted an extreme situation.)
But assuming you somehow rose above and got a chance to do what you were naturally inclined towards. (This is a stretch because how would you even know what you’re good at if you were never exposed to it?!) And then you became a great success. THEN the same people who were responsible for putting you in the state you were previously in would be fawning all over you and taking pride for all you ever did on your own. Isn’t it hypocritical? But isn’t it happening all the time? But how many people actually can get to success if their talents are not mainstream? I’d say mostly only the rich kids. Because their parents have the resources to fuck the opinions of all the teachers and principals and let their kids do what they’re good at.
Okay of course that didn’t apply to me. I’m mediocre, I survived the system but now I still can’t find my niche! The problem with our system is that there isn’t enough variety in our early education. It either excludes people or ensures they continue being mediocre doing the stuff they are mediocre at. And then if you manage to get to college with your mediocrity, they give you options. By then, you’d have lost that headstart. It is true though that this system enforces discipline. But discipline for what? To listen to the government and forever remain part of a diligent workforce (i.e. be an employee forever). Great, right? So we should stop complaining about the lack of homegrown talent in Singapore. Get foreign talent. It’s so easy to buy anyway. Let other countries nurture their talent and we’ll buy them in the truckloads.