A Vision of a Future We Don’t Know

Minister for Education, Heng Swee Keat, appeared at a parents’ seminar at Gongshan Primary School and the news is reported by SingaporeScene. Here are some responses since PAP ministers seem so earnest about “working the ground”/grinding the ground nowadays.

Parents listened attentively when the new Minister spoke about his vision for a Singapore education system that can prepare “our children to be ready to face the future”.

That’s a vision? So people in the workforce now are not ready for the present because they went through an education system that did not prepare them for the future. And people who are studying in Singapore now are not prepared for what is to come? (Please don’t get angry. I’m only trying to think analytically, which is something you emphasize later. No doubt, I probably can’t think analytically because I haven’t been through this education system of the future. But you have to forgive me for that!)

Actually I would be glad enough to have the education system allow students to come to terms with the macabre present of the Singaporean condition.

Minister Heng highlighted three core areas his ministry will focus on — to provide a good value system; to teach social and emotional competencies; and to foster creative thinking skills.

Sounds like a mixture of new nonsense and old buzzwords. What’s a good value system?? One that is able to rationalize and compartmentalize life into “competencies” like “social and emotional competencies”?

Speaking to the parents, he said, “Look at the children entering Primary 1 next year. By the time they start work in 15 or 20 years’ time, what would the world be like? We wouldn’t know but we must equip them to face the future.”

Eh . . . how do you equip anyone to face the future which you “wouldn’t know”?

[T]he minister clarified that values are “the foundation of all that we do”. He added that the young need to understand the country’s history and how it got to where it is now.

Read: the same old propaganda education must continue. It is our belief that kids can be totally brainwashed and absolutely creative and critical.

Minister Heng noted that many parents in the audience would appreciate working with those “who can work as a team”.

Oh yeah? But since you don’t know the future, maybe the future is about people who can work as an individual?

“I think for us to be able to continue to grow the economy, it’s very important that Singaporeans can work together as a team and can work with people all over the world,” he said.

Er… Have you got anything new to say? OK, never mind…. Have you got anything remotely important to tell us other than trying a little too hard to show that you, as a part of the all-new post-apocalyptic post-apologetic PAP, are now engaging the people?

He added that the future is “not going to be a world where there are set solutions”. In a globalised world, the ability to think analytically and creatively is important, he said.

The future? I thought you are describing the present and the past. In any case, how could any educated person not be able to think analytically? If such a person exists, the education system he went through must have been a terrible failure…

“Understanding the world, with a global awareness, will be very important,” said the former managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The one thing interesting about this statement is the idea that it’s actually possible to understand the world without a global awareness.

“I try to spend a lot of time on the ground interacting with our school principals, with our teachers and with our students because this is where the teaching and learning take place.”

I’m wondering what feedback you have gathered. But what’s the use of feedback if the same old absurd bureaucratic-technocratic system of generating more SOPs, processes and KPIs remain in place to ensure that everything improves on paper and rots further at its core? (And yes, this is feedback too. How about coming up with some bureaucratic measure to undermine bureaucratic obsessions?)

He added that there will be key changes in the way the school curriculum is being taught, which will be announced in due time.

Unreported: Teachers present went: “Oh shit! More nonsensical KPIs coming our way!”

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3 Responses

  1. ‘Speaking to the parents, he said, “Look at the children entering Primary 1 next year. By the time they start work in 15 or 20 years’ time, what would the world be like? We wouldn’t know but we must equip them to face the future.”’

    I hope this wouldn’t turn out to be another motherhood statement. We had heard in the past about ‘teach less, think more’ (from NEH ?), and policy makers are great at moving people elsewhere, without seeing through results.

    In the first place, it’ll take them a long time to equip kids to face the future, when we are not even capable of equipping our adults (which include the educators) for the present.

  2. Excellent post. What exactly is the purpose of education? To provide digits for the corporate world or to equip students with the skills and resourcefulness to face an uncertain future?

    Teach kids to be brave, gutsy, to think different, to take risks, to try out new things. Tell them that there’s always a trade-off and that they have to decide what the priorities in life are. Don’t feed them the new age bullshit about living one’s dream and following one’s passion. It’s not always be possible and the expectation might pressure kids into pursing a false dream. Paying the bills is equally important. Pragmatism never loses its value. It’s OK to lead an ordinary life, as long as it makes one happy. Not everyone gets to win an Oscar or a Nobel. Realize one’s potential. It may be as an investment banker or as a bus driver, but hey, society needs both.

  3. A recent report published in the US, titled “Future Work Skills 2020” is a good read for all parents, including in Singapore: http://www.phoenix.edu/research-institute/publications/2011/04/future-work-skills-2020.html

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