Jul 31, 2008

Your Education And Other Miscellaneous Regrets

A rather charming coincidence. Just two days ago, I wrote these words:
"In a future post, it will be interesting to explore the reasons why so few Singaporeans enjoy their careers. Personally, I think it all begins with the way the education system pushes students to choose courses which are "useful", "practical" or "in-demand" (rather than the courses for which the student has a genuine interest). But for now, let's just stick to the baby issue."
Then yesterday, the Straits Times published this article:

ST July 30, 2008
More than half of workers in S'pore regret choice of study
By Clarissa Oon

A GLOBAL recruitment company has found that more than half of workers in Singapore regret what they chose to study back in school, polytechnic or university.

One in three is also uncertain about their ultimate career choice, according to an online survey by Kelly Services. It was released on Wednesday.

The findings are distilled from the answers given by more than 2,000 people who had sought Kelly Services help to land a job. They form part of it global survey of 115,000 people by its offices in 33 countries.

People of all age groups, educational levels and professions took part and in Singapore, most were in business, engineering, financial services and information technology.

One person who can identify with the survey results is Ms Aileen Toh, 34, a legal officer for 10 years.

'A lot of times, I have wondered if I could have done something else, but I was never sure enough to make a complete career switch', she says.

She considered, but ultimately turned down, a marketing job in a charity several years ago because she was not sure if the work suited her and if there were long-term career prospects.

A tiny minority of people are born lucky. They arrive on this planet with such prodigious natural gifts that there can be little doubt as to what their true calling is. Mozart, uncannily musical as early as age three, is one example. Steve Irwin, in love with a 4-metre pet python at age six, is another. There is no choice - they have to do what they have to do, and since choice is actually a dilemma, there is no dilemma for them.

The rest of us have to go by a process of elimination. By late adolescence, the average person is more likely to know what he's not cut out to do, rather than what he is. For instance, the person may know very clearly that he has no aptitude for numbers; and has no talent for sales; and has a strong tendency for seasickness. That tells him what jobs he should avoid. But he is much more uncertain about what he's good at or what he really enjoys.

The problem is more intense in Singapore, due to our pragmatic culture. Young Singaporeans don't generally grow up with the idea that they should explore and discover their own individual interests and strengths. Instead, they grow up being told that they should seek to excel in what the school wants them to excel in.

The education system itself - and it is a powerful one - is configured to systematically classify and categorise students, and channel them in specific directions towards fulfilling the nation's perceived economic needs. The culture perpetuates itself. Beyond the policies and the programmes, it is a mindset. To go against the system is to take a risk, and our culture has developed to be one that's highly adverse to risk-taking.

That observation was often made, back in the early 2000s, when the Singapore government tried to promote entrepreneurship through various incentives and schemes. (Notice that since then, the government has fallen silent about those efforts. Basically, they didn't work too well).

Pragmatism has bitten the government elsewhere too. Despite the government's efforts to encourage more people to have babies, our birth rates are falling. And many people decide against becoming parents, for purely pragmatic considerations. For example, a reader commented on my previous post as follows:

"I'm male 40 single and not planning to marry. Even if I do, I will not want to have children. Why?

I spent the last 10 to 15 years working hard to reach my current position in a electronic manufacturing industry(not very high, comfortable enough).

Now with the high cost of living and in-flood of FT, I don't think I will change my mind on marriage.

Besides worrying about losing my job, I'm stuck with it. Hate it but can't live without it."

You can't fault a person for thinking like this. Firstly, it's his own life, and secondly, the reasoning has its own logic.

Just remember though. Pragmatism, if overdone, can have its drawbacks. One of them is regret - about the paths in life you might have taken, but never did. Marriage is one example of such a path; parenthood is another. Career is the third example - see the ST article above.


Anonymous said...

The 'gap year' that many people in US and European countries take between their high school and college, or between college and a career, is something that more Singaporeans really should consider.

(Although, pragmatically speaking, it's more than useless as it can be seen as a waste of time and money...)

Anonymous said...

Everything must be put in context. In the fifties and sixties, there was often no choice. Many of us had to leave school, forego the dream of entering university or of a more suitable job because we had to support our families. Some sacrifice in order to put their brothers and sisters through schoo. Of course there is regret: the best is never to be. These elders slaved to put Singapore where it is today - putting aside their personal dreams and ambitions for family and nation. remember what Dr Goh Keng Swee wrote about the reluctance of our first national servicemen. Yet they too served. Dr Goh understood the people. These people were not just "pragmatic", they answered the call of an ideal: family, others, citizenship, nation and country. Somewhere down the line, the term "pragmatism" was introduced into out political jargon to mean, not just what is practical but what is expedient to the government of the day. With too much expediency idealism and the sense of a higher calling was lost. You have to put it in perspective to borrow a cliche. So expediency became the order of he day. Where is the higher sense of duty and calling? Not when these are reduced to the dollars and cents that government now urges us to value public service and talent.

Anonymous said...

George says:

Mr Wang,

A prime example of a square peg in a round hole on this island, is the present PM himself.

Watching him, tells me he is not cut out to be and nor does he wants to be, a politician, in his heart of hearts.

Anonymous said...

Although the education system pushes students to do "practical" courses, most people will probably choose courses which are practical but personally acceptable. I believe that the factors related to the general work environment such as company culture etc... has a significant influence on one's satisfaction level at work as well.

Anonymous said...

Aha. If the courses are "personally acceptable", then why do more than half the workers in Singapore regret their choice of study?

The point is that maybe "personally acceptable" is not good enough. People look for something more meaningful and fulfilling in life, not just what's "personally acceptable". And often, people will look for it in their careers.

In Singapore, it seems that we are particularly bad at succeeding in this. See Mr Wang's previous post, about how Singaporeans, compared to people in most other countries, are much more disenchanted with their jobs.

lobo said...

I think it is Germany's education system that is basically free. So one can continue to study and explore until s/he finally finds something s/he really likes.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen JK Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard? She talks about how "failure" gave her the impetus to do what she truly wanted. At one point she says we will all fail in life, so must learn to cope with it; unless we live so cautiously as to never fail at all, in which case we fail by default.

I do think there is a tendency for Singaporeans - to use a bridge analogy - to bid only for contracts they are 110% sure to make. But in life as in bridge, that, ironically, that isn't, in the bigger picture, a winning strategy.

- Jolene (of www.glass-castle.org, but not really commenting in that capacity I guess!)

Mockingbird said...

It's very crappy indeed that more than half of us actually regretted studying what we studied in school. And many of us are stuck in jobs which we are disinterested in and disengaged about.

Can't help but envy people who love their jobs and enjoy what they do.

Anonymous said...

I did not regret... as there was no choice for me. Family is too poor, did not do well in the A's. Never imagine that I will be in my current job and position... but hey life is a box of chocolates..

Get the cheapest possible course and work at get the basic paper qualification.

IMHO, it is because there are choices that we have the delimma. What if it is a matter of survival?

It is not very often that a one can convert what they learn into their "hobby".


Anonymous said...

Dr Lam wrote about the Singapore education system in the p65 blogsite.


There was a pretty healthy discussion, with me commenting on what others had wrote. Visit that site for some of the inputs.

I wrote on June 7th, 2008 at 1:51 pm
LOL… that’s one of the main reasons why I left SG to pursue a better work-life, academic-education balance in my family life. I feel sorry for your daughter. Really, honestly do, not in a mocking way. I feel her life as a child has just been snuffed out and thrust into the wheel of the rat race society has placed on her. For what objective is she trying to achieve ultimately? Her parents’s dream? Or government’s dream? Or her own?

Think about it: So what if a child is more academically inclined. Does it mean he/she will excel better in life? In my experience working with young grads and poly students, I feel poly students are ahead in their thinking and willingness to try out new ideas (just a personal sharing, no disrespect to grads). Listen to Steve Jobs’ message to the young graduates in a certain uni. It’s so applicable.

Because of the ‘box-ed’ up thinking and career path set, how many are willing to think beyond and out-of-the-box and venture out? I’m not saying education is not important in life, but when education and academic results are all that matters, our children need to be pitied.

My stands are:
Take out the school ranking system. It brings more harm and adverse effects than the good I can see. Have you seen parents cry when their child was not picked in the balloting box? Have you seen how parents scrimp and save to buy an expensive property in a good school zone? Shame, shame on us parents thinking it’s good for our kids. Actually we are crippling their growth intellectually and socially, and putting pressure on ourselves. For what gains ultimately?

Take out the focus on how teachers are graded based on the class and overall school performance. This flawed system does not show the true colors of how a child have progressed. Imagine the amount of work a teacher does in having a class of kids who are family challenged, academically not interested and having social problems. Can you see the extra work he/she has to put in. The priority is getting the students to think well and independently and learn how to deal with social behaviour and adjust to society rather than focus on academics. Do we really see these effort? How can we put these down into tangible KPIs and results? To have just ONE child making the mark is already a blessing in itself, let alone the class.

Yet these teachers are passed on because their school may not perform well in major exams on many occassions.

Until we parents, and with the right government policies in place, change our mindsets and learn to allow a child to grow according to his/her capabilities and commend them for other aaspects of life/character instead of just academics, we have created for ourselves a generation of people who will find it hard to adjust in the challenges and changes the world has for them. Academics can help one to the initial stepping stone, but more often it depends on the ‘on-the-job’ training and critical thinking and impromptu decisions that help a person advance in society.

In your case, I will tell the school to make it non-compulsory and let the parents and children decide if they wish to participate.

Let’s not kid ourselves anymore. All these “Teach less, learn more” are hocus-pocus, until the MOE changes their ranking system. It’s like having pro-creation policies but not giving these couples a slower pace of life and condusive environment to pro-create. Duh.


Anonymous said...

I was having a banter with another person named qiwen about our education system. I wonder how many followed my path, only to know what we had studied was of no use.


I studied F-Maths. I took Physics and Chemistry. In my workplace, not one of those formulas were used. Did I choose a wrong career path? Of course not! But I had to just ‘find’ a course which was Science and easiest to pass.

Did those subjects help me at all? *chuckles*

Anyway, I’ll leave you to your thinking about working hard for exams. Maybe in 10 years down the road, you’ll wonder why you had spent so much time studying where you could have done more life-learning and streetwise skills.

“Projects do stir up creative thinking, but remember, grades are still the key criteria. “

Again what I’m saying is why do we focus on grades and grades alone? Is there a better way to gauge a student’s contribution? Do you really think these students think deeply about the project, or is it just a means to get the grade for the project?

A good example is this: why are more students in SG taking science than arts stream? Why does science have a higher cut-off point than arts?

Because science you can study, regurgitate back and you can excel with flying colours, mind you. You don’t really need to think too deep and wide as long as you apply those formulas.

Now arts is different. Remember I came from a science background. You can’t just regurgitate back on the exam paper. You need critical thinking and analysis. You need to be open to view and put your thoughts and opinions into your answers. There is no formula unfortunately.

So are grades really all that important, that is my beef with the current system.

“Taking JC level for instance, where there is Project Work, you can score an A for this H1 subject, and score average results for the core subjects, and people will not judge you by your project work, but your core subjects’ grades. “

Well said. This is the whole point! When we start work, we find a whole lot of human dynamics and social environment which can’t be taken off the text books.

Your ‘core’ subjects can’t help you there. But I realised my arts subjects do! History, literature help me with certain skills of analysis and confidence in stating my points and opinions.

Not sure if you have been to conferences and seminars. Usually these ‘science’ type, Asian speakers are really boring. But those westerners are much better spoken.

Is it because they speak better English? Of course not. But the way they convey their ideas, to sell and buy your attention takes ‘arty’ skills and confidence. Whereas many Asian speaks hide behind facts and product functions. Look, I tell myself, I can find these from websites and google and the seminar notes. Tell me something new!

“That being said, I still won’t mind a less stressful school life. Haha cheers”

If only have you read the journal entries of Primary One - Three students. You’ll be surprised how much pressure they have already. My wife has to ponder about how to deal with suicidal thoughts, depression because these students could not be top or were careless with their answers, and having great fear in letting their parents find out about their grades even though they scored 90+ marks! Geez, stop there for a moment. Don’t you think something is wrong?!!

Like I said, qiwen, we create the environment for these young children who will be our future leaders. How we portray the world to them will somehow help to determine their outlook in life and ultimately their choices in life decision-making processes.


Anonymous said...

To George, our PM has been set up from young. Look at his younger brother and youngest sister (with reference to her personal article a few days back). Practically n pragmatically the whole Sg has been set up through social n wat not engineering schemes. Actually nowadays, there is no such thing as Sg or singaporeans. Many hv not gotten real. It's just business at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

But you see It not the choice we made but the choice that we are "Encouraged" to make.
Even secondary school is stream into Science, Commerce, Technical and Arts Stream.(And GE for the privileged few).
These are all "pragmatic hard skills" that must be "learned" in school. As a result of this you will find most Arts students have a more social life then a science student who have to go home and face his tutor till 10 pm.
And I agree that a certain someone might make a better Economic academia professor than a politician.
So what? That we win the math and science Olympiad. The time that are sacrificed are lost forever.
And we have to become nanny to imports who claimed that they can do their job.
They stay and claimed overtime to play solitaires as their housing which is shared with at least 6 others are too noisy to relaxed in.
So it better to use the company resource(: instant kopi, electricity , maxed air con, computers and Toilet papers :) in the company and stay overtime. Better yet eat the free foods in the pantry and save on meals.
All this while working overtime to repair the crash/problem that happen to be cause by him/her. :)
Hows that for "PRODUCTIVITY".
Social life? Overtime pay with IM/VOIP to communicate/talk to relative with video to their home country.
Which incidentally cost less than IDD cards and paid fully by non other than the host company :)
PS Most will not have an internet connection at their housing...Well it's more expensive than "Free".

Anonymous said...

How many people really love a job? If have a choice of lots of money, they will rather relax and enjoy than to do any work, unless it is a President, minister or Chairman job(already rich but can still have millions more)

Ser Ming said...

Regrets is not the term I would have used to describe after getting a Diploma in Electronic Engr. It was that I did not do well for my Os, so there were not much a choice for me.

And coming from a below-average family with illiterate parents, I don't really have much interests cultivated in me.

Besides the years in NCC made me so passionate about the military which I failed to get in as a regular anyway.

Work is just a mean to keep the income coming in to feed myself, give to my parents, pay my loans, pay my bills, etc.

That's the life in Singapore?

Jimmy Mun said...

In this day and age, when nobody can predict the massive upheavals lying just one or two years ahead, the government should just give up trying to manage the education of the workforce. Leave it to the supply and demand of the students instead of strongly encouraging students from one dead end career like engineering to another like biomedical sciences, computer animation and what nots.

Every time I see a poster trying to promote how "cool" it is to work in "Infocomm" or engineering, I cringe.

It is a lie.

The jobs are boring. The courses are boring. Unless you are naturally a geek. The government scholars are naive to think that if they can deceive the students into the courses, they will actually stick with it till retirement.

I speak with experience as a former polytechnic lecturer in IT. I had trouble finding any of my students who wants to stay in the IT line, even the top students. At the tender age of 19, they already feel they made a terrible mistake in their life.

Anyway, after years of deceiving students into the "hot specialities" like engineering, IT or biomedical sciences, spectacular attrition rate means that the demands of the industries are filled by foreign "talents". I am not fan of the foreign "talent" scheme, but if we have to put up with an influx of foreign labour, it will be nice if Singaporeans can be cut some slack and enjoy some degree of freedom in not being deceived into tertiary courses that are nothing like what is advertised.

Eaststopper said...

Not sure if anyone would agree here - regardless of any educational system, if a kid is inculcated with the proper fundamentals and foundations, he/she would be able to thrive in any environment. Point here is that any education system in the world would have its drawbacks and advantages, there is always a trade-off. It is important to first understand oneself and find how to adapt to the environment instead of trying to change it.

Anonymous said...

I find this situation very common with the encounters i meet daily: they do not know what they are doing with their lives, they are just being part of the game set out for them and they have no opinion over it.

Frankly, i attribute it to the unquestioning nature that our education system has. Students are encouraged to follow by the book and not ask why. By keeping them in line with moe guidelines, they are compartmentalized in occupations deemed suitable for them, depending on their grades (and not so much on their genuine interests).

The hectic school timetable and tuition classes an average student faces each day gives him little opportunity to explore other talents that lies in non-academic region. By not being able to explore different sides of their personalities, they might never discover that they truly want in life.

Hence, most of them are uninterested in what they are pursuing...in fact they hate it and yet can't get out of it if not there is no means of other survival.

My partner is a talented photographer, yet he has been kept in disillusion for his whole life by his parents who want him to be an engineer for better career prospects.

After finally realizing that photography were his interest and talents lies, he decided to take the plunge and quit his job once and for all.

Not many people take the risk, they prefer to be in denial... to survive.

Anonymous said...

kaffein said:
"Because science you can study, regurgitate back and you can excel with flying colours, mind you. You don’t really need to think too deep and wide as long as you apply those formulas."

If you made that comment, you basically didn't learn science or math. That I think is the fundamental problem with "science/math" education in Singapore. There is way more critical and creative thinking in science than you stated in your statement. Pick up a book by Richard Feynman to understand what I mean.
This is again the reason why people hate being engineers or doing technical work in Singapore. It's mainly entry-level stuff that is easily outsourced. The really cool and interesting stuff involves developing new products, cutting edge research, changing the world etc. None of which exist in Singapore. I've been overseas and working for a while now and I have to say life as a software engineer in the bay area(aka silicon valley) is one of the most exciting jobs out there. The problems we get to tackle and solve are basically on the cutting edge of science/engineering right now. I look forward to everyday of my working life and I am actually surprised that I get to do what I do and get paid for it! It *truly is* that exhilarating.
So please don't put down the profession of science /engineering. It just wasn't taught correctly in Singapore but it's definitely not the case in other parts of the globe.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, students end up reading a course they dislike not because they want to, but because they have no choice. A student may wish to follow his heart to study a particular course in polytechnic/university/any other tertiary institution. However, he may be prevented from doing so due to the following reasons:

1) Less than stellar results – Most courses in tertiary institutions require a certain cut-off point. Students who are unable to meet the cut-off for their preferred course have no choice but to settle for another course which they probably won’t enjoy as much or even at all.

2) Financial ability – Assuming that the grades or interview performance of the student are not good enough to get him into his course of preference in a local tertiary institution, but are sufficient to earn him a place in the same course at an overseas educational institution. This is a course that he has always dreamt of studying, a course that will lead him to his lifelong ambition. Yet, because his family isn’t wealthy enough to support the expensive overseas tuition fees, he has to give his dream up and study something else which he has no interest in. Thus leading to a career which he will ultimately be unhappy with.

3) Parents’ opinions – Very often, parents like to impose their opinions on their kids. They think they know better what is good for the child. Hence, a student’s decision on his course of study can be subjected to parental approval. For example, a student may wish to read Course A because he is really passionate about the subject. But because Course A does not have job prospects which are as bright as Course B’s, his parents disapprove of it. Defying his parents’ wishes and staying adamant on his choice will probably lead to many arguments and much unhappiness in the family. As a result, the student ends up studying Course B – something which his parents want, but not him.

Of course, the reason why point 3) can occur is probably due to the pragmatic culture in SG which you, Mr Wang, had written about in your entry. There is really a need to change such mindsets.

As for Points 1) and 2), I wonder if there are more ways in which we can enable these students to achieve their dreams?

Anonymous said...

I'm happy with what I work for a living, so I'm one of the very lucky few. I recall people telling me that the chances of me doing what I do now is too small to even contemplate. But I persisted despite losing some battles here and there, and won the war.

But it ain't easy and I can totally understand why people made the decision to go with the flow and forego interest in their work. It's not just the money but also the people around you giving you strange or skeptical looks.

However, for that one chance in a million that you can do what you like for a living, I'd still say:

Go for it, young man/woman.

You only get to live once.

ILMA said...

I chose engineering back in the late 90s, because my dad suffered a stroke when I was 15, and the government had played up the strength of engineering so much in the late 90s, that I naively thought it was the best one for employment purposes.

After I finished my national service, I actually wanted to pursue medicine. But because I had not taken Biology in my A levels, I could not apply to medicine in NUS. In the end I took up a scholarship to go abroad for an engineering education.

The 2 anecdotes highlight the problems I see with our education system (and of society in general). One, the government likes to plan, maybe too much. It paints incredible pictures of grandeur and excitement over careers, which should really be a personal matter! But students are naive, and expectedly so. Such propaganda only serves to reinforce their propensity to do things which are not their true passion. Many of my friends all went to read engineering in college, taken in by government propaganda.

The second thing, is this complete lack of forgiveness and latitude for change. You were expected to have decided on your career choice at the age of 17 effectively, as because if one did not take biology at the A levels, one would effectively be ineligible for medicine in NUS. Of course things have changed, but its still a system that forces people to choose at such an early age! Science or non science stream. Poly or University etc. High school academic knowledge is so non consequential where effective on the job knowledge is concerned, I do not see why the choice of the subjects taken at 17 and 18, should be of such importance as to decide the eligibility of students to choose their majors in University!

The education system in Singapore is but a microcosm of the problems I see in Singapore society: prescriptive, inflexible and unforgiving.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the main reason why most people hate their jobs is because they don't have anything to work for or towards.

Anonymous said...

George says:
To James, yes like Owell's 1984, only darker, craftier, and more selfish.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang. If I may beg your indulgence for this somewhat lengthy and rambling comment.

I had a staff member which the organization inherited when the government decided to mereg two organizations together. One organization was chosen to be the lead organization and staffed with all manner of highly trained personnel from overseas and local institutions. The poor staff member was very much demonized (I do not use this word lightly because he was) as a dinosaur that needed to be put out to pasture as soon as possible Yet for the salary he was getting no one would one to do his job (yes, all the clever people knew about ministers' salaries and set their expectations accordingly). Yet, over the years I managed to give him a career of his job. He repaid the organization not just by doing his job well but doublding up on many other tasks that came his way, as was inevitable in any organization that involved technical work. I remember the many hours of extra work he put in, some of which demanded he stay back hours beyond normal office hours. I told him I could not pay him because the organization would not approve of it but would accompany him and pay for his dinner. He is now retired. Hid job id now divided into many out-sourced perfromances all of which mean hefty increases in expenditure. Is it more efficient? I do not know. But education is more than qualifications, it should also mean training in how to live life, to conduct oneself before the world. What is the use of avowing respect to Confucius if there is no ren and no yi? Career is above all, about people. People make successes of jobs and you can't just pay them and expect divide-ends.

On a final note: what do we remember most of our education. The asides or is the knowledge that we cram in?

Anonymous said...

Mig29 wrote:
kaffein said:
"Because science you can study, regurgitate back and you can excel with flying colours, mind you. You don’t really need to think too deep and wide as long as you apply those formulas."

If you made that comment, you basically didn't learn science or math. That I think is the fundamental problem with "science/math" education in Singapore. There is way more critical and creative thinking in science than you stated in your statement.

Yes I come from a Singapore education system where one regurgitates back unto the exam paper.

No, maths and science is not boring. I love science and still do. My point is the way how the education system determines one's academic quality is mainly results.

I know of someone who became a Professor because she was on scholarship, worked on a couple of projects on stemcells research for a 3 years, got her thesis and PhD. So that means she is a professor?

I was like huh? Is that really how Singapore view it? Was she academically inclined? Yes. Brilliant. I think not. Well-versed in her knowledge space? Definitely no.

So now with her PhD, she will be promoted and become some dean, or HOD, etc.

That's basically Science for most Singaporeans. A means to an end.


Anonymous said...

I consider myself as someone who earns maybe 6 times what a typical male professional Singaporean brings home.

I am not exactly a spring chicken, but I do my best to keep gravity and time from ravaging me any further.

I agree with this article, most of it, priorities do take hold and as soon as one knows it tracks are laid and one's feet has turned into wheels.

However, I do lament. The problem with not being able to successfully find a soulmate and settling down to have babies is not due to pickiness as much as a general lack out there in the market.

All the really boring men have their noses to the mill and it shows when one talks to them. They have no personality, but I agree they are very dependable, reliable and probably good for me.

The ones who are really desirable, interesting and charismatic are usually obnoxious, rude and full of themselves like Darkness. The famous petulant cry baby of the internet. They are no good, unreliable and like made in Taiwan toys they seem to work well only to fall silent for no reason.

There you have it the long and may I say the short of the Singapore Misc part who did not write about.

Singapore Short Stories said...

This is my first time visiting your website and I think it is well done! I also have a blog on Singapore’s life and I believe I have lots of learn from your website!

Anonymous said...

It is not regrets. It is a tragedy. That something as noble as education has become a weapon and a leash. That minds and potential of millions should be neutered and sacrificed so that a few can stay in power easily. That it has been repeated again and again in chinese history and we still do not learn.

PS: Our PM was really a brilliant mathematician who could have made significant contributions to mankind but instead chose to take over the family business. I pity him. He could have been revered. But now he will leave this world as naked as he came into this world. He will be forgotten except by those who curse him.


Anonymous said...

To the successful single woman. Do not lament. Love can come from the most unlikely places. Be brave, have a open mind and it will come.

Be warned though that love (and family) is not something magical. It is not a prize or destination but the start of a hopefully long journey and takes a lot of hard work. But it will be worth it.


Anonymous said...

Altruism and fair play is dwindling in S'pore.There is no free service where ministers are concern. Every second of their time is money.Gatherings of like minded persons is considered illegal gathering.Lowly educated people are advised to stay single because the children they produced are a liability to the nation.We are an elitist society where winners are elites.

Anonymous said...

Life consists of choices made by us, inadvertently or not.

What is past cannot be revisited and undone. Rather, we can still make choices to move on and forward in life.

I learned of the 5 Fs: Faith, Family, Finance, Fun and Friends. A balanced life has all 6. Faith in what or who you believe in (I wish to just generalise). Family as in your loved ones around you. Finance in the middle of all 5 Fs not because we are materialistic but we live in a material world. Even falling sick requires financial support. Helping others can often also be financial other than the important time and attention proffered. Fun is about loving yourself enough to take care of yourself. Friends are to remind you of close ones that you are more than in touch with for the most of life to make life more complete.

Make the necessary choices and work towards some form of independence, portability and mobility that could be sustained in the years to come after organizational life i.e. active aging. These will involve overcoming short term challenges for long term good. Our days are numbered anyway.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr Wang when he says that we easily discover what we are bad at, but it is harder to discern what we are really good at, until later in life.

Taking this further, I would say that it is easier to tell what you do not enjoy, than what you truly feel passionate about. All those years in a SG education system, coupled with my parents' insistence that I should put off all other interests until I did better in Chinese (my archilles heel) has meant that I've never really discovered what I enjoy.

I also found that being good at something doesn't mean that you enjoy doing that something. And vice versa. I think that's one of the reasons students regret their choice of course of study. They may naturally have certain skills but don't really enjoy using them. The SG education system channels you into courses which you are good at. SG society expects you to enter a field in which you will excel.

But what if we are more interested in doing things we are not so good at? From a pragmatic point of view, because we are not so good at those things, we probably would not be able to make a living doing those things. So why bother to find out?

Because from an existential point of view, hanging all your self-worth and personal fulfillment on the fact that you are very good at your job is too depressing to contemplate. What is it you are living for (besides family, friends, religion)? These things seem suspiciously like palliatives to soothe ourselves with when confronted with the knowledge that we can't change jobs or do something else because we don't even know what it is that we would rather do or enjoy doing!


Anonymous said...

We attend school for education. But in the end, are we educated?

I pity our children. After 13 or more years of education in singapore school, they become more robotic than being educated.

Anonymous said...

Kaffein wrote:
"So now with her PhD, she will be promoted and become some dean, or HOD, etc.

That's basically Science for most Singaporeans. A means to an end."

Yes that is extremely unfortunate Kaffein. That is why I believe if you want to do something worth your time, you really should get out of Singapore. To me, there isn't an real R&D or engineering done in Singapore. It's mainly just grunt work that is easily outsourced to other countries.
My personal view is that Singapore is the place for you if you just want to live an uneventful, some might even say mediocre life. It's also a great place to make a lot of money if you know the right people and have the right connections. However, if you're looking to do something you are passionate and truly believe in, you've come to the wrong country. BTW, I have never believed in working just for money. Some people in Singapore I know make a ton of money. However, they also hate their jobs. What they need to realise is that all that money isn't going to amount to anything if they are not happy with their lives. Think about it: you slave most of your life away to make a ton of cash. You claim that all that money will give you "a great retirement". However, when the time does come, you have maybe at most 10-20 years left to enjoy it? By that time, your personal health and body will already be weakening(the job would have taken a toll on it) and in a couple more years, you'll be dead. That is the sad but unfortunate truth of such people.

Anonymous said...

mr wang, mr wang!! someone has solved the problem of a shortage of babies!!!

""Another way [to increase the population] is to attract more foreign women who are qualified and who share similar cultural and social background to come to Singapore and allow them to marry the locals. Offer them permanent residence status and citizenship if they can produce two or more children."

for full article, please refer to (with Molly's commentary, and no, it's not molly's suggestion):


Anonymous said...

The Sg Culture that does not encourage or facilitate 'appropriate' human development or seek to optimize human capabilities n potentials.Even if it does,it still need to do better :(

Anonymous said...

Mig 29 Aug 2 4:17 am makes good points. Look at research as a career, yes a career and not a passion or committment. I was talking with a friend the other day and he mused, "We have Speak Good English/Speak Chinese campaigns every year. Presumably Yet despite the huge amounts of money we pour into our universities and ministries have you heard of an English Department, say at NUS, commenting on this presumably serious concern. Why is there this silence? Is it as Gore says, an inconvenient truth." We are told that it is all right to rebut and to speak up without fear because this is necessary for a research culture ( so that we can, ahem, make money from the spin offs). But Singapore is such an unforgiving society. Screw up or just let the authorities feel that a person has screwed up and the punishment is disproportionate and heavy. Once upon a time an old friend who has since died and who was a senior civil servabt was tasked with heavy responsibilities. He was asked, "What do you want? How can we support you? What resources do you need?" He replied, "Just give me three mistakes. And I will devliver. Not big ones because I would remove myself, but just three mistakes." That was the calibre of the founding generation. So at the end of the day a good career needs a more forgiving, less political context. Funny isn't it, that's why we immigrate because at the end life needs to be more forgiving too. Mr Wang has brought out an important point for discussion and thought: after all, how many years of our lives do we spend working and on a career? It is not just regrets but unforgivable to oneself and family (and society) to make the wrong choicesif ypu have the opportunity to choose.

Anonymous said...

I have alot of sympathy for you August 1, 2008 2:23 PM

Anonymous said...

mig29 said:
"If you made that comment, you basically didn't learn science or math."

I agree! And the vast majority of people who studied science in Singapore didn't learn science. Too many see science as just a vast body of facts - that's just boring.

But it won't be possible to change the way science is taught unless content is reduced and less emphasis is placed on examination grades.

Too often, teachers don't have time to deal with the interesting 'why' questions - it's less time consuming to ask students just to accept it for now. Such students also tend to get osctracized by the majority who just want to learn just enough to get their A.

So.. Science is interesting - I've seen an entire class of sec 1 normal acad students get inspired by it. But unfortunately there often isn't enough time to teach it in an interesting manner.