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