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Blind Faith in the Education System is Causing Singapore’s Brain Drain Today

Let’s admit it, many of us weren’t very smart when it came to choosing our education path.

We believed what we were told was best for us, then followed the word and hoped for the best.

The education system had a part to play, and so did the media and of course, parents and friends.

Well, they were wrong.

If you recall, IT was the “trending” topic in the 1990s, to use a modern descriptive term.

Everywhere, you’d hear that studying IT was the best thing that any Singaporean kid could pursue, besides the traditional medicine, law and accountancy courses.

That coincided with the time that PCs became mainstream.

Schools would push for kids to study IT, promising a glorious future ahead.

Don’t know about you, but my idea of a glorious future ahead can be summed up in 3 words: beer, women and beach, in that order.

A career in IT probably wouldn’t work towards accomplishing those goals.


Anyway, I was too old for studying all that already, so my mother never had the chance to push me to do some IT course in polytechnic or university.

But many Singaporeans bought into that, and many suffered.

We just couldn’t keep up with the pace of IT development in the US, Japan, the Eastern European countries and the likes.

Most of my friends’  children who did pursue IT eventually ended up in jobs like real estate, or sales, or marketing – jobs which were totally unrelated to their course of study.

Then biomedical science – that came in the 2000s.

Again, schools pushed this with great fervour and many were quick to hop on the bandwagon.

Many I know who chose this field of study ended up as teachers.

Oh yeah, and then there was the great push for sports science grads, and more recently, animation grads.

Look where those guys are now.

We just can’t keep pace with the rest of the world, I’d think because our education system is too long-drawn, and there again, there’s 2 more years of national service for the boys.

By the time they’re done studying, the world would have moved on.

Also, the danger when you try shoving 400 apples in a box made to hold just 10 is too many good fruit spill out and eventually turn bad.

That’s what happened when our local economy couldn’t sustain too many grads with the same qualifications.

They languished.

The  old adage that kids should pursue their passion is true.

Having many people with many different skills is the best way to diversify our economy, and the only way to move forward in a world that changes so quickly.

I wish our schools would offer a wider variety of courses, and more unique and niche courses for kids.

If only we had offered course in subjects like Ecology much earlier.

Our kids could speak English, and Chinese.

Add that specialised knowledge and they’d be the perfect bridge for the mining industry boom and trade between China and Australia.

That’s just one example.

And speaking of Chinese, whatever happened to making kids learn Chinese proper?

Instead, the education ministry dumbs down the subject with ‘B’ Chinese, a lower standard of the language.

That happened in the 1990s, and is still in practice today.

That was the time when we were all anticipating that China would become a world superpower.

And what our education ministry did was to water down such an important subject?

Either it found Chinese unimportant in the big scheme of things, or too many kids were struggling to pass and something had to be done.

Either way, it was a lazy and lousy policy that showed a total lack of foresight.

Damn it, even Lee Kuan Yew found it important to study Chinese well into his thirties!

I digress.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve screwed up our kids so much that it’ll take another generation to remedy the mistakes of the past.

My best advice to the next generation of kids is, follow your passion.

Do not follow what the government tells you to, or what your parents try to force you into.

Employers want the best person for the job, and there’s jobs to fill in many industries.

Do what you like, and be the best at it.

Be a world-beater, because if Singapore is too small to hold your dreams, there’s a big, wide world out there.

If you don’t, you’ll probably end up being middle-aged, frustrated, and confused.

And jobless.

Because it’s no use being able to be a jack of many trades, but a master of none.

This commentary was written by Elson.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. i

    November 3, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for this article. Yes, not every country can diversify and offer a lot of courses for the students to have different options. I agree with you that there is a wide world out there and we can find our place in it.

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