One day a university student got up late and missed his morning maths lecture on statistics. He went to the lecture theater anyway because the professor would write the homework that the students need to submit on the board. When he got to the lecture theater, he found a few maths problems on the blackboard. He copied the problem and worked on it over the weekend. He found the problems more difficult than usual but worked very hard on it because he wanted a good grade and homework was counted towards that. He missed the deadline but managed to solve the problem a few days later. He slipped his solution under the door of the professor with a note apologizing for missing the deadline. When the professor read the solution, he was shocked because what he wrote on the blackboard wasn't homework but unsolved problems that had baffled mathematicians for decades and this student managed to solved them. You may think that this story is fictional and I've created it or it but it is a real story and the student's name is George Bernard Dantzig This story is often told to illustrate the power of positive thinking and how performance can be shaped by what people expect of you and what you expect of yourself.
Remember this viral video from 2006?
I tell you why I put it up. When I saw the video, what struck me wasn't the ferocity of the teacher who really "took it out" on the student - I had a few teachers like that. What struck was what the teacher said 2:17 minutes into the video:
"All the good PRC students have never disappointed me from day one. You're the first student I met who did this sort of thing to me..."
I take it that this is one angry teacher because she had high expectations of students from PRC. I wonder what happened to the Singaporeans in her class? Expectations shape outcome in the classroom[High Expectations in the Classroom].
The elitist PAP has carried their obsession of sorting, selecting and labeling to the extreme in the education system. The whole education system is now a big sieving machine[my posting on this] to figure out which student is better than the other...and this is done at a young age. The system starts dividing the people early - gifted, non-gifted and sends them out to secondary schools based on 10 bands so there is uniformly low academic expectations for those in the sorted to the lower end. Low expectations coupled with poor outcomes put those at the lower end of the system into a vicious cycle - very often these are students from poorer families or poor family background and the education system lock in and worsen the social inequalities. One regular commenter on my blog, who previously worked as teacher but became disillusioned with the system, explained that many poor students from non-English speaking homes are disadvantaged because even for maths, the questions are so convoluted for the purpose of sorting the students, they are more like English comprehension tests.
Because many Singaporeans are pushed into and became part of this education system, they are not aware other systems of education that work well- like the egalitarian system in Finland:
"The Fins adamantly oppose any form of divisions or ranking, and 'advanced'
or 'elite' divisions are major taboos. " - Secrets to
Finland's World Topping Education System
There are no "gifted" programs, and the more able children are expected to help those who are slower to catch on." - Wikipedia, Finland's Education System[Link]
Imagine that, instead of trying to beat each other by paying for the best tuition to get into various streams and secondary schools of different bands - students help each other do better....now that will be a game changer for Singapore society.
But in Singapore, the elitist PAP govt have to do this division, sorting and turn children into winners and losers in this high stakes education board game:
Here is a petition[Link] created by parents who have gathered at the Kiasu Parents Forum - these are hands on parents but many of them are frustrated the system as it is today...they are fedup:
"This petition aims to get MOE to review the following system features of our education system in order to bring the system back into equilibrium.
(1) Bell curve grading in the extreme
(2) Student pigeonholing into good/bad classes & good/bad schools
(3) Too large classes"
- Extract from Kiasu parents petition.
Mind you, these are "kiasu" parents and they find their children can't cope. What happens to children of hands off parents - steadily falling downwards in the checkerboard vicious cycle without a kiasu parent to rescue them. One of the major objections of these parents is the "pigeon-holing" of students these pigeon holes are also pigeon holes of expectations and these parents are terrified that their children are trapped in one with low expectations leading to poor outcomes.
The education system looks like a mirror image of the PAP elitist ideology to divide people into different classes based on their intellectual ability measured by exam scores then allocate resources and opportunity based on these divisions. For the talented people at the top $1M pay is not too much and those less talent at the bottom $1000 a month is not too little - can still own HDB flat so they claim. Their former mentor goes as far as to say these divisions are genetically linked and children from non-university graduates ..we should have lower expectations of them going to university:
"People get educated, the bright ones rise, they marry equally well-educated spouses. The result is their children are smarter than those who are gardeners" - Lee Kuan Yew
In the 1980s right up the early 90s, the Singapore workforce was number 1 in the world. Productivity growth was high and there was pride in being a Singaporean worker. Employers and foreign investors who came to setup businesses were impressed by the high quality of our workforce. There was a "can-do" spirit that permeated among workers who were ranked number one in the world. When the PAP started introducing foreign workers into the workforce, they justified it by saying Singaporean workers lack talent, do not want long hours, do not strive hard enough, do not want certain jobs etc pushing down employers' expectations of Singaporean workers in order to justify more foreigners in the workforce. Over time, the Singaporean workers' branding is destroyed along with it the high productivity growth of our workforce. Today, Singaporeans find it hard to stand out in a workforce dominated by foreigners from various developing countries. It is hard for Singaporeans to recreated the workforce branding that is destroyed as we have entered the vicious cycle of competing with cheaper foreign labor.
You think about it ...does it make sense to put our children through this intense competition in education only to have them lose out when it comes to university places and jobs to foreigners later on? The whole system puts Singaporeans on a treadmill to no where. The intense competition in the school system merely serve to push down our own children into pigeon holes of declining expectations to enter a workforce in which they have little edge over some one from Philippines, China or India. This whole system is not about making the Singaporeans better than everyone else but making the Singaporean as bad as everyone else. 2 decades of PAP policies have left Singaporeans with little to cheer about. We again find ourselves struggling in a system that puts so many hurdles against us - while hundreds(( if not thousands?) of Singaporeans have to go overseas for further education because they cannot get a place in our universities, the PAP govt educates the children of foreigners for free by giving out scholarships. What good is this system for Singaporeans if it does not elevate Singaporeans but instead depress them, deny them and disadvantage them?