Monday, 13 August 2012



Kiasu,, 9th August 2012

How globalization is changing the world (21st Century Skills),  

United Nations World Youth Report,

Google Image,

Character Education Partnership,

Gracious society scores with Singaporeans,

Holistic Education,, 11th August 2012

The Possible Solution

The Possible Solution

To solve this issues of being an over-competitive and ungracious society, we must begin with the youths. The youths are the future of our country, and having grown up in a global city, are well interconnected worldwide. They will reflect what our country is like and by beginning with them, we can drastically improve this situation.

1     .     Character Learning Education

The Ministry of Education could improve on the current CLE classes already implemented by placing more emphasis on them. In Raffles, we already have CLE classes but once a week. By placing more emphasis on them, students may begin to take it more seriously than they do now.

Schools could place just a little less emphasis on academics and a little more on a more holistic education for students where they can pursue their other creative goals. I do understand that competitiveness is what gives us an edge over others but sometimes, it’s good to have a more holistic education as this will make students far more compassionate as they learn not more about themselves and practical life skills. A holistic education is not about getting good grades but about helping others and learning together rather than constant competition.

In order to be effective, these lessons must involve everyone – teachers, students, and parents. It must be a part of everyday life and not just something we breeze through once a week. In school, teachers must understand that this is not a typical lesson but something the students must thoroughly understand and embrace. Parents need to encourage their children to apply these character skills taught in their daily lives by setting a proper example themselves. Students must not take this lesson lightly as building character is the key to making Singapore a gracious society, which will reflect better on the country.

However there are limitations to this solution. Students may not be receptive towards these lessons and may find them a waste of time. They may not take these lessons seriously, which defeats the purpose of introducing the lessons in the first place. They must understand that while good grades are definitely appealing, they must learn to empathize with others and be compassionate as well instead of being too competitive. Also, schools cannot simply drill these values into their students but find ways for them to understand that it comes from within them and that this will help make Singapore a more gracious society. Also, the teacher will have to be more than just a figure of authority but also someone the students will be able to relate to and look up to as a mentor. 

Graciousness...or not

Graciousness…or not?

So the other day I was at the MRT station when I saw a couple of students, in their uniforms, waiting for the train. They were pretty impatient and were constantly looking at the screen to see when the train would come. When it finally arrived, they didn’t bother waiting for the passengers to alight, instead, barging onto the train as soon as the doors opened. And what for I didn’t even know! The train was full and there weren’t even any seats. They just simply had to be the first ones on the train…for the sake of being the first ones on. I wouldn’t say I’m the most gracious person around but certainly more so than them! Singapore students are just so competitive to the extent that they apply it not just in school but everywhere they go, no matter how trivial the situation.

While being competitive does have its benefits, it also has its limitations. Schools drilling us with paper after paper will not help this situation. The lack of character learning education in schools is probably one of the main reasons why Singaporeans are so ungracious. The competitiveness just amplifies this.

I conducted an interview with Mrs Asfilah Ariffin, a teacher at Jurong Primary School in her 40’s and these were her replies.

Do you find the Singapore education system very competitive?

Yes the Singapore education system is competitive. At Primary 3, there’s already Gifted Education Program streaming. Everyone wants to get into the elite schools, the GEP etc. There are even preparatory tests for GEP, so this shows how competitive it is. Even in Secondary, post-secondary education, everyone wants to go to the best schools, to get the top places.

Singaporeans have been known to be very ungracious. Do you feel that competitiveness is one of the causes of this? Why?

Yes partly. Pupils are self-centered. E.g. I the classroom, everyone is waiting for each other to clean the classroom à uncondusive learning environment. The simply wait for the cleaners. Others just do CIP for the hours in order to build their portfolio and not because they actually care. In trains, people sit on reserved seats and pretend to sleep, ignoring those who actually need the seats.

Because of competitiveness, people adopt the superiority complex. They think that they have the rights to the best things, because they have earned it. So they do not feel any empathy towards others. They are also too busy competing with one another to stop and do a self-reflection. That can lead to being an ungracious person.

What do you feel are the impacts of being ungracious and how it affects the nation?

The community will become very selfish and self-centered. Even children have to be brought to court before they are forced to take care of their parents. They have no empathy for others. The youngsters especially. They don’t seem to understand that the old people still have to work while they just sit around. They only do something if they have something to gain from it, superficial deeds.

Being an educator herself, Mrs Ariffin would know first-hand students attitudes and their characters. She herself believes that students are being far more competitive and self-centered, caring more about themselves than the class as a whole. And she notices this not just in students but also the general public when she travels around Singapore.

Singaporeans’ ungraciousness could lead to foreign talent finding us very unattractive which undermines the whole point of Singapore going through globalization in the first place! Thus, a solution to this problem is greatly needed. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012



So we’ve recently been discussing Globalization and its effects in class and its got me thinking, can what Singaporeans are infamously known for, being ‘Kiasu’, be attributed to Globalization?

A ‘Kiasu’ person is basically a person who is afraid to lose and hence, constantly wants to remain ahead of the game - knowing more than others or doing better than others. In Singapore, the word ‘Kiasu’ has become so common it is practically part of our vocabulary, or ‘Singlish’ as we know it. Singaporeans just simply have to be the first no matter what they do, whether its beating others getting onto an MRT to get a seat or using packets of tissue to ‘chope’ seats at a food court.

Students especially, are the epitome of kiasu. Its just so amusing to watch everyone frantically comparing marks after getting their results or staying up till the wee hours of morning studying just to keep up. I myself am guilty of doing such things. We all want to be the best, it’s been our mentality since we were born. Starting with parents wanting their kids to be the first to walk to having to win a game of hide and seek to having the top score in school or even nation-wide. It’s been ingrained into us, after all, we were born into a meritocratic society. Only the best will succeed.

How is this related to globalization?

After Singapore became independent in 1965, globalization became a necessity. Not that we hadn’t been undergoing globalization before, just that we needed it at a much faster rate then. We had no raw materials and a lack of land. Majority of the Singaporeans were uneducated and unemployed too. Becoming interconnected with other countries became necessary to the survival of Singapore and hence, the government focused on doing so in order to survive as a nation. This demanded a skilled labour force and thus, the government encouraged the thought that if a person wanted to succeed, it was up to their hard work. It was this drive that led to Singapore becoming the global city it is today. But this ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality lasted through the tough times and now it has become part of our culture to be competitive. 

This competitiveness is especially evident in students because in an increasingly competitive job market, Singaporean students understand that in order to get an edge over their competitors, they need to stand out, the best way to do so is to get outstanding grades that set them apart from the average students. As Wee Shu-Min once said in her controversial blog post, ‘we are a tyranny of the capable and the clever, the only other class is the complement.’ While that was an extremely crude way of putting it, there is an element of truth to it. (Mention something about the skilled workers have a higher chance of getting a job but the average students/graduates will lack certainty in being employed) Facing competition from fellow graduates, students will need more than just average pass grades, they will need specific skills that will appeal to employers in the different industries.

And so, this leads to students becoming very grade-worshiping. I remember when I was in Primary School and all I wanted was to get into Raffles. Why? Simply because it was a renowned school. We students just want the best for ourselves, to stand out from the crowd, to somehow prove ourselves more worthy than everyone else just to secure a stable future for ourselves in this competitive job market. We assume that graduating from those ‘big-name’ schools will give us an edge over the others and so we aim to get into good schools and to do so, we put all our focus and time into getting outstanding grades.

But our ‘kiasuness’ isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is that this inherent competitiveness within us is making us an ungracious society. We only seem to think about ourselves and not so much about others anymore. Especially for the ‘Linkster’ generation where we were raised in a global city, we are probably the most ungracious of the lot. We are driven by material success and the need to be the best. There is now greater emphasis on academic-based education and too little on character skills. What schools now don’t understand is that learning about respect and graciousness is just as important as math and science. These are skills that we can carry with us throughout our lives and apply on a daily basis, which I do find far more important than perfect grades. People skills are what will make us a gracious society rather than the self-centered one we are now.