Elitism Quotes (PAP)

PAP_elitist
Standard

Small collection of quotes by PAP Ministers etc. on the “aristocracy mentality.” Thanks to readers for contributing some of these :)

1. “Without a natural aristocracy. . .society will lose out.”
— Lee Hsien Loong, 2015

2. “I don’t respond to anything on The Real Singapore, which is a Facebook page and website written by morons, commented on by morons, and read and shared by morons.”
— Calvin Cheng, 2014

3. “The problem today is that PAP is a bit too elitist. . .they don’t feel for the people; overall, there is a lack of empathy.”
— Ngiam Tong Dow, 2013

4. “Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a little bit boastful.”
— Charles Chong, MP (on senior civil servant Tan Yong Soon’s S$46,000 five-week course at a prestigious French cooking school)

5. “I feel my own angst riding with the common people. But I suppose it’s good to get the feel from the ground every now and then, to connect with the peasantry.”
PAP Supporter and former Law Society employee, Nicholas-Seth Leong on his second MRT trip in 2012

6. “Please, get out of my elite uncaring face.”
— Wee Shu Min, scholar-daughter of former MP Wee Siew Kim

7. “Remember your place in society before you engage in political debate… Debate cannot generate into a free-for-all where no distinction is made between the senior and junior party… You must make distinctions – What is high, what is low, what is above, what is below, and then within this, we can have a debate, we can have a discussion… people should not take on those in authority as ‘equals’.”
— Former Foreign Minister George Yeo (1994)

8. “They (top civil servants) get paid more, they’re highly educated, and they have bigger egos, bigger than any government employees I’ve met anywhere else in the world. It’s not good or bad, but they consider themselves superior to almost any government employee in the world.”
— Renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith on civil servants’ ego in Singapore (2011)

TanChooLeng

9. “$600,000 a year is peanuts.”
— Mrs. Goh Chok Tong (2004)

gohchoktong

Source: FB

10. “We are our own check. The integrity of our leaders, of our MPs. That’s where the check comes from. . .not this seductive lie of check and balance.”
— Goh Chok Tong, 26 August 2015

11. “I didn’t ask for it. That was the rate for the job, that’s what I accepted. You don’t like the rate, I can’t help it.”
President Nathan who doesn’t feel he needs to defend his high salary which was criticised extensively online. (The Sunday Times, 7 Aug 2011)

12. “I don’t think that there should be a cap on the number of directorship that a person can hold.”
— PAP MP John Chen who held 8 directorships

13. “It’s not for the money because some of the companies pay me as little as $10,000 a year.”
— PAP MP Wang Kai Yuen who held 11 directorships

14. “One evening, I drove to Little India and it was pitch dark but not because there was no light, but because there were too many Indians around.”
— Former PAP MP Mr Choo Wee Khiang, in a speech in Parliament in 1992

15. “Smaller Medisave means you’re lazy and work less.”
Khaw Boon Wan (2013)

16. “There’s no ladder to climb when the top rung is reserved for people with a certain name.”
— Forbes (2009)

17. “The elite’s privileged position in decision-making and exclusive formulation of organisational policies will only serve to reflect the elite’s self-interests instead of that of the masses.”
— Classical elite theorist Robert Michels, via Soh Yi Da

18. “Our funds are accountable to the government. I would not believe that transparency is everything.”
— PM Lee Hsien Loong, The Telegraph UK

19. “As an anti-PAP retired civil servant, I can tell you that all the PAP media events are staged with great care. Every photo opportunity is meticulously planned. As a former government press officer told me, we must manipulate the message.”
TRE Comment

20. “We are same — same but different.”
— Lim Swee Say via Teo Chee Hean (2015)

21. “Only rich or corrupt people work for free.”
— Vivian Balakrishnan, when asked about the salaries of Members of Parliament (2015)

22. “The reality as societies developed is that leaders often come from the same social circles, educational backgrounds and even family trees.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 2011

23. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 1987

24. “In short, the elite.”
— Lee Kuan Yew, 1966

elite_meaning

Google search for meaning of “Elite”

+ + +

For more PAP ministers’ quotes, check out the following resources:

1) Top 30 Quotes from the Ivory Tower (TOC)

2) Photo Album (Martyn See)

3) Great PAP Quotes (Comment saved by Chris Ho)

4) Infamous Quotes by SG Leaders (AskMeLah)

Calvin Cheng Quotes

calvincheng
Standard

Quotes by Ex-NMP, Calvin Cheng (followed by a selection of rebuttals)

+ + +

QUOTE #1: “I was confident that it [would] not in any way affect my ability to be impartial, objective and non-partisan.” — Calvin Cheng (July 2009)

Rebuttal: “Mr Cheng is missing the point. If NMPs are truly supposed to be non-partisan, he should have resigned from the party upon submitting his application to become an NMP, not only after the results are out.”
— Ng E-Jay / Socio-Political Blogger (July 2009)

+ + +

QUOTE #2: “The biggest danger I feel are an emerging group of Westernised, educated, champagne socialists and latte liberals who pontificate about social inequality, democracy and freedom in the comfort of their condos.”
— Calvin Cheng (Oct 2014)

Rebuttal: “The greatest threat to Singapore is in the form of reactionaries who promote self-serving policies under the guise of pragmatism and meritocracy.”
— Terence Ng (Oct 2014)

+ + +

QUOTE #3: “[The association had ‘noble goals]. . .if wages of models have been left higher and they have benefited permanently, it’s a good thing.”
— Calvin Cheng (Oct 2013)

Rebuttal: “Calvin Cheng played a central role in price-fixing as president of the Association of Modelling Industry Professionals (AMIP). . .he knew [it was] wrong, and he did it all the same.”
RedWireTimes c/o Terry Xu (Oct 2014)

+ + +

QUOTE #4: “I don’t respond to anything on The Real Singapore, which is a Facebook page and website written by morons, commented on by morons, and read and shared by morons.”
— Calvin Cheng (Oct 2014)

Rebuttal: “Disgusted to see that a Hwa Chong alumni can behave in such a pathetic manner. Never have I been more embarrassed of the fact that I too, am a Hwa Chong alumni. The tone of your comments and posts here, or anywhere else for that matter, reek of elitism. You have gone against the values that you were supposed to have as a ‘distinguished’ alumni of Hwa Chong. Quite disappointing indeed. In case you were wondering, I do read TRS too, and let me tell you this: many of the people reading/commenting on TRS are fairly smart. They are intelligent people, able to make their own judgements and form their own opinions.”
— 17 y/o Tim Ling (Oct 2014)

Rebuttal:Thanks for your mercy and snobbishness.”
— Angie Ng (to CC’s reply that she “represents the low IQ segment of the public”; Oct 2014)

Rebuttal:Calvin Cheng, reading through your earlier comments in this thread, you have clearly lost your argument to 17 year-old Tim Ling, who has shown a greater level of maturity than you. . .TRS/TRE may seem to you to be ‘moronic’ reporting, and it is so simply because it goes against the same elitist ideologies you share with the ruling elites. At least reports in the TRS/TRE are neither restrained nor controlled like that in The Straits Times which gives it a greater appeal. Thousands of readers that include ardent PAP supporters like Jason Chua (who founded Fabrications About the PAP), several PAP MPs and yourself take the time to read TRS/TRE frequently, so I presume that makes you and the people that support or are in your beloved PAP party morons.”
— Mike Tan (Oct 2014)

Rebuttal:How on earth is this loser a ‘nominated member of parliament’? I would have expected a basic amount of political correctness and common sense, instead he spends his time on Facebook trading petty, personal insults with random strangers like a 12 year old. Ridiculous.”
— Bob Chan (Oct 2014)

+ + +

QUOTE #5: “Are Singaporeans so easily offended? Please. Have more of a backbone and thick-skin. Are you going to go on a frenzied witch hunt just because some foreigner called you a loser on the Internet?”
— Calvin Cheng (Jan 2015)

Rebuttal:This smug Calvin is not the only idiot in town. He is a boon to the opposition — his silly pieces do not do Oxford University proud. Why wasn’t Ello arrested for his blast against the Muslim religion?”
Comment (Jan 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #6: “Chee Soon Juan’s reply to Minister Chan [Chung Sing] is completely nonsensical and disingenuous, rebutting a point that was never made. Nowhere did Min. Chan call Chee a failure. Min. Chan called Chee Soon Juan a POLITICAL failure and that’s a fact. Even by the most stretched definitions, I don’t see how Chee could possibly be called a ‘political success’. ”
— Calvin Cheng (Jan 2015)

Rebuttal:I consider Calvin a success too. He single handedly proved the NMP system is a joke.
— Eric Chionh (Jan 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #7: “Faith in our legal system and our police force underpins our hard-won social harmony and stability. By inciting people to question this and shaking the faith in the pillars of our society, these [half-wit] dissident-bloggers and websites are plainly speaking, inciting sedition.”
— Calvin Cheng (Mar 2015)

Rebuttal:Mr Cheng, I am concerned about the state of your mental health. Best regards.”
Lim Yong Chin (Mar 2015)

Rebuttal:But Mr Cheng, I notice you haven’t specifically said if you believe [what I mentioned about other parties putting anti-PAP flyers into people’s mailboxes] would be legal. Are you doubtful?
Ng Yi-Sheng / Singapore Literature Prize Recipient (Mar 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #8: “I tell you what freedom is. Freedom is being able to walk on the streets unmolested in the wee hours in the morning, to be able to leave one’s door open and not fear that one would be burgled. . .These are the freedoms that Singaporeans have, freedoms that were built on the vision and hard work of Mr Lee, our first Prime Minister. And we have all of these, these liberties, while also being one of the richest countries in the world.”
— Calvin Cheng (March 2015)

Rebuttal:There are at least three elementary mistakes that Cheng makes in his piece that allow for it to be a very useful case study in logic and politics classes. The first, and the most obvious one, is that he has mistaken security for freedom. The second mistake that Cheng makes is that Singapore never had to sacrifice freedom for security, and democracy for an effective government.”
Donald Low / Associate Dean at LKYSPP (Mar 2015)

Rebuttal: “We are a country where Human Rights are seen as luxury. The security that is achieved in Singapore is not secured by respect and understanding, it is achieved through ignorance and fear.”
Rizzy Khaos / Blogger (Apr 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #9: “Amos Yee will be charged in court. The kind of freedom he exercised is exactly the kind of freedom no civilised society needs. Insulting another’s religion, and trying to incite hatred during a time of national unity and mourning. And so, in order to secure the freedom of our civilised society, this boy should lose his.”
— Calvin Cheng (March 2015)

Rebuttal: Are we such a petty and insecure people that we have to demand blood whenever someone insults us on the Internet? Your own words, Calvin.”
— Joshua Chiang / Former TOC Editor (March 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #10: “There is no such thing as total anonymity on the Internet. Troublemakers can be found and will be found. Troublemakers can set up new websites but they will similarly be hunted down. I do hope that the 2 editors of TRS already charged will be handed lengthy jail sentences as a warning and deterrence to others who may have similar intentions.”
— Calvin Cheng (May 2015)

Rebuttal: “Calvin Cheng will surely be greeted with strong approval by the PAP government. He is trying to scare the people. I will suggest that he try something more intelligent. Unless there is a legitimate ground, most notably a terrorist threat, I don’t think you can just walk into another country and hunt down the foreign sites. Don’t embarrass yourself, Mr Calvin Cheng!”
— Dosh / TRE Comment (May 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #11: “Kudos to the NAC. More grants should be revoked from those who publish objectionable content. Taking tax payers’ money to publish content the majority don’t agree with is a social sin.”
— Calvin Cheng (May 2015)

Rebuttal: Because [it’s about] Operation Spectrum. Nobody likes to talk about Operation Spectrum.”
— Acedia Nazrul Amri Tristitia (May 2015)

Rebuttal: The art that Cheng is calling ‘subversive’ is, in essence, critical. “
— Ng Yi-Sheng (May 2015)

+ + +

QUOTE #12: “The self-radicalisation of the ISA-detained youth by ISIS propaganda is worrying. People like Alfian Sa’at for example need to be careful of their irresponsible rhetoric. . .the Government should watch commentators like Alfian Sa’at closely and if red lines are crossed, the use of the ISA on these domestic agitators should not be ruled out.”
— Calvin Cheng (May 2015)

Rebuttal: Self-radicalised Oxford-educated PAP zealot Calvin Cheng hopes the government will invoke the ISA on playwright Alfian Sa’at.
— Martyn See / Filmmaker + Blogger (May 2015)

Rebuttal: “If anyone is behaving in a traitorous manner, it is this abomination called Calvin Cheng for constantly and insidiously trying to turn Singaporeans against Singaporeans who dare to speak up on social political issues. He has made a serious and unfounded allegation against Alfian Sa’at and he should apologise if he has any conscience.”
— Min Zheng / Jentrified Citizen (May 2015)

Rebuttal: “The scary thing is not just what Calvin Cheng posted. The scary thing is also that he is probably not the only one in the pro-PAP camp who, in their increasing and blatant arrogance, think like this.”
— Andrew Loh / TOC Founder (Post #1 + Post #2)

Rebuttal: “CC: You claim that you had sought legal advice from a senior counsel and that Alfian should take proper legal advice instead of advice from armchair lawyers. Well, I happen to be a lawyer too, Calvin. And I think you’re in pretty serious trouble.
— Respect Singapore (May 2015)

Rebuttal: I believe I speak for Oxford when I say we are ashamed that a graduate of this institution would suggest using detention without trial to silence an honourable man.”
— Thum Ping Tjin (May 2015)

Rebuttal: In other more important news, my short story collection Corridor has been republished by Ethos Books. And contrary to what Calvin Cheng would like to insinuate, it’s not on ISIS’ reading list.
— Alfian Sa’at / Playwright (May 2015)

calvin_cheng

CALVIN CHENG was a Nominated Member of Parliament in Singapore. He currently serves on the Ministry of Communications and Information’s Media Literacy Council, and the Media Development Authority’s Board for The Singapore Media Festival.

Calvin was formerly the Head of Elite Models for the Asia Pacific region. Calvin is also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.

CC Online: Facebook | Wikipedia | LinkedIn | Parliament SG

Excerpts from “Meritocracy and Elitism”

Standard

Excerpts from “Meritocracy and Elitism in a Global City: Ideological Shifts in Singapore”

by Kenneth Paul Tan (2008)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Academia.edu

* * *

Definitions:

1. Meritocracy: Government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.

2. Elitism: The advocacy or existence of an elite as a dominating element in a system or society.

Extracts from Article:

1) In practice, meritocracy is often transformed into an ideology of inequality and elitism.

2) Robert Klitgaard (1986: 1) discusses how [meritocracy] gets co-opted by the winners, who then become an elitist, “self-conscious, exploitative ruling minority” bent on perpetuating their power and prestige.

3) (cont.) Elitism sets in when the elite class develops an exaggerated “in-group” sense of superiority, a dismissive attitude toward the abilities of those who are excluded from this in-group, a heroic sense of responsibility for the well-being of what the in-group “laments” as the “foolish” and “dangerous” masses, and a repertoire of self-congratulatory public gestures to maintain what is sometimes merely a delusion of superiority.

4) Conspicuously wide income and wealth gaps, instead of serving as an incentive, can breed a culture of resentment [and] disengagement among the system’s losers.

5) Not only has the term “meritocracy” become enshrined and celebrated as a dominant cultural value in Singapore, it has also come to serve as a complex of ideological resources for justifying authoritarian government and its pro-capitalist orientations.

6) Through its long incumbency, the PAP has secured important structural and tactical advantages such as effective control of the mass media, civil service, and para-political grassroots networks. . .a meritocratic electoral process would need to be more adequately competitive to provide an incentive for the “best” people (regardless of social background, ideological inclination, and party affiliation) to come forward and serve as political leaders.

7) Although relentlessly elitist in its recruitment of parliamentary candidates where qualifications and achievements are concerned, the PAP has maintained that its candidates come from all walks of life.

8) To legitimize its choices, meritocracy must demonstrate not only that the “best” are chosen, but also that the “best” can be drawn from any social background.

9) A meritocracy that defines merit almost exclusively in terms of educational and professional qualifications and commercial success has made the traditional PAP-controlled grassroots sector seem much less relevant and effective in contemporary public life.

10) James Cotton (1993: 10–11) observes that the “[PAP] party has … become a shell, a convenient electoral machine for maintaining in office an elite which is ultimately self-selected, self-promoted and self-defined.

11) In a study of the structure of government-linked companies (GLCs) in the early 1990s, Werner Vennewald (1994) observed a high concentration of control in the hands of a small number of permanent secretaries, the powerful civil service chiefs who tend to hold multiple and interconnected directorships of various public-sector bodies and committees. . .Ross Worthington (2003) [concludes] that state-society relations in Singapore are “elitist and oligarchic” with community organizations, trade unions, and industry associations negligibly represented in GLCs.

12) Insisting that PAP government decisions are the best possible ones generates a false sense of security and a general feeling that there is no need to keep a watchful eye on the daily business of government. Such conditions open the way to serious mistakes and corrupt practices in the future.

13) The PAP government is popularly perceived, even by its many admirers, as arrogant, insensitive, compassionless, and convinced of its own superiority, what Ezra Vogel (1989: 1053) calls a “macho-meritocracy.” Vogel also observes how meritocracy emits an “aura of special awe for the top leaders … [which] provides a basis for discrediting less meritocratic opposition almost regardless of the content of its arguments.”

14) As the long-time political winners, the PAP has been able to define merit in Singapore’s politics [and] influence strongly the people’s understanding of who deserves to win. Through higher monetary deposit requirements and increasingly stringent qualifying criteria for various elected positions in government, the PAP has also been able to influence the question of who can afford and qualify to stand for elections.

15) Veteran journalist Seah Chiang Nee (2006) observes how only “a few newer MPs are social workers or people with good community links, but compassion, charity and humility generally rank low in priority in a candidate’s qualities.”

16) The idea that money will draw the “best” people into politics and give them fewer reasons to be corrupt ignores the possibility of people going into politics for the “wrong” reasons: the lure of personal prestige and monetary gain can produce a dangerously intelligent and self-interested class of political elites who will readily compromise the national interest to satisfy their own needs and who will have the unchecked power to do this indefinitely.

17) Through encounters with alternative political websites, the disadvantaged and the disenchanted learn to articulate their condition in ways that the official discourse of meritocracy has excluded.

18) As the economic and political elite are rewarded (or are rewarding themselves) with larger prizes, a vast and visible inequality of outcomes will replace the incentive effect with a sense of resentment [among] those who perceive themselves as systematically disadvantaged.

19) As public-sector careers become more lucrative, civil service and ministers’ salaries will [turn] into a preoccupation with staying in power mainly for the money and achieving this through image politics, vote-buying, and so on.

Source: “Meritocracy and Elitism in a Global City: Ideological Shifts in Singapore,” by Kenneth Paul Tan (2008)

PDF Download: Academia.edu

* * *

kennethpaultan

KENNETH PAUL TAN is Vice Dean (Academic Affairs) and Associate Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, where he has taught since 2007. His publications include journal articles and book chapters on democracy, civil society, media and multiculturalism.

Kenneth Online: Facebook | Academia.edu | LKYSPP | Interview

Singapore’s Education System – The Truth Behind The Myth

Standard

* Featured on TR Emeritus, TRS, SG Daily, All SG Stuff, and The Insider.

1. INTRODUCTION

When I was growing up in Singapore — I migrated to the U.S. when I was twenty — what caused me a lot of grief was the education system.

I don’t have a vendetta against the schools I attended. Some teachers really cared about students, in a way which went beyond how the students were performing academically.

It is the education system itself which I don’t remember fondly.

I always feel disheartened with reports in the establishment media that paint a rosy picture of Singapore’s education system (like here, here, and here). Few of them give a comprehensive overview of the real effects of the system.

Such reports do not dilute the clear memory I have — through direct experience — of the disadvantages of the aforementioned system.

2. “YOU’RE THROWING AWAY YOUR FUTURE!”

singapore_education

// Photo by Caroline Chia/SPH

I did quite well throughout most of my years as a primary and secondary school student in Singapore (Katong Convent Primary School and St. Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School, respectively). I attended Temasek Polytechnic for 1.5 years (I was enrolled in mass communications).

I switched from the pure science stream to arts stream when I was in Secondary 3, by choice, because I preferred the arts curriculum and the subjects there.

I didn’t hate math or science — I just had a higher level of interest in history and literature instead of a triple science combination (physics/biology/ chemistry).

Some of my fellow schoolmates at the time were shocked beyond belief that I made that switch.

Schoolmate #1: “But you’re the smartest student in the whole level!” (I was the top student for two years.)

Schoolmate #2: “OH MY GOD. What are you doing? You’re throwing away your future!”

I just kept quiet at the time as I thought to myself:

Dudes, all I’m doing is switching from the pure science to arts stream BECAUSE I want to study subjects I’m actually interested in. How is this going to limit my future? If things are really so confined or restrictive, I can seek out other avenues later, even if it means checking things out in another country if the situation is so bad that I have to extricate myself from it entirely.

Turns out that I did end up removing myself from the situation entirely. Why? Because (many years later), I realize the value of being capable of independent thought, instead of having to conform to a system.

Now I don’t mean the exact opposite, where systems are completely useless because everybody should be “free” to do what they want (and that’s coming from somebody who’s a self-described author/artist/non-conformist).

But when there is a problem, or problems, with a system, then it is in everybody’s interest that those points be made clearly and factually.

3. THE REAL TRUTH OF THE SYSTEM’S ‘MANTRA’

The extreme “rote learning” method in Singapore forces students to score well for the exams by memorizing and regurgitating facts.

The only time I started to enjoy reading and writing Mandarin was once I was out of school — because, hey! Things were actually more interesting (songs, comics, films in Mandarin), as opposed to the memorization of words/characters/vocabulary without the slightest element of engagement or fun.

“Just memorize, get good grades, and you’re The Perfect Role Model Student.”

Never mind if you can’t think for yourself or have no interest in formulating your own opinions on what is right/wrong, on what you like/dislike, on what you really want to do or be in the future.

“Work hard, study hard, get a good job (in the following lucrative sectors: banking, law, medicine, engineering, accountancy) — and you’re set for life.”

THAT was the real mantra of the Singapore education system, when I was a student in it for 12 years straight.

Notice that it is elitist in principle (the narrowing down of certain sectors that are “better” than the rest — and “better” solely because they are the traditionally financially lucrative industries).

There’s no room for any creativity or anyone to pursue their passion if it falls outside of what is deemed to be “good.”

The real truth is that it’s not what’s necessarily good for you — it’s what’s good for the Singapore economy (with citizens having been referred to as actual economic “digits”).

4. STRESS, HOMEWORK, SUICIDE — AND MORE STRESS

I wasn’t ever miserable as a student to the point of suicide, though it has driven many others over that edge.

But I remember the dreariness of school holidays, which weren’t vacation time at all, due to the loads of homework designed to keep students “industrious.”

And if homework wasn’t enough, there were the tuition/supplementary lessons as well as extra-curricular activities which literally ate up any remaining free time I had.

Now that I think about it, I think the loads of homework were partly designed to keep me from having “free thoughts” about anything else apart from being a good student (refer to “the real mantra” in above section).

Kids and teenagers shouldn’t be growing up in a pressure-cooker environment that stifles their minds, on top of having their voices or opinions silenced and/or not valued.

Yes, there should be some limits. For example, if a student was expressing him/herself rudely, or being violently disruptive for the sake of being rebellious.

But in an education system that equates “stress” with “industriousness,” and anything that doesn’t neatly conform to it as “rebellious,” it’s easy to “feel like an outcast even if one is desperately trying to fit in” (I read that description off a friend’s blog ‘about me’ page when we were 17).

5. THE TURNING POINT FOR ME

I quit my polytechnic course halfway because I didn’t feel particularly motivated, inspired or engaged with the course material.

Now again, I was enrolled in a mass communications course.

I didn’t enroll in that course because I had aspirations to be a deejay or TV news anchor. I enrolled because I had an interest in media and society, and maybe journalism, since everybody in Singapore told me that that was the field I should look into because I liked to write (dismissing the fact that what I like to write is fiction!).

There were several things that eventually made me so dissatisfied and disillusioned, that withdrawing from the course (with no backup plan or ANY idea what I was going to do thereafter) was still a better option than completing it just because I had to.

I remember one instance very clearly during my first year there.

During a journalism class, the very nice/friendly lecturer said with a compliant smile:

“Guys, as we all know, this is Singapore [so there are just some things you can and cannot say in the media]…”

My classmates were cool, friendly, and smart.

But I remember how everybody just took what the lecturer said — with no protest, no questions, no nothing. It was a very uninspiring moment because I was secretly expecting more.

While I admit that I didn’t do or say anything at that point either (I was a very quiet, unhappy mass comm student), that was the moment which made my 16 or 17 year-old brain “wake up” to the fact that I really wasn’t happy, with my life, situation, everything, and that I had to do something about it instead of being crippled by indecision.

Instinctively, I just felt it was wrong that it was accepted practice that nobody could really “speak their mind” in my country of origin without any serious repercussions (these articles on Gopalan Nair, Nicole Seah, and the late Jeyaretnam show the kind of treatment that “the opposition” has to go through).

6. I’M A HUMAN BEING, NOT A ‘DIGIT’

As a student, what I really wanted to be educated on was how to be a happy, purposeful and productive HUMAN BEING (not a “digit” for the economy).

I wanted to study subjects I had a real interest in, in the hopes it would help me identify my potential areas of skill and expertise so that I could eventually make a living from doing something I enjoy.

What kind of message is the system giving, when generations grow up in a stressful environment where you’re separated into “elite” or “non-elite” schools, instead of being part of an environment that endeavors to identify and bring out the best in each student (not all of whom have solely academic talents!!).

The following paragraph from a perceptive article says it all:

“The views of some of Singapore’s ‘elite’ students are revealing and disturbing. . .While the education system can produce excellent engineers and scientists, can the same be said of raising potential leaders who are sensitive to society’s needs?”
(Seah Chiang Nee, The Star Malaysia)

To me, one of the primary purposes of education should be to enable students to become capable, global-minded citizens, who have some kind of mental/spiritual/emotional involvement with their chosen line of work because of the contributions they can make to society, big or small.

An education system which suppresses independent thought, discourages the act of questioning, and dismisses this thing called ‘passion’, is not going to produce ideal human beings.

Here are the things the system does promote the development of.

It fosters apathy. It fosters inarticulation (uh, ah, um, hmm). It fosters subordination to the system’s one and only goal.

It produces people who are afraid to think, unable to question, and uninspired to seek out the truth.

Perhaps most disastrously, it fosters the belief that any kind of change is impossible. Heck, even the thought of any kind of change is an unwelcome thing (think of all the trouble you’d get into!).

But change is possible (which is what really scares the ones who are most invested in not disrupting the status quo).

People are not being delusional when they say:

“Every single action we take, however small, does have an impact on change…if we have the means to contribute, like with writing skills, it would be a pity not to use it.”
(Gopalan Nair, Singapore Dissident)

7. CONCLUSION

I published this blog post because like many other people who express similar views, what I’m interested in is The Truth.

That is just one of my many interests I developed outside of the education system that has been the focal topic of this article.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their informed thoughts with others.

* * *

Websites With More Information:

(1) The Fascism of Singapore (by an Israeli Math PhD who studied in a Singapore university)

(2) Singapore Education Producing Timid, Robotic Minds (online political activist)

(3) The Educational System in Singapore (concise forum post on an overview of the system and what can be done to improve it)

(4) Singapore Schools Shaping Elitist Mindset (article by The Star)

(5) Observations on Elitism in Singapore (by a former teacher of an ‘elite’ secondary school, with a mention on how wealth can be a handicap)

(6) Why Do We Do This To Our Children? (on young students in Singapore committing suicide over examination stress)

(7) Celebrities leave Singapore because of kids’ education (The Online Citizen)