But before I proceed and get myself flamed again as making "sweeping statements", please note that this is a commentary on increasing significant trends. It is not however an observation that all or even a majority of Singaporean students or graduates are described as follows.
I was in Singapore for a couple of days over the end of last week for my company's board meeting (possibly one of my last ;p) and other business matters (hence the lack of posts). One of the biggest furores playing out in the local section of The Straits Times was a blog entry by the daughter of one of Singapore's newest Member of Parliament, Wee Siew Kim. Mr Wee is part of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Group Representation Constituency (GRC) team in Ang Mo Kio. I can't make any online references to the articles because the Singapore press isn't free, but I'll try to outline the background here.
It all started when Ms Wee Shu Min, an 18 year old Raffles Junior College student (yes, that's both Kian Ming's and my alma mater), responded to a post by a Mr Derek Wee (unrelated to Ms Wee) on "The Future of Singapore". Mr Derek Wee was lamenting the fact the ultra competitive society in Singapore whereby you are regarded as "over the hill" once above the age of 40.
Taxi drivers are fast becoming “too early to retire, too old to work” segment of the society. I like to talk to taxi drivers whenever I am heading for the airport. There was this driver. Eloquent and well read. He was an export manager for 12 years with an MNC. Retrenched at 40 years old. He had been searching for a job since his retrenchment. Although he was willing to lower his pay expectations, employers were not willing to lower their prejudice. He was deem too old. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another No. 1; having the most highly educated taxi drivers in the world.Derek Wee's post might just have been lost in a sea of many such posts abound in Singapore's blogosphere, if not for a vicious and callous blog response by Ms Wee on her blog, which has since been shut down. Here are some excerpts of her blogpost, thanks to Singapore Election Watch.
mom's friend sent her some blog post by some bleeding stupid 40-year old singaporean called derek wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) whining about how singapore is such an insecure place, how old ppl (ie, 40 and above) fear for their jobs, how the pool of foreign "talent" (dismissively chucked between inverted commas) is really a tsunami that will consume us all (no actually he didn't say that, he probably said Fouren Talern Bery Bad.), how the reason why no one wants kids is that they're a liability in this world of fragile ricebowls, how the government really needs to save us from inevitable doom but they aren't because they are stick-shoved-up-ass elites who have no idea how the world works, yadayadayadayada.Shocking? You've got it. But it certainly is a way for an 18 year old to gain national prominence, and possibly cost your parent a stillborn political career.
i am inclined - too much, perhaps - to dismiss such people as crackpots. stupid crackpots. the sadder class. too often singaporeans - both the neighborhood poor and the red-taloned socialites - kid themselves into believing that our society, like most others, is compartmentalized by breeding. ridiculous. we are a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement...
...dear derek is one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country, and in this world. one of those who would prefer to be unemployed and wax lyrical about how his myriad talents are being abandoned for the foreigner's, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a sales assistant. it's not even about being a road sweeper. these shitbags don't want anything without "manager" and a name card.
please, get out of my elite uncaring face.
In an initial statement to the press, in response to the fierce criticisms received by his daughter, he offered his qualified apology a la Lee Kuan Yew.
What she said did come across as insensitive. The language was stronger than what most people could take. But she wrote in a private blog and I feel that her privacy has been violated. After all, they were the rantings of an 18-year-old among friends.Now if that isn't condescending, then I don't know what is. The apology that wasn't led to an even bigger furore amongst Netizens. "Wee Shu Min" topped Technorati for a couple of days, equalling the feat achieved by several other Singaporean girls for equally infamous incidents. It led to a second apology two days later, probably under instructions from his political masters, which essentially took back what he said in his first "apology".
I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.
Nonetheless, I have counselled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it.
I am sorry that my statements carried in The Straits Times of Oct 24 offended some readers. I should not have said what I did about people’s inability to take the brutal truth and strong language.That, in brief is the long and short of the entire saga. Without going into the political impact on Singapore's society (you can read that here) as that isn't the objective of this blog, it tells a little about the education system in Singapore, particularly in relation to children belonging to the upper middle class.
I have also counselled my daughter Shu Min. She is fully aware and remorseful over her tone, insensitivity and lack of empathy. I have advised her to learn from this.
We both apologise to the people whom we have offended, and especially Mr Derek Wee.
Ms Wee is a scholar (10 A’s in O-level, strong bilingual, French), the sort that is "earmarked for an easy road to high office". Clearly, the Singapore education system is able to produce top academic scholars who are intelligent and eloquent. However, it is quite clear that the system's ability in inculcating the emphathy for the plight of the less fortunate, humility, a sense of social responsibility, obligation and community spirit is left desperately wanting. It is all the more disappointing that it is the more intelligent (yes, from Ms Wee's blogpost, you can tell that she has some brain matter in between her temples) and likely future leaders of Singapore, who are proving the system's shortcomings.
Some will place blame on an "elitist" education system. I beg to differ. I believe that an "elitist" education system, in the attempt to provide the best education to the minds and brains for the country is not mutually independent from a caring and compassionate society. This means that an "elitist" education, with all its supposed negative connotations, does not necessitate an elitist "class" mentality. I'd like to think that I was educated in the top schools in Singapore, and subsequently at a top school in the United Kingdom, without them making me a heartless bourgeois. In fact, I believe that a elitist education coupled with the right balance of moral upbringing (both at home and in school) will make a person better equipped to make more fruitful contributions to society in subsequent years.
In 16 years' time, should my Xin Ying grow up and write like Ms Wee, please do not hesitate to tell me in the face that I have failed miserably as a parent. I will definitely retire from whatever I am doing at that point in time and probably spend a couple of months in a monastery to serve my penance. This is my personal opinion obviously, but I believe the real failure here is Mr Wee Siew Kim.