Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Singaporean Graduate

This obviously isn't a priority issue in the Malaysian education system. There are plenty of other more substantial issues to blog about today, such as the recent budget and Tok Pa's interview in the Star, but the writer in me wanted to do this first. So humour me :).

I've received personal emails through this blog asking me why I have not followed the bulk of my Asean scholar peers in growing my roots in Singapore. Many have perceived that I would be more than welcome in Singapore, based on my credentials. Some 70-80% of my cohort of Asean scholars have set up families in Singapore. My best mate, a pediatrician who has just joined the private sector in Singapore, married a Singaporean and has a daughter 6 weeks younger than my own.

One of the many reasons was highlighted by Seah Chiang Nee in the Star today.
The bout of high-level unemployment in the past decade has brought out some bad features of Singapore’s pampered generation that lingers even today.

There are two parts of the same problem. First is an over-dependence on parents or living off them after graduation and secondly, a general reluctance or inability to hold on to a job for the flimsiest of reasons.

“They often use excuses like the job’s too tiring, salary too low, long working hours, workplace too far, or simply it’s not interesting enough... Why should I work when my parents can support me?”

Critics place part of the blame on over-indulgent parents who believe that supporting their jobless children is helping them and is part of their parental duty. “They have more money than sense. Far from helping, they’re ruining their lives,” a businessman friend said.
Seah rightly highlighted that the group of graduates with such an attitude is currently still confined to a small minority. However, I am certain that he, and many others will agree that it is definitely a growing trend today. I have met and known many friends and acquaintances in Singapore, whose kids that are still in primary school. And I dare say that it's more the norm whereby they are spoilt brats with a terrible attitude, than otherwise. I shiver to think of the type of grown ups they are going to be.

No, besides a plethora of other reasons, I certainly would prefer if my daughther (and any other kid(s) I'm going to have) not have middle-class peers who are just going to show them how to be spoilt and materialistic.

And would I send her to school in Singapore? Quite definitely not in her primary school years. While not many will argue with the fact that the Singapore education system is "academically" superior, she'll definitely have a richer experience in Malaysia in a multiracial and less affluent environment despite all its obvious shortcomings. :-)


SK said...

You're right to walk the talk!

Anonymous said...


I admire Chinese Malaysians like you, Jeff Ooi, Uncle Kit and many others who stay on in Bolehland trying so hard to bring about meritocracy and equality for the sake of advancement in Malaysia.

You will be remembered when the day comes.

Anonymous said...

For all its shortcomings, Singaporean education is still far superior compared to our public education. Here we have a system in systemic crisis! Unless racism stops being the order of the day, our system here will go to the dogs.

Josee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Josee said...

I think Seah Chiang Nee's has over-simplified the causes of the problem. With the influx of "foreign talent", the younger generation are definitely getting less choosy about their jobs.

Your comment that the younger generation in Singapore are becoming a bunch of "spoilt brats with a terrible attitude" is a sweeping statement.

From your postings, I can infer that your Singaporean friends are more likely to belong to the upper to upper-middle class. Well, upper class kids anywhere in the world tend to be "spoilt". I am sure Malaysia has its fair share.

Well, the bulk of Singaporeans are still in the middle to lower class. Kids in neighbourhood schools are more down-to-earth.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about Singapore early education being not very healthy.

Based on experience of my nephews and nieces across the world, I am definitely convinced that early education in Singapore has many faults. However, I see the same faults in Malaysia too. I think the same-ills pervades here too. The competitivenss spirit is not so pervasive here as in Singapore but I suspect its because parents don't have much choices or at least affordable choices.

Before you knock down Singapore kids, I have the fortunate experience to interact with a great deal of them and while many are far from ideal, most of them are incredibly forward looking. Singapore kids have to live in a globalized world where they know they have to carve out a niche for themselves and they know their government and establishment do not have all the answers for them. They know many of them have to sort it out themselves or be left standing on the musical chair of a highly elitist competitive economy.

Spoilt? I think its parochial and simplistic. Confused in making hard choices first is more likely.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon(Sept 04).

I know many Sinagporean kids who are cool. You have my word against yours. :P

Nick said...

I know my fair share of Singaporean kids who are just as mature if not more so than Malaysian ones. And Singapore does not have natural resources to squander unlike Malaysia. Do not look down on what Singapore has done... they know the true meaning of competition and survival.

Generalising Singapore graduates as whiny is a sweeping statement.

Furthermore, I find that Singapore education is even more holistic than Malaysia's. Tony, as an ASEAN scholar you should know, where can you find students from Malaysia, Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei and many more countries studying together in the same school? You definitely can't find that in Malaysia. And Singapore is definitely more meritorious than Malaysia. There is no racial, religious or cultural segregation. You get to know people from other cultures just as easily as in Malaysia minus all the racial bickering due to a biased political atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

When we talk about our system of education in Malaysia, we talk and discuss about its weaknesses or strengths.

We must not be too obsessed of comparing our education system with Singapore. Both systems have their own strength and weaknesses. Trying to copy 100% is a BIG mistake

The failure of Singapore education system is seen it never regard human as humans. Every body is zombie, do a bit wrong you got fined. Everybody is in a rat race. Its work work work with no interest to improve human values. More like a robot society or Wellian socity of the future.

True you get money...but do you get happiness?

In Malaysia we may have our defects but we have our pluses:

1 We can pee in lifts without big brother watching
2 We can cross roads without using overhead bridges and get away
3 We can eat and spit any where
4 Mamak stalls are every where...
5 We can throw rubbish and litter along highways as we we pleased
6 We can beat traffic lights or break the speed limits

Now surely you all dont enjoy such benefits in Singapore?

Anonymous said...

I will ask my kids to stay back Singapore (or wherever posted; being Asean scholarship holders)

Too obvious the reasons.

Just send mummy & daddy air tickets for visits.

Nick said...

to malaysia still the best...

All those "benefits" you listed are what is exactly contributing to the deterioration of Malaysia. I would rather have a society with higher moral fibre than to have those "benefits"...

Anonymous said...

This is one of the lousiest post I have read on your blog Tony.

Anonymous said...

While I believed that Tony was trying to point out the good things in the Malaysian education system, it is afraid that some of the points in the post were over-simplified generalisation of the actual situation.

Malaysia has some very successful ASEAN scholars because of Singaporean education system, not the opposite.

Well, there are always some other untold reasons for our move from one place to another, and what Tony said in the post might be just part of his reasons to return to Malaysia. Couldn't blame him for that :)

Anonymous said...

Like the Kiwis overseas who are typically perceived as "Aussies" based on first impression. Likewise for Chinese Malaysian or Chinese Singaporean uni students overseas to be seen as either Malaysians or Singaporeans because of our typical spoken English accent, so how do we identify them from thier respective countries? well....for the guys...just look at how they place thier shoes. M'sian students do not care 2 fxxK where they place thier shoes while thier Singaporean counterparts have thiers neatly placed.....

Real NS for the Kiasu lang mah....

ok i know im bit off topic.. haha

Anonymous said...

yeh...singapore students all sissy fait!

Anonymous said...

Yeah lah, Singapore kids are like robots. I get to know many Singaporean friends who are not rich fellas, just normal persons like you and me. Some starts training their kids to become robot from the age of two! Poor them! What time watch TV, what time play, what time read, etc!

Jeeze... when they starts schooling, even if they got 90% marks for their exam, their parents will mumble at them and expect them to get 95% or higher! Poor kids!

The parents become very kiasu, the children also pick that up from them.

Anonymous said...

Malaysia's current education system and quality is so far behind Singapore's. It's not that Malaysian students are not as good but the system sucks. There is a lot of levelling down instead of levelling up going on in Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Well... Please.... Don't compare Singapore's education system with Malaysia's...

I know, yeah... Malaysian education system relly suck. But don't you think Singapore's education system isn't that good either?

I believe that the success behind Singapore's ever popular movies like 'I Not Stupid' and 'I Not Stupid Too' is because of it's realism and it reflects the reality in Singapore just like our very own 'Sepet' and 'Gubra'.

So, from that, I really think that Singapore's education system is more or less that kiasu. It's just that Malaysia's education system haven't reach that extreme level of 'kiasu'ism yet... But then, you see, there are alot of kiasu symptom already currently in Malaysia's education system.

A very very good example: SPM most straight A1 record holder: Nur Amalina. Look at the extra subjects that she took besides the 10 compulsory subjects for Pure Science students: Tasawur Islam, Prinsip Perakaunan, Perdagangan, Ekonomi Asas, Sains, etc. Bunch of crap! And it's not uncommon among students you know. There are a lot of students out there want to take all this rubbish. Believe it or not, but there are some non-Muslim students who want to take Tasawur Islam as extra subject alongside with more common extra subjects like Prinsip Perakaunan! Tasawur Islam? It was like, why on earth do they want to take that subject? The reason behind it? So that they can get more A1 and a better chance fighting for scholarship. And most students give up on their interests to concentrate on their studies so that they can get better results, or specifically, more As. Don't believe me? You better do! Because I have a friend who wanted to take Tasawur Islam and most of my friends gave up their interests to study. (Well, I am actually a Form 5 student currently studying in a premier school in Kuala Lumpur and yes, I'll be taking my SPM in the coming November)

While I always question about the quality of our education system, especially about the chance of an average income non-Muslim of getting a good education, but I think it's still BETTER than Singapore's. I mean, I don't wanna be getting all the As that they could offer and but be stress up like hell and work like robots. But the sad thing is, even in Malaysia, some parents are sending their Standard 1 or Standard 2 children for tuitions! Comm'on... They are only 7 or 8 years old and they had been forced to go for tuition, music lessons, computer classes, etc. Don't they deserve a chance to play as they are afterall still kids? If they really have interest in it, then it's fine, but what if they don't like it?

So. I think we simply can't compare Singapore's education system with Malaysia's. Singapore seems to be producing lots of fine scholars because: 1) kiasu-ism. 2)Always willing to work hard. While in Malaysia, education system seemed more to be like a political agenda with the big issue of racial bias. But, besides the big racial thing, I think Malaysia's education system is still better than Singapore's. At least, ours is less kiasu than Singapore's although I admit that we are getting kiasu too.

Form 5 student.

Anonymous said...

Form 5 student!
Your answer is voted the best!
Please contact Tony P for the prize.

Anonymous said...

Well, people work when there is incensitve to do so. If Tony thinks Singapore student/graduates are pampered, maybe he should take a look at youth from the welfare states of NZ,Aust,UK,Germany and the best of all, France.

UK now produce a fair amount of school leavers who can't read, write or count properly, despite an education budget of £60bn (about the same of Malaysian entire GDP!).

Also the French recent unrest when government tries to get them to work on less favourable terms.

Nick said...

I think Singapore's education system is still better than Malaysia's. Of course, if you want a slack life, Malaysia's education system is not really stress-free. And Singapore prepares you better for world-class education and a better exposure. Look at the number of international students they have in their schools.

Secondly, the number of students graduating from the Singapore education system going to Oxbridge and Ivy League universities consistently outnumber the Malaysian students even though Singapore has a population of less than one-fifth that of Malaysia's. Their education prepares them to be holistic individuals excelling not in academics but also in co-cu and character as well. The admission statistics clearly show this. And Oxbridge and Ivy League universities only take in the best. Are Malaysian student less smart or have less of a character than their Singaporean counterparts? I guess not... but the education system is very narrow and limited.

Finally, life is full of stress, it's how you cope with it. A stressful education system is no way a good measure of a good education system.

Anonymous said...

actually those singaporeans students and lecturers in singapore are malaysians....
singaporeans themselves too bz going to coffeeebean, starbucks.
U see they are even too lazy to ensure their population is increasing. Next thing we see they will be importing malaysian men to boost their populations

Anonymous said...

It is rather pointless to compare the "products" of the two education systems when the conditions underlying the social, economic & political fabric of the the two countries are fundamentally different. Without a clear set of criteria for comparision, a discussion like this can potentially degenerate into sweeping statements being made. The Singapore system is not without its faults, just like Malaysia's. The faults in Singapore's system appear to me to be by-products of well-intended policy goals, and the very high expectations that parents have of schools today. Similarly, this can be said of Malaysia's system. Having said this, I can see that both countries are now taking concrete steps to address the "wicked" problems peculiar to their own systems.

As to the matter of kiasuism, all societies have their fair share of competitive students and parents, and this is not peculiar only to Singapore and Malaysia. The problem with most Singapore and Malaysian students also do not lie just in schools, but in ignorant parents who have an outdated notion of education, and who have abdicated their responsilities to co-educate their children.

Lastly, if Singapore is located within a more friendly "neighbourhood", and blessed with as much resources as Malaysia or Australia, the education system would probably be less competitive, rigid and stressful. But then, it may turn out to be worse for Singapore on the whole, and the whole concept of Asean scholars may not even exist.

H J Angus said...

As a Malaysian who has sent 4 children to study in Singapore I think that was the best decision we made.

It does not mean your children will end up staying there permanently.

My eldest went in Sec 1 and she had the hardest adjustment. I coached her in Maths and Science for the entrance test and she managed to transfer from Darjah 6 in Malaysia straight into Form 1. She went to JC and graduated from NUS. Married a Singaporean.

My second went from Darjah 1 into Primary 2 also after a test. She went into the Gifted Program in Form 1 and graduated from NTU. She is now working in London.

My third started in Primary 1 and finished JC before going to KL to study at IMU and then to Canada to complete. Now working in Canada.

My fourth also started in Primary 1 and completed O levels.
He then studied A levels in JB and is now studying in London.

One good thing about the education system in Singapore is that it is really flexible and even slower children can catch up if they are slow developers.

Many parents simply put too much pressure on their children to achieve beyond their capacity.
For example many Poly graduates do get degrees later.

Anonymous said...

form 5 student. what do you mean when you say Perakauanan, Predagangan and Ekonomi is a bunch of crap? Because its subjects offered in the arts stream? Typical Malaysian attitude when it comes to the Arts stream.Glorify science students and look down on arts subjects. Have some respect, yeah. Or maybe try to rephrase your sentences in the future.

Ken Tay said...

"kiasu" is a common label we malaysians use for anything Singaporean.

Having studied in Singapore for the past 6 years, i can say i have found the singapore education system to be very enriching.

It does get abit stressful i guess but to label the students here "Robots" and kiasu is quite unfair. As another reader pointed out, you can find similarly hardcore people in Malaysia.