To foster entrepreneurial spirit, education system needs to change

Our students have had sterling performances on the international stage, but we are still lagging far behind countries like the United States in producing Nobel laureates and entrepreneurs ("Maverick mindset needed in public sector more than ever"; Jan 21).

Why is this so?

Our children spend a large part of their formative years in school.

We cannot deny that our school system shapes a large part of how we think and act in our subsequent adult life.

The fact that our educational system helps to foster the notion of success as being defined by grades, and failures as a stigma, cannot be overemphasised.

When our children leave school and enter the workforce, such deep-seated notions are reinforced by societal norms to the extent that veering from the well-trodden path is considered foolhardy and dangerous.

In short, one cannot blame Singaporeans for being kiasu ("afraid to lose") or kiasi ("afraid to die"), as this is the environment and culture they are brought up in.

A culture of embracing risk-taking and celebrating failure is something that is alien and anathema to us.

Until we revamp our education system to embrace such a paradigm shift, the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley will remain elusive here.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'To foster entrepreneurial spirit, education system needs to change'. Print Edition | Subscribe