Fixing gaps in our education system

The Public Service Commission's chairman Eddie Teo has pointed out four flaws in our youth: their poor knowledge of Singapore history; their lack of knowledge of current and foreign affairs, especially of countries in our neighbourhood; fear of taking risk/failure; and lack of imagination and creativity ("What 18-year-olds tell us about Singapore's future"; Oct 10).

These flaws are linked to our present education system.

For example, the importance of the teaching of history and social studies is not emphasised enough in schools. Not enough interest is generated in these subjects beyond the immediate school curriculum.

As for risk-taking, our system rewards correct answers to questions. Failure is frowned upon and sometimes, no second chances are given.

We have yet to inculcate in our young the notion that failure is but part of the process to getting it right and, counter-intuitively, that it is good to fail so long as we learn positive lessons from it.

In fact, failure presents us with the gift of humility and nourishes us with the grit and perseverance to do better.

This brings me to the fourth flaw - our lack of imagination and creativity.

With our demanding education system made worse by the introduction of continual assessments - which put continual stress on students, parents and teachers - and the overemphasis on tests and marks, our youth have little time to explore, experiment and to do creative things they are interested in.

So, should it surprise us that imagination and creativity are lacking in them ?

Finally, I note we now have two ministers in charge of our education system ("MOE to get two new acting ministers"; Sept 29).

My hope is that they will have productive dialogues with the various stakeholders and come up with an education system which will bring about a sea-change and help us overcome the flaws mentioned by Mr Teo.

Zee Kok Eng