The Straits Times
Published on Nov 24, 2012

Theme parks of learning


I AM that proverbial foreign talent teenage student turned die-hard Singaporean adult, whose curriculum vitae includes two good scholarships, stellar A-level results, an Internet start-up and a career with blue-chip multinationals Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

What my experience has taught me is that stellar academic results get your foot in the door of a good job or the attention of a reliable business partner.

But they matter not a jot on Day One of one's first job and in the success of one's career thereafter.

My business partner in my first job was not interested in my grades from the moment we set up shop; he wanted to know only if I was performing.

The plain truth about achieving success is to do more of and get better at what we enjoy doing; what matters is the passion for continual learning and competing.

Does one enjoy learning new things, associate pleasure with books, and enjoy competing, which means failing, improving and picking oneself up again?

So it is imperative that we associate enjoyment with learning, and schools must take a lead at making this happen.

Google and Facebook, which make it fun for their employees to come to work, are cutting-edge examples of that philosophy.

Our schools should be theme parks of learning, where children must love to come to study, to compete and to grow.

I am writing this letter on my last day with a multinational company, where I have enjoyed working for the past 10 years.

I realised that in order to accelerate my personal growth, I had to quicken my learning, which may not mean achieving more of the same, like obtaining a master's degree in business administration.

Growth can also mean honing emotional intelligence (EQ) to achieve peak performance.

EQ is just as important for personal and professional growth because there are enough examples at work today of burnt-out professionals.

So taking a so-called "time out" is not a luxury but a necessity, because it is fundamental in continuing to realise the love of learning.

In my view, the love of learning is a crucially practical component in "character-building" for students.

Inculcating a love for learning in schools must translate into measurable outcomes whereby the Government directs it, the schools teach it and children recognise it and are rewarded when they achieve it.

In an increasingly complex world, we must build a nation of citizens who love to learn in order to grow and prosper, and not a tribe of academic over-achievers.

Amit Malhotra