Many believe that competition is vital to motivate learning. Hence, the concerns raised over the recent revamp of the Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system, moving away from comparing peers to focus on individual ability and achievement in learning (New scoring system for Foundation level may dampen motivation, July 29).
As long as we have a competitive mindset, schooling will be a chore for many children.
Fortunately, there are intrinsic motivators of learning that are independent of competition.
A young child learns many things, including language, long before formal schooling.
So how does a young child learn so remarkably in his early years, something that seems to have been lost in competitive schooling?
Children learn because they are curious, whereas adults learn because of the economic advantage that learning facilitates.
In Singapore, we have focused for too long on the economic necessity of learning and have overlooked the critical importance of curiosity. If we can stir and awaken curiosity in the search for knowledge among the young and the not-so-young, the outcome is having a love for learning that, in turn, becomes a powerful motivator for learning in itself.
To be truly educated, one must be inquisitive, equipped with the modern tools of inquiry that include the ability of the brain to think, to question and to explore new frontiers of knowledge and discovery.
If we succeed in transforming our mindset about learning, we Singaporeans would take our place in an ever-changing world without being overwhelmed by the fear that someone would steal our lunch if we were not vigilant in reinventing ourselves for economic survival.
Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)