Creativity the key to nation's future growth

As a nation dependent on value chain innovation for growth, we have been at the forefront of technology, but our efforts have been eroded by competitors with lower production costs.

Singapore has been ranked by CNN as the top country in Asia for innovation, yet we have a lower patent-to-people ratio, compared with other developed countries.

With an apparent need to regain our competitive edge, our future may lie more in invention than in mere innovation.

Therefore, creativity is requisite to the growth of this nation, and only with creativity can we conceive inventions and streamline operations in order to ensure that productivity burgeons here.

Creativity has to be nurtured from a young age, and education plays a vital role in developing the young into creative citizens.

Our education system has been criticised for stamping out creativity and individualism but it has nonetheless established world-class local universities and produced highly skilled employees sought after by companies.

Many of us have benefited from a seemingly "imperfect" education system that has placed excessive emphasis on test results and academic excellence.

However, Singapore can be a learning hub with a revamped education system where academic distinction is not the only yardstick of a student's performance - outstanding merit in the arts and other creative activities should also be acknowledged and rewarded.

The criteria for success and recognition should encompass more than just having academic achievements.

With that said, many schools have moved towards recognising merit and talent outside academics - from subject-based banding, which avoids penalising students who possess a greater aptitude for one subject over another, to Direct School Admission-reforms that will encourage students and schools alike to find their own niche.

Moving forward, schools may integrate creativity into the curriculum by imparting critical thinking and analysis skills, and help spur creative ideas by exposing students to multiple schools of thought.

When a greater focus is placed on developing individual excellence instead of enforcing cohort homogeneity, everyone gets to bring something different to the table. Future challenges can be tackled more effectively when they are approached from many creative angles.

The keystone of our development thus far must not be forgotten - that is, that the prosperity of this nation depends on the hard work of each and every citizen.

Wong Chen Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Creativity the key to nation's future growth'. Print Edition | Subscribe