It may be time to redefine meritocracy

Creativity in resolving problems and innovation in developing solutions can be more important than just acquiring and reproducing content knowledge.
Creativity in resolving problems and innovation in developing solutions can be more important than just acquiring and reproducing content knowledge.PHOTO: ST FILE

The concept of meritocracy has largely been based on students' achievements in developing their logical and linguistic intelligences (Education still a social leveller but it goes beyond grades: Ong Ye Kung, March 28).

However, many educational researchers such as psychologist Howard Gardner have posited that there are multiple intelligences.

Case in point: moral intelligence can be more important than intelligence of the intellect.

Altruistic intelligence can be just as important as logical intelligence.

Creativity in resolving problems and innovation in developing solutions can be more important than just acquiring and reproducing content knowledge.

Helping students discover their unique set of gifts, talents and aspirations, and be able to leverage their strengths to contribute to their future workplaces and society can make for a better Singapore and brighter future.

If we become overly focused on academic results, and students pursue grades at all costs and without consideration for others, we may end up with social issues such as the not-in-my-backyard syndrome that we are witnessing in many corners of our communities.

To improve social mobility and the Gini coefficient, we need to start with the young by inculcating in students the importance of helping one another and to work as a team to address other social injustice.

We need to broaden our perspective of meritocracy to ensure that it becomes a more compassionate, inclusive, and effective meritocracy.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'It may be time to redefine meritocracy'. Print Edition | Subscribe