S'pore needs more than academic excellence for a brighter future

Kudos to the Education Ministry, teachers and Singapore students for doing so well in the Programme for International Student Assessment ("Singapore students bag education 'World Cup'"; Dec 7).

But what does this educational achievement translate to?

If it means it sets us up to be a more successful nation, with thinking citizens, just take a look at the list of countries that trail us.

Japan is up there, but it has had a stagnating economy for two decades now; suicide rates there are among the highest in the world.

The United States is not among the top scorers, yet it has the biggest economy and the most technologically savvy population; but lots of social ills.

Switzerland does not feature at the top either, and it has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world; but the cost of living is high.

So these academic standings do not really mean much. Many countries, such as Britain, have been where we are now, but it has translated to little for them today.

What we need to measure in our young is their resilience, courage, adaptability, entrepreneurship, and ability to be differentiated but work as a team - factors that really set successful countries against unsuccessful ones.

Also important, among others, is the political acumen of our people and their ability to pick the right leaders.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore needs more than academic excellence for a brighter future'. Subscribe