We are practical, not idealistic dreamers

I share the concerns of Professor Kishore Mahbubani ("In search of Singaporean idealism"; last Saturday). I attribute the deficit of idealistic youth to this - we are practical, and not idealistic dreamers. To be the latter, one needs to have a strong interest in the world and exposure to it and society, matched with a strong dose of curiosity and courage.

When a person reads widely, travels and opens his eyes and heart to the world around him, he will start to think and ponder, and that is how idealistic dreams are made.

How interested or exposed are our teens to philosophy, current and world affairs, and to the worries of the less advantaged among us?

It would be interesting if surveys could be done to ascertain teens' awareness and views on the following:

• What is the significance of the Paris climate change agreement? What role can we play in the climate change challenge?

• Can a family survive and save on $1,000 or less a month?

• The migrant crisis in Europe and Asia - how can this issue be solved? Can/should Singapore play a role?

• Non-Constituency MP and Nominated MP seats in Parliament - what are the similarities and differences; what works best for Singapore?

• Britain's European Union referendum - would it be good or bad for Britain to stay within the EU?

The best place to start planting seeds of idealism in our students is at school and at home.

The question is, would all educators and parents fare well in answering the aforesaid questions?

For too long, Singapore has focused on the mechanics of education and practical economic decisions - play it safe, one may say.

Yet, today's corporations require executives to think outside the box, be knowledgeable and curious, and be always prepared to step out of one's comfort zone.

Singapore will benefit from a rebalancing of its education priorities - introduce philosophy studies from an early age, give literature the importance it deserves, and let youth have a stronger voice.

In Britain, there are Youth MPs who are elected to represent young people on the Youth Council, acting on local issues that affect their lives.

Youth in Singapore would benefit much if a similar scheme were launched here.

Ng Wee Chew (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'We are practical, not idealistic dreamers'. Print Edition | Subscribe