Recently, there have been several letters to the local newspapers expressing the authors’ frustrations with the increasingly higher expectations that schools have for their pupils.[1][2][3] This is reflected in the rise in difficulty of exam papers, as though schools are trying to outdo each other in setting the most difficult papers. Tuition centres are supposedly accomplices in this too. The writers have called for the Ministry of Education to recognise that they are indirectly causing this societal phenomenon.

The minister has said that teachers are trying their best to prepare pupils for the unknowns in the future. It might be interesting to note, as did Sir Ken Robinson in his famous 2006 talk, that children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065 (and starting work in 2035) and schools are meant to prepare these children for those uncertain days. Yet we can not predict what the world will be like then. Sir Ken then went on to stress the importance for schools to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

While I acknowledge that society should give more credit to other types of intelligences,  an economy that depends on tertiary industries (such as Singapore) are founded on the academic knowledge and training that produces engineers, scientists, economists, IT experts, etc. Hence, our society will still require a large number of graduates to work in these industries.

If there are people who discover that they are better at other intelligences such as music and bodily kinesthetics, they might indeed be better off pursuing a course that will allow them to make something of them.

However, the majority might find it easier to make a living in the major industries in Singapore in fields such as engineering, IT, production, financial services and education. Take a look at the Employment section in an newspaper and you will find that the requirements for such employment is first and foremost, a relevant certificate. This is true in cities all over the world.

A degree is therefore still a useful paper for most capable students to aspire towards. Our students may find more of their choices for university education accessible to them if they do well and choose the right subjects in the early parts of their education until JC/Polytechnic.

The pursuit of a degree is increasingly difficult with the competition from Singaporeans, PRs and even foreigners.

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