As the allegations among the Lee siblings abate (for now), let us take a step back and relook at articles which may help us make better sense of the escalating saga. Despite all the noise, no one can be certain of the facts. Rather than add to the speculation, perhaps it is best to stretch our lines of inquiry with a spectrum of readings.
With education, I’m on the progressive train. By progressive, I mean that assessments should ideally be continual, rather than compressed into the be-all and end-all of the Final Exam. It is perhaps the popular stance to take, unless Tiger Mums are your thing. The delight, then, when I realized I’ll have no exams to sit through on my exchange in the Australian National University!
Last week, I met a fellow Sociology student who thought otherwise. He rued the lack of exams with conviction. Exams, he believed, are entirely necessary to ensure a mastery of theories and concepts. Loathe them as you might, but without exams, most knowledge will rest only within our essays, and not make the journey to long-term memory.
“You can do anything you want” is a self-help refrain that often shows up in the sales pitches of generalist disciplines, not least Sociology. The problem with having too many options is that Sociology graduates-to-be still have no idea which career path(s) to take. Thus many end up as teachers, researchers, HR professionals, or administrators. Secretly we wonder, can we even get jobs in fields for which there are specialized degrees?
Indeed, Singaporeans do indulge in self-help titles – at least among those who read non-fiction at all. Kishore Mahbubani regards The Sunday Times’ bestseller list as our “national wall of shame” (Article: http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/can-singaporeans-read) and exhorts us to read more “serious books”, like Can Singapore Survive, which he wrote. He then points us in the direction of speeches by 3 of our founders, which he regard as geopolitical geniuses.
With regard to the pre-occupation with self-help – certainly not a uniquely Singaporean tendency – Kishore diagnoses the assumption that “if I take care of my individual self, I am fine.” This is flawed, because our fates are often largely shaped by external forces. Given Singapore’s necessary openness to globalization, Kishore is right in urging us to “replace angst with analysis”. As a Sociology student, I certainly agree.