I have spent the recent 2 to 4 years studying with the top talents in the nation, and in the experience, I have interacted (and is constantly interacting) with the polarized crowd of what the public would term elites. This would probably be a short commentary on those right at the top, but not conspicuous. I guess this is the group of people, silently slogging, and accomplishing who deserves our attention, since those ‘rah-rah’ councilors of different institutions would have easily caught it. Before the social commentary on this group of people, I guess there’s a need to first delve into how the system has created different kinds of people.
The education in our nation has created extremely distinct, polarized groups of students; but that’s not to discredit the role of the environment, family, and culture played in molding these students. I am, in essence, saying that there’s distinctly different approach or perceptions towards the same system that I speak of here. Sparing the lower extremes, the hierarchy starts from those between going out of school and in school; those in school but failing tests and willing to continue with failing; those failing, or just passing but working hard to move on; those who are average but hoping to get out of the system fast; those who are doing well but want to be at the top; those who are doing great, and have exceptional portfolio; and finally, those who are simply out of the world in intelligence, would hope to remain so, but also to remain excluded from the rest. Well, I can insert some more groups in between, or expand the list, and go on rambling but I’ll just stop here. I am saying that the attitudes instilled and held by the students belong to such vast categories that I really have to doubt they are really thinking about the same thing. In any case, I guess it’s because of the different position they are in the hierarchy that affects their attitudes and perhaps their subsequent actions and that would mean that the information flow within the system, between different hierarchy is not consistent and there’s informational asymmetry that would potentially further escalate the differences between each of these ‘classes’.
I am starting to sound like I am criticizing a social system, a society but I guess we can’t escape from the fact that the education system is essentially a society manipulated partially by the authorities and subjected to differing artificial conditions that have intended and unintended consequences on these players involved. There’s a greater need for communication between the hierarchy, to let everyone see for themselves what everyone else’s lives are about. Information flow is the prime factor that determines the incentives for individuals to work hard, that reveals the prospects of any individual and spur them on, that democratizes opportunities, that enhances the true competition and eliminates the ‘crony’ tinge in our systems. And perhaps, in writing this tract, I am essentially contributing to this body of information that may spur some on and encourage others while placing some others in less complacent positions and thus would continue to work really hard for what they truly want. It is the different barriers in information, the uneven distribution of information that stifles and block opportunities from some who really want them and further polarize the attitudes that students have.
Going back to the key topic, I have discovered that out of the people whom we normally identify as the top, there are those who are really noisy and ill-disciplined although they can study hard and produce results. On the other extreme, there are really studious people who studies really hard and get really good grades but they are extremely quiet, conservative and they believe fun lies in reading books and surfing really educational websites (they probably also think MSN is evil). Finally, there are those who balances things really well (plus a glib tongue that is tinted with truth and sincerity, compounding on their strong capabilities and sometimes the lack of need to sleep) and are easily considered the best of all students and indisputably the Crème de la crème. I guess those who grabs our attention enough are good enough with that and so I’ll turn my attention to really quiet people.
The system has emphasized on grades and results so there the quiet hardworking group of people who pushed on, even after the system emphasized on speaking up. Many people actually talks often but there’s a difference between those who daren’t talk and those who have nothing better to say. I have met people who are simply average who can speak a great deal about movies, fashion and chic fic but when it comes to academic stuff, they simply have nothing to say. To them, the body of knowledge they draw from is both academic and social but that which they contribute to is essentially that of social. In this sense, these people don’t interact and involve themselves in the things they learn in school and simply take them at face value and apply them wherever deemed fit on conditioned so. The quiet workers, on the other hand, is highly involved in what they are learning and are constantly thinking if not interacting with this intellectual body of knowledge. They engaged themselves if not the others in the learning process and have their own ideas, which perhaps, more often than not, they daren’t express for fear of rejection and criticisms. The system has created a culture of fear of criticism that has impeded some students from reaching the top notch where scholastic potential is concerned. Those perfectly and conspicuously on the top has gone pass that barrier but these quiet workers have failed there despite their innate abilities. Of course, the noisy but hardworking bunch are simply unable to hit the top because of their natural abilities or simply because their skills are not demanded if not for the fact that their noise may have been too much to bear.
Singapore has ample talents, it is just that they don’t show themselves. There are simply some exceptional people who believes that overt demonstration of talent is wrong. The system, instead of over-focusing on molding people into the way they want them to be, they should be actually eliciting more information from the crowd, fostering a culture of self-promotion and finding out how to channel the different talents into the jobs they need to fill. People can be perfectly suited for a job, specially trained [sometimes against their wishes] for the job, or [something which is so often overlooked] grow to meet certain of the job’s requirement and then redefine the job scope such that the job also evolves to accommodate them. This unexplored means of work distribution and defining or grooming talent may prove to work exceptionally well for our current nation of shy people, since the culture has not been altered. The local talents should have their brand and style of being talented while conforming to global standards of what constitutes a talent and not allow our system’s definition of talents to be the only one in the market.