atans1

Global champs in maths & science; so what?

In Uncategorized on 26/07/2016 at 6:54 am

If young S’poreans end up as chumps? Or rather unemployed PMETs, with FTs, some with fake degrees, getting the jobs because they are cheaper to hire?

FT had a long article (Article is on SgDaily’s FB wall) on S’pore’s education system: all the usual clichéd stuff that lazy journalists put out. The journalist should have read this post of mind before spewing BS.

But here be some gems in the muck.

This chart from the article shows that Israeli students are way, way behind our kids in maths and science tests. But where are IT, cybersecurity experts and entrepreneurs coming from? Certain;y not from S’pore but from Israel. Btw, NS there helps develop the relevant skills, not like here.

Take another example. Estonia is just below us, behind us but it’s a high-tech nation full of tech entrepreneurs. And it has a tinier population: 1.2m.

 

And one reader asked a relevant question:

How does Singapore do when creating people who can apply the maths they are so good at to actual progress? Theoretical physics etc? Are there are lot of top Singaporean research scientists using this maths around the world in leading research centres, or financial centres etc? Would be interesting to know. Otherwise you are just training people to pass exams, which is not exactly something to envy or emulate.

Another reader made this snaeky comment:

Horses for courses! Singapore’s requirements of its future citizens differ from the UK. Strategically Singapore, small and without natural resource endowments, has to think about attracting FDI and providing educated manpower towards meeting that goal.

As many commentators have raised, the Singaporean education system has not translated into any discernible  advantages in the theoretical sciences. Singapore also lacks the military-industrial complex, that has always proved crucial in funding – throwing money, at ideas. So as a future competitor the rest of the world can rest easy.

They’ll make good obedient workers – and students, though!

Then there’s this:

I used to interview a lot of students for the global graduate recruitment programme at my bank.  I came across a fair few from Singapore and think your comment is spot on.  You can tell that they would be very diligent employees and they were generally very competent at maths and the usual maths puzzles, but once you asked a question about for example geopolitical risks, they would often really flounder.  Since we were looking to recruit traders and risk managers, this was a big issue.

I’ll end with two S’poreans the author quoted, an unhappy, unimpressed parent, and a local academic:

A Singaporean bank executive and father of three, who asked not to be named, criticised a narrow focus on achieving top grades, which he regarded as the product of hard work as much as intelligence. “It’s a system that really channels you through the network as they deem fit. It’s their criteria, which is grades,” he says. “There’s nothing else. My question is: is that a fair assessment of someone’s capability? I don’t know whether you associate top grades with high IQ. I don’t think so.”

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One academic at a Singapore university said many of his students had been fashioned into ‘learning machines’

===========================

He praised the system for developing good “technical skills” in maths and imparting facts but said there was an unhealthy emphasis on drilling children according to an approved method. In his experience, children were marked down for using their own methods to solve maths puzzles, even if the answers were correct, he said. “When they’re given a set of [maths] problems … some children turn to their own logic. And the answer’s right, but they’re considered wrong. You’re stifling someone’s ability to think for themselves. You’re like robots. You can’t think out of the box.”

———

*Note I disagree with the parent on “using 0wnself logic” because it may not work. When I was in sec 1, we were taught a maths certain technique. I tot there was a short cut, and the teacher took the trouble of showing that while the short cut works most of the time (he had difficulty finding an example of where my trick didn’t work), it can lead to a serious miscalculation. `

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. If a Singaporean wants to grow, he has to get out of this country. We have good, even gifted people, but what have they achieved ? Singaporeans are nurtured to be part of the Singapore machine. Not to be iconoclasts like Steve Jobs, Gates or Musk. They are taught to be ants, period. Not a bad thing in the 60’s, but very bad for the new millenium. In short, we are dull, and lacking in dreams. The Singapore brand, once so sterling, might well turn out to be a universal joke.

  2. everybody in this region knows that SG’s main economic competitors are m’sia and hk (the govt officials and businessmen in 2 places also know this fact). so, as long as SG is able to beat m’sia and hk economically most of the times, then SG’s economic position in this region is secure.

  3. No worries man. Singapore can always fall back on its economic cornerstone and thrive as entrepot hub and tax haven. Just need a population of 2.5M at most to support such economic policy.

  4. Why risk by getting out of line?

    Go through the mill, and after a stint in the military, a sinecure awaits and so long as loyalty and obedience is displayed, the iron rice bowl won’t develop any hairline crack. Even when sinking an enterprise like NOL or crapping SMRT, when the as yet to be greatest or Prominent Mathematician is the highest paid clown?

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