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A load of crap from the education minister

I haven’t been blogging for a while but I have to say something about this because it makes my blood boil when I see adults putting kids down.

I was floored when I read what was reported in the Straits Times recently about a school principal’s “advice” to her students.

“The Straits Times reported on Saturday that the principal of a girls’ school had told one of her Sec 5 classes they might as well apply now for places in the ITE because as they were unlikely to do well in the ‘O’ levels at the end of the year.” (ST)

Imagine my horror when the Minister of State for Education, Lui Tuck Yew, defended the principal by saying:

“Principals need to do their job to convey this message to the students and teachers to do their part to challenge them, set high goals and to help them achieve these goals.”

Did anyone notice the double-talk by the minister? A deft sleight-of-tongue, if you will.

First, the minister defended the principal effectively asking the students to lower their goals (go to ITE ) and in the next breath he urges teachers to “set high goals” for their students and “help them achieve these goals”.

So, what exactly was the minister saying?

Sadly, this is another instance of the tiresome “pragmatism” which government leaders are promoting – from the very top right down to the rank and file. “Be realistic! If you can’t make it or know that you can’t make it, don’t try so hard! Take the lesser road. You’re not cut out for the high road, buddy!”

And for goodness’ sake, realize this at the beginning of the new school term! You’re doomed! ITE awaits you!

Imagine this alternative:

The principal gave her advice to her students to set lower goals and apply for the ITE. Education minister hears about it. He is aghast, troubled, and concerned with what the teacher said.

Education minister makes a public statement:

“The teacher’s advice is wrong. It is especially wrong and demoralizing to her students for her to advise them in such a way, especially at the beginning of the new school year. Instead, what she should have done is to encourage her students.

Like the Nike advertisement says, impossible is nothing. Each child’s potential is limitless! They’re just starting out on life! Yes, they may have failed previously or not done as well. But so what? That does not mean they can’t do better, or achieve the goals they want.

Lets look at why the children didn’t do well and lets see if we the adults can do better in encouraging them, helping them, lift their spirits and set their sights even higher.”

Now, such a statement from the minister would have reversed what the teacher did – demoralizing her students, making them laughing stocks or the center of jokes (now that the media has reported it) and even if they really applied for the ITE, the students would not feel much better – since it has been insinuated by their teacher that the ITE is the lower goal. (It’s The End, as Jack Neo would say.)

The minister for education was woefully inept as a leader – and in a ministry which is suppose to EDUCATE and INSPIRE our young!

He should be telling our young to reach for the stars, set their sights on the unlimited horizon and to carve new paths where there are none! Set your goals high so that even if you missed, you would land higher than you thought you could.

Instead, what the minister has said and done is effectively telling the students:

“I’m sorry, kids. Your teacher is right. You guys are hopeless. Your previous results have shown this. Save us and yourself lots of heartaches and just lower your standards and expectations of yourself. Go apply for the ITE, take your teacher’s advice.”

I am just simply floored that a minister who is suppose to inspire has instead taken the low road of “pragmatism”.

And I thought the PM just recently spoke about a City Of Possibilities.

It is impossible with teachers and ministers like the two in this case.


17 Responses

  1. I totally agree.

    When I was in an all-boys missionary secondary school, my principal Winston Hodge (now the principal of RJC) did the same thing too, calling in Secondary 5 students on the first few days of school to advise them to drop the O levels and head straight to the ITEs. These are the students who have worked hard enough to qualify for the O levels and are similarly elated to receive a confidence boost from the N levels, only to receive a strong discouragement when not even their school believes that they can do well enough to pass and go into a local polytechnic.

    Even if they are able to produce “facts” to show that on the whole, 40% of N level students do not do well enough in the O level exams to go into a local polytechnic, nobody should rid them of a chance they themselves have earned. I for one know that some of these people who have been advised to enter the ITEs and to drop their O levels, but have refused, are now degree holders and professionals in myriad fields.

    Whether the principal mentioned in the report did it in order to bolster her schools’ academic performance, this is something only she herself would know. But nevertheless, even if she did it truly with the intention of wanting to help the student, the substance of the message (which in turn is defined by the tone of the message) is wrong.

  2. It is sad, but that is the nature of politicians. They say one thing, but end up doing the complete opposite to serve their own interest, eg. keep their high-paying jobs.

  3. he have effectively reversed all the previous education minister’s efforts for the ITEs.

    hahah i had enough of their shallow talks too.

  4. oh, didn’t you realise ? It’s their honest mistakes to say that, really. They didn’t mean to be so mean. It’s a world of possibilities , erm, possibilities to put you down whenever necessary. ha.

  5. But what is wrong with going to ITE? I never saw going to ITE as a doom route in life and the school has been known to produce many fine candidates into the workforce.

    We Singaporean’s have to change that shallow mindset about ITE.

  6. The minister is really out of whack.

    Here are my comments on his words.

  7. Should not the decision to take the said subjects lie with the students themselves?

    Of course, teachers can ADVICE, not DICTATE, provide GUIDANCE, not CONTROL. Smells so much like the current government and systems in place.

    It should be for the benefit of the STUDENT, NOT the school, should a teacher discourage the student not to take any particular subjects.

    Ultimately, it should be the students to decide for themselves.

    Sheesh, what is our education system heading. I fear for our future generations if everything is for KPIs or putting up wayang shows.


  8. “impossible is nothing” is adidas.

  9. […] recently when former army man and current Minister of State Education Lui Tuck Yew came out in defence of the principal for the whole “Go To ITE!!!” fiasco, I was kind of surprised by the […]

  10. Ah Loong should kick rear admiral Ah Lui the failed Navy commander and sack him for not helping to make Singapore a ‘City of Possibilities’.

    He’s just one of many spare ministers who are on probation and get bounced around till they land somewhere where they do the least harm. Lim Hng Kiang (and Yeo Cheow Tong before him) is the best example. No malice here — tone is well separated from the message.

  11. […] – Molly Meek: Mediocrity in Meritocracy: There must be, there cannot be – Looking For LaLaLand..: A load of crap from the education minister – Insane Polygons: The Emerald Helm of Unlimited Stupidity – Recruit Ong: Lui tio kan! LOL – […]

  12. It is absolutely ridiculous. His speech. His take. But let us all not forget.. this is a man in a party, a system that he has to adhere to. He is carrying out his task. Like a cog in his ceasless and almost perfect-looking machinary. He does his part.

    It is probably MOE’s policy to stand behind their staff/principal, etc. Granted it is a policy to laud for, BUT, not in instances where it is CLEAR that there is unfairness; where power dictates, where education becomes a joke, where students are demoralised and put down, where which sch standing at which band (now that there is no longer the ranking sys) matters.

    Everything is a joke. And they take us for idiots.

  13. […] – Molly Meek: Mediocrity in Meritocracy: There must be, there cannot be – Looking For LaLaLand..: A load of crap from the education minister – Insane Polygons: The Emerald Helm of Unlimited Stupidity – Recruit Ong: Lui tio kan! LOL – […]

  14. I don’t think the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will have any chance in the Singapore education system.

  15. Cool!.. Nice work…

  16. if i were a N level pupil i will not take the principal’s advice as an insult
    the ITE and the POLYS have helped thousands of Singaporeans to be equipt for earning a living
    those who feel insulted have the mindset that NUS is still the best
    i would just say thank you for the good advice and go to ITE and make a living and watch those who go to the U still looking for a suitable job

  17. daite na pivon

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