“The best way to sustain a nation’s competitiveness is to build human capital. That means focus on education” (When School Comes First, Mr. Nicholas D. Kristof).
Mr. Nicholas D. Kristof, in the commentary “When School Comes First” (November 11, 2011), makes the excellent proposition that continued faith in the legacy of Confucianism – especially the commitment to quality education – has empowered many Asian countries to competitively build human capital. However, the convenient generalisation that “Asian schools don’t nurture creativity” not only overlooks the tremendous advancements institutions and administrations have made, but also pedantically propagates the false stereotype that Asian graduates are uncreative or non-inventive.
Historically, the Asian population has been proactive and innovative in the development of new ideas, concepts and creations. Our recent excellence in terms of getting the basics in language, mathematics and science right – as established in multiple international assessments – have constantly functioned as a solid base for students to take-off. Progressively, they are establishing themselves in assorted industries and colleges.
In Singapore, even though standardised examinations have been widely perceived as academic benchmarks for schoolchildren to aspire towards, there have been positive – albeit lethargic – moves to reduce the traditional reliance on rote memorisation and regurgitation. Barriers and challenges still exist, but students are encouraged to maximise their potential beyond the scholastic sphere through the arts, co-curricular endeavours, the humanities, community service and sports. Nonetheless, while change is the new constant, the fundamentals remain solid: a sound and multi-dimensional education programme is imperative for a country’s sustainable and viable growth in the future.