Today in Parliament Member of Parliament Mr. Ang Wei Neng called for the Education Ministry to send Singaporean students on mandatory overseas community service trips to rural villages in neighbouring countries (TODAY, May 29). “I am confident that such field trips will help our youths appreciate Singapore’s success better, reduce the sense of entitlement and inculcate the value of service to others,” Mr. Ang said.
There is so much Singapore can share with her neighbours. Every city aspires to be Singapore, to have her infrastructure: the “city lights”, the “air-conditioning”, and the “morning traffic”. And our students will make the perfect ambassadors, no? These myopic, unappreciative Gen Yers (and snoozing Zers?)… Get them to collect donations of books and clothes, to paint murals, and teach English lessons. Exactly the things the villagers need.
These field trips will be “relatively tough” – make no mistake. These villages are so “rural” (unlike “urban” Singapore), and so their supposed lack of amenities will help these entitled youths “better appreciate Singapore’s success”. Focus on all the things they do not have. These villages are everything that Singapore is not.
On these trips teachers must emphasise the importance of taking quality photographs. After all they are evidence of hard work, empathy, and service to the community. Plus they make great Facebook profile pictures. How impressed will prospective employers be when they review the social media accounts of these students? Furthermore, “[i]t will generate a wind of gratitude … [and] help us cherish the pioneering spirit that built the Singapore we see today” sounds like the perfect pitch during a scholarship or university interview.
However my greatest worry is that expanding opportunities so liberally would erode competitive advantages. Now projects must have unique selling propositions. Recollections at interviews and sharing sessions must be even more impactful:
“The kids were overjoyed to hear about the outside world [flash Facebook picture of a volunteer with a child]. Because none of us had done construction work before we were constantly behind schedule, yet in the end we had to rush so that we could pose with an unfurled banner on the new courtyard [show photograph of the group in helmets, colourful banner in hand]. We would not have done it without the help of the workers. Most of the time we were in the way, but it really was the thought that counted. We forged friendships, we made a difference, and we gave them hope for a better tomorrow.”
“It is fair to say that the lives of these children – so poor and unfortunate – have changed after our short trip. What would they have done without us [cue tears]?”