Pass on the baton

Hello once again! I realise that I’ve been pouring out a lot of opinionated posts lately, and I haven’t been dabbling in the creative/hobby thing that I used to do very often. Well, it’s not much different with this post, because I’m going to be discussing an issue that’s somewhat pretty hot this week.

Yes, I am going to talk politics (OMG I hope I don’t get censored lel). I won’t be talking directly politics (like what party is better or what the government’s problems are and what should be done…because I clearly lack a lot of knowledge on that part heh) (though I’ve been watching Crash Course hmmm) but I wanted to express my current understanding of what’s been going on so far, and hopefully digest the awfully confusing politics into something quite relatable for youngsters like us who can’t quite vote yet (or anyone else really).

I do not have an opinion on who should be voted in, or if PAP should stay in power, or if Singapore is facing a political reform etc etc. I can’t say for sure that the government is doing poorly, or performing well or that it will eventually collapse. Reading a few articles written by more politically involved people may help your understanding, though I hope you won’t be too swayed either (Remember to take everything with a pinch of salt! Including my own words too).

Here is blogger Roy Ngerng’s post on Singapore’s not so pretty statistics (though many question the credibility of his claims, but interesting nonetheless).

Catherine Lim’s take on the PAP Fatigue (I personally quite like her writings)

And there’re a whole bunch of articles floating around, which I’m sure plenty of you have seen on FB or Twitter etc, that do the whole political thing better than I do heh.

So anyway, what I’d like to share are the key points that I felt that the current situation has shed a light upon, and certain points I feel aren’t discussed enough.

What has been mainly discussed:

  1. The call for a more people-oriented government, with emphasis on well-being, partnership between government and its people and the emotional development of its people. Basically an alternative to PAP’s often economic-centred, business driven and elite approach to politics.
  2. Economic inequality, mostly propagated by paying high salaries to the elite (and often the political influences) and the expats. The lack of a more comprehensive welfare system by the government, in areas such as housing, healthcare and especially for the ageing (retirement funds, CPF, Medishield and so forth).
  3. Education, contributing to unnecessary stress and often results in the stigmatisation of individuals from a very early age. This then also snowballs into the prevalent pressure of competitiveness, be it in the workforce or raising a child.

These are broad generalisations of my current understanding of what’s going on, and this list is certainly not exhaustible. I am not quite fluent in economics, so I shall discuss, to a greater length, the first and third point.

What isn’t discussed enough:

The consequences of a newly reformed government that is not centred on the PAP. The consequences will definitely entail both good and bad, but have we really considered the impact, on not just a national scale, of such a political reform? PAP’s controlled and precise ruling, frequently criticised for being apathetic to its people and treating Singapore as if it were one big business enterprise (which is true to a certain extent), has worked wonderfully well in transforming Singapore in its early days into the exceptional miracle that has countries around the world trying to emulate its systems.

But of course, this success had to come with many major costs, like the many we are familiar with such as freedom of speech and political liberty. Hearing the common call for a more people-oriented government and one that is not so business-like, may imply a more complicated consequence, in that Singaporeans are willing to trade a more global outlook, for a more inward homely focus. Aware, or unaware, this is a consequence that isn’t quite discussed as it should be. Yes, I’m making the assumption that these two cannot be achieved simultaneously and successfully. They can be, but often, one is prioritised over the other. It is also important to note, that true enough, PAP has its experience to bank on in the aspects of diplomacy with other countries, though opposition parties may also perform equally or even better if given the chance to do so.

I can only sincerely hope that the recent politics do not sway solely based on emotions, but that the decisions made are also backed by sufficient considerations of this aspect too. (I wonder, too, if Singapore truly has a new government that works more inclusively towards well-being and lifestyle, and national issues, that we’d do well on our own without much foreign dabbling because that’s what Singapore is pretty good at and I’m not sure how it’ll pan out, maybe for the better or for the worse).

As for education, it is common to hear the complaints of stress and competitiveness, as well as the rampant elitism that threatens meritocracy today. Many advocate changes to the academic curriculum, positing that more effort be poured into developing one’s talents and character. This is good, and definitely a step in the right direction in educating the next generation. However, most discussions on education often ignore the elephant in the room, that is, why is there still a need for academic excellence? Why is it that, regardless of how talented or kind or charismatic an individual is, they are still subject to the same academic process and rigour in a relentless paper chase?

Here is a YouTube series of discussions uploaded on the government’s channel that did quite a decent job in exploring the various aspects of education that is under scrutiny. In here, there were a couple of points and suggestions made that were pretty interesting.

One issue raised was the process of streaming. This is common to all in the education system, and somewhat a milestone for us. It can motivate, but can also demoralise a child based on their supposed academic potential. There are various specialised programmes too, such as GEP and schools like SOTA and SSS. There are various learning institutes, to cater to every learning pace, as long as the individual goes through the common curriculum and emerges with some kind of paper qualification. The education system is very streamlined, and although it is efficient in churning out results, it is also restrictive and does not encourage learning outside the boundaries.

Why then, is such a system so important to Singapore? Is it possible to call for an educational reform as well? I don’t know much about how the education system can change, but the importance of quantifiable results and paper qualifications will always remain pivotal to Singapore’s significance, especially on a global scale. It can be quite difficult to imagine, but picture a company that’s trying to get you to hire their services. Most realistically, most of us will look at their credentials and their past work, and if we’re ideal enough, we’ll consider their talents and character. Such a competitive and fast-paced world means that our credentials and reputation will be a security blanket, and one that can ensure that Singapore remains relevant too.

Singapore will always have academics as its core and foundation, as it’s the very premise we built ourselves upon and if we cannot achieve excellence in education (solely through paper qualifications and quantifiable results) we can’t really validate our reputation for excellence and high standards, because people will often always be persuaded first by how rigorous you are before personality traits or talents, and the best way to prove that is probably through education. This is a pretty extreme view to take, but it is one that isn’t discussed further, and not properly reviewed and tweaked to ensure that we don’t solely focus on the academic potential of each individual but also give sufficient considerations to their talents and character too (which is a mighty difficult task to tackle, more so with many other pressing problems).

I believe academic rigour is really important not because of smarts, but because it proves and validates on the most universal scale, but does not define one’s capabilities though these two separate concepts are often argued as one and the same. (Doing well academically doesn’t correlate always to intelligence, it is actually a better marker of one’s hard work and effort, though many complain that the rich and elite have an advantage due to tuition. The video I linked earlier talks about this too.)

Here’s a lecture by Tong Yee I thought was insightful and gives a better understanding of why Singapore used to work the way it is, and the problems we now face with such system. This understanding can be applied to the education issue I discussed earlier, and to many other aspects too.

Ultimately, I feel that any government will work well for Singapore, as long as its people are willing to actively feedback and be more understanding on why politics work the way it does. Any kind of leadership requires a lot of two-way communication, and I suppose the government will need a lot of that because its accountable for so many people.

In the end, we have to acknowledge that the people up there in higher authorities are people like us, and they slip up sometimes. They can’t possibly fulfil every promise made perfectly, nor can they always embody the values they champion.

If there is mutual respect and understanding, collaboration will come easier, and tensions won’t be so high. It is quite redundant to attack an opposition because one’s position is threatened (this, by the way, is a logical fallacy) but instead partnerships should be formed based on differences of opinion so as to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

This is a very ideal stand on politics, but I kinda feel that politics itself is very idealistic and ambitious in itself. Sometimes, a realistic break is needed to really consider why thinking about politics is so important, and why it matters so much to us right now, regardless of elections or not.

This is my first time discussing politics to such great lengths on any kind of platform, even in face-to-face conversations. Typing this out has allowed me to see a few caveats in my understanding, but I’ve left my thoughts written as they were unrefined in my head. There are many assumptions I have made, but I kept them as assumptions because discussing assumptions will probably add up to a couple more boring paragraphs. I will probably have to work on citations as well, so as to keep the thoughts a lil bit more valid and relatable.

I shall work on more interesting posts, like what I actually do during my free time instead of just thinking because I’m beginning to feel like this blog pretty much depicts me as this gloomy nerdy girl who only thinks heh. It’s the September holidays, and maybe I’ll have some fun things to post soon 🙂

Anyway, I’m close to two thousand words (omg) and I guess it’s time for me to sign off this post! Thanks for reading haha and I hope I didn’t bore you, and most hopefully, didn’t offend anyone in any way!

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