Today, I’ll be talking about something slightly more controversial, the topic of how school and society has (for the most part) slowly and steadily chipped away at this generation’s ability to thin both creatively and be original.
During the period when I was four to six years old, our generation grew up being validated by society for academic intelligence, performing well in school, and getting the “right answers”. It is by far the most widely accepted and valued type of “intelligence”. The media and the nation in general frequently put academically intelligent and gifted kids on a pedestal. For those who didn’t fare that well, we were told off, scolded, and maybe even beaten for doing poorly in school or give the “wrong answers” in tests and examinations.
It was as if the country was trying to build a generation of the best copy-and-paste machines in the world, repeatedly made to memorise formulas, concepts, and ideas.
Before regurgitating them to gain credit in the exams that determine whether you advance from the current grade or repeat it. And when you are unable to perform in these exams, society deems you a Failure. School isn’t about learning as much as it is about passing an exam. We grew up as kids so frightened of being wrong, so frightened of making mistakes. wrong, so frightened of making mistakes.
Society has stigmatised making mistakes so much so that we fear and abhor it. And the extremely unfortunate corollary to this, is a generation that is not prepared to be wrong, is a generation that is less willing to set their foot out the door and create original solutions or businesses.
The education system, to some degree, has educated kids out of their creative capacities, their willingness and propensity to think out of the box, for fear of being wrong and made fun of. For the same reason, the only people you hear dreaming of space travel are established Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and the three-year-olds who haven’t been through formal school.
Not that there is anything wrong with receiving an education, but personally, going through the Singapore education system is like going through one of the world’s best factory assembly lines. A factory assembly line working day and night to shape and mold the world’s best model employees.
I recently told a friend how its rather sobering that when you think of Singaporeans you can really imagine the very best being the right-hand man, the Vice President, maybe a Director to some of the world’s future revolutionary business leaders, but its hard to imagine a millennial Singaporean being that type of business owner in a self-made way.
And to make all this worse, what further damages our capacity and inclination towards entrepreneurship is the single clear resounding message that has been repeatedly driven or beaten into our DNA, that we need to do well in school so that we can be “successful”. And there are far too many families and the (Singapore) general public out there who define success in a very suffocating and narrow way: That you have to go to university and find a good job. And far too few that embrace and encourage exploring undiscussed possibilities, creating your own answers to some of the world’s problems and deviating from the conventional norm.
To end off this spiel, I leave you with an idea – No one has ever changed the world by doing what the world has told them to do.