kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Good education, but at what cost?

WHEN rebuking another’s article, it is imperative to get one’s facts right. I am referring to the letter “System is far from being world-class” (The Star, March 7) by V. Chandran of Singapore.

I wrote that University College London, while ranked seventh overall in the world, is also ranked 50th for engineering and technology. Is this not “a whisker above” Universiti Malaya, ranked 54th for the same discipline?

He wrote that currently 15-year-olds take PMR in Malaysia, forgetting that since 2014, all 15-year-old Malaysian students began taking the PT3 examinations.

He asked how it was disadvantageous to compare our students to those of other countries, although I never mentioned it was disadvantageous in the first place. I merely disagreed with the methods used by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) since it did some countries injustice.

Rather than slowing down the progress of our students, we encourage them to pursue their hobbies and interests while maintaining equilibrium between work and play. Consider the average Korean high school student attending specialty study institutes called hagwon. They start as early as 2am and continue to study well past midnight every day. Or take a look at Japanese students who attend cram schools (juku), all for the sake of acing their exams. Their entire pre-university life is defined by the number of formulae they can cram into their heads! Is this the nightmare we want to subject our children to?

At age 15, our students sit for PT3 (Year 8 equivalent) instead of Year 9 because education is not a race to finish the syllabus. We need five years of secondary education compared to Singapore’s four to ensure that our students are mentally stable.

Regarding the issue of teaching Maths and Science in English or Malay, the medium of instruction cannot affirm nor negate world-quality status. After all, Japan and Korea use their native language predominantly in education, yet both are considered world-class.

Asking why Malaysia is ranked below Vietnam in the 2012 Pisa Rankings is superfluous; Britain and the United States were ranked below Vietnam too.

He argued that Singapore’s education is a lot more competitive than ours but I fail to see this as a positive. Has education truly degenerated into a competition, where only the smartest succeed while the less academically inclined are left meandering the streets, jobless? Imagine grooming a seven-year-old to best his friends in national level examinations just to claim he had “achieved success” in his life. He would grow up with a perverse view of what success should be!

Referring to SPI C75’s letter, “Need to address other aspects of education” (The Star, March 7), the writer says Malaysian universities “churn out huge numbers of unemployable graduates”, ignoring that Malaysia’s current unemployment rate, at 3.30%, is significantly better than South Korea (3.50%), the US (4.90%), Britain (5.10%), Australia (6%) and Germany (6.20%).

The writer opines that our graduates lack soft skills. But look at an article from the official blog of the National University of Singapore, in which Doreen Ang, career advisor at NUS, said, “We frequently receive feedback from employers that although NUS graduates are well prepared for written and psychometric tests, they are lacking in soft skills like the ability to market themselves well during an interview”. This just shows that everyone is in the same boat.

In questioning the government programme to “retrain unemployed graduates”, we forget that in America, the federal government also retrains the unemployed under the Manpower Development and Training Act 1962.

Education is a necessity, but health is a privilege. Is it worth being at the top of the Pisa or QS Rankings if it means that our children suffer from stress-induced ill health? The fruits of education cannot be harvested at the expense of the physical and mental wellbeing of our children. Chan Weng Kit Ipoh The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 15 Mar 2016

Tags: education, health, mental

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