Thoughts : Singapore (Education) : The Cultivation of Passion in our Education System

I was pleased to read about Chinese High students being given the liberty to pursue their own interests in education (‘Chinese High students get more space to grow’; ST, Nov 1). I have always believed that it is passion that makes a successful person. It is this quality that sets successful people apart, brings out the creative edge in them and causes them to thrive. An education system that is too rigid and that dictates what students ought to learn will not produce passionate people interested in life and their studies.

I speak from experience and I believe many others can testify to the fact that what they learnt in school has more often than not left them bored and unmotivated. The things I pursue passionately and love today – and there are many – have all been cultivated during my time outside formal education. As I often tell my friends, some of my best years were those spent in polytechnic – not because of what I learnt there, but because I was able to find time outside school to explore my interests.

There is so much more to life than science, maths or business. And that is why I am glad The Chinese High is giving its students a week off every three months to pursue their interests. Indeed, I am sure it will be life-changing for many a student there.

We need to put students back in the centre of education, allowing them to discover their own passion and interests. This can only be positive. This way, we are also acknowledging that students are important, and that education is important in and of itself. We should not always dictate what a student learns just because employers want more of a particular kind of student.

Sure, we need to be pragmatic to a certain extent, but let us also recognise that the purpose of education is not to create ‘model’ students, as seen through the eyes of the Government and employers. Allowing students to discover their talents, interests and passions – even if doing so results in them eventually not contributing to the economy the way we would have liked them to – is not an indictment of the education system. Or, at least, it should not be seen as such and it won’t be, so long as we get rid of the idea that the pre-eminent reason for schooling is to produce economically useful people.

Bogotá, Colombia

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