It always amuses me when Malaysians talk about Singapore, mainly because it’s so easy to spot the traffic light of emotions. It begins with free-flowing negativity, until they stumble upon a positive little tinge of amber, before finally coming to a complete halt when they realise they’d much rather be living here.
One Mr Desmond Lee of Kuala Lumpur wrote in The Star today, expressing admiration for Singapore’ education system. While I truly do not feel like it’s a fair comparison, I appreciate the honest revelation of his disdain for lavishing praise on Singapore.
Desmond epitomises everything that has gone wrong with the education system. I’m trying to be as endearing as I can now, because I recognise that this has little to do with one’s personal opinions, and a whole lot to do with the way we as Asians are educated. If anything, it is sympathy that I feel. And I’m not being patronising.
“My nephews and nieces study there, and I feel that they will have a better chance of securing employment in MNCs upon graduation.”
This particular sentence is exactly what bothers me. Why has education become simply a stepping stone to securing employment? It is a tragedy, that we would attend school, do revision and assignments, study and take exams, simply to get a job. That we would overlook the prospects of gaining knowledge, and trade that desire for materialism. That we would cast our eyes on the future which, while not so distant, may not arrive for all of us, instead of enjoying what we know to be genuine now: the present. That we would blink away the curiosity we held so dear as children, and ask questions with our eyes firmly set on the material acquisition.
Today, we go to school, not because we love to learn. Not because we love to ask. We go to school because we love to own. We love to own, but not just anything. We love to own that which we can hold, feel and touch. We love to own that which we can present, and impress with. We love to own that which can be replaced.
Like I said, the blame must be placed squarely on the shoulders of policy makers. They have managed to turned us into materialistic, power-hungry beasts whose only aim in life is to earn enough money to purchase, and steer the economy into overdrive so that they themselves can reap the benefits. We have become a people obsessed with monetary and physical value, and without even realising it, our lives are being pissed away slowly and surely.
While it is important to understand how fragile we are, it is equally essential to recognise how ridiculously powerful we can be. We are, while far from the finished product, a marvel of evolution. To be stifled and held back by the weight and pressure to provide, to earn, to own, it fills me with utmost sorrow. For before you know it, you will be worm food. And you would’ve spent your entire life working to own, only to give it all up in the end.
Instead, live free. Take in information, and find joy in the fact that you can think, you can absorb, you can dream. Smile, because while society can be vile, and people are cruel, life is not as poignant when you realise the wonders you are capable of.
We are far too remarkable to be repressed. Learn. But don’t do it because you want to work for an MNC. Don’t do it because it will bring you wealth, and wealth in turn will bring you goods, and goods in turn will bring you satisfaction. Do it because you are alive, and you are still capable of basic cerebral functions. Enjoy education not because it’s a step closer to a Porsche, but because it is another piece of wisdom acquired.
“O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and YOU may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?