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    • Sinapore leads the world in science, math and reading but is it the right approach? What should a good educaiton focus on? How do you know you've succeeded? How much emphasis should be put on testing? Is streaming the best approach? Is differentiation in the classroom good or bad?

      I've been a teacher in Alberta, Canada for just over 13 years (grades 5-9 mainly math/science) and I've had some experience with streaming as well as differentiated classrooms. My experience in the classroom has shown me that streaming seems to work very well for those at the top of the stream but works poorly for those at the bottom. A classroom with many academically challenged students often is a classroom with many complex behavioural problems that often interfere with learning. In addition to that I've found that there is a dearth of good examples for students to learn from one another. When you have so few kids with the social and experience capital there just don't seem to be enough things students can draw on to learn from. While it can be helpful to have students of similar abilities to give a lesson to, these students often can't focus or follow a long lesson anyhow. Furthermore these students with cognitive and learning challenges require more teacher or teacher assistant time.

      Students of all abilities don't learn to work with and respect other students with different interests and abilities. Some high achieving students also lose their confidence when they go from classes where they are a high achiever to classes where everyone of their peers is of similar abilities. It's nice to have students work together to help each other learn and this happens best within a diverse classroom.

      So how much diversity is optimal? How successful is differentiation? How challenging is it to teach differentiation? Should we stream like Singapore does? What do we value in a citizen? Do you think Singapore will actually change anytime soon? Are you happy with the education system in your area? How much of a factor socio economic status to the success of students in different systems? So many questions.

    • Living in Malaysia, you can probably imagine how often we are compared to Singapore. We often compare ourselves to Singapore too. When it comes to education, I don't think we differ too much.

      In Malaysia there's a heavy emphasis on credentials and exam results too. Even in tertiary education, we are often still asked for our SPM (the major exam from last year of high school) results.

      There's a common belief in the country that the more A's you get the smarter you are, but I don't believe in this one bit. Firstly, because our exams focus more on memorisation rather than critical thinking or actually understanding the subject matter. Secondly, why are we teaching our youth that quantity matters more than quality? If someone is interested in arts or language, why should they be shamed for getting a B in biology or physics?

      Unfortunately as well, Malaysia has this mentality that "smart" people are those who take up medicine, engineering, or accounting as career paths, but those who do music, language, or arts are "not so smart". It's a terrible mentality to have and I strongly oppose it.

      This happens because even as early on as high school, we are made to believe that "smart" students study science while "not so smart" students study arts. The top students are streamed into science classes while those with poorer results go into the lower classes to learn arts. It's hugely disrespectful to the arts, and very presumptuous that a student who studies arts only does so because they aren't "smart" enough. What if a student is genuinely interested in the arts?

      There's a lot wrong with Malaysia's education system, but I'm not hopeful that it will improve any time soon. If at all.

    • I spent a month in Malaysia working on a project for a high tech company with someone who had one of those non-artistic jobs you mentioned and she both loved her job and was quite competent at it.

      Six months later, I worked on a project in Mexico with an accountant from Malaysia. He could’ve been a professional singer: he was always a big hit at the company’s Karaoke night. But instead he was unhappy as an accountant and not particularly successful career-wise.

      @JazliAziz Is it common in Malaysia for professionals to have a “mid-life crisis” and quit their jobs to be artists?

    • I can't really say about how common a mid-life crisis is in the country, but I do notice more and more people abandoning their "traditional" jobs which they studied for and pursuing a career they are passionate about instead. And they don't wait until they reach "mid-life" to do so. I have friends who studied biomedicine and biotechnology in university who aren't working in their respective fields. One guy is a full-time photographer, another sells cakes, one sells beauty and make-up products. Perhaps in the past people were more inclined to work based on what they studied, but I think many people from my generation and younger and more inclined to pursue their passion rather than a job they studied for. A lot of students in university nowadays are already starting to get involved in entrepreneurship, even before they graduate. I think it kind of shows how outdated our education system is. People learn the "traditional" way, but end up not applying what they learn after graduation. Most of these people learn the skills they need after school.

    • Perhaps in the past people were more inclined to work based on what they studied, but I think many people from my generation and younger and more inclined to pursue their passion rather than a job they studied for.

      The logical conclusion is that parents are more open to these “flights of passion” because their child has a degree and an appropriate career to fall back on. That’s a much healthier approach than the “I’ll work for five years on Wall Street and then quit to start my music career.” Po Bronson interviewed over 900 people for What Should I Do With My Life? and of the people who planned to quit their high paying job after a few years to pursue their dream, no one did it.

      No one.

      Po’s explanation was that after several years people got comfortable with the life that comes with a higher paycheck and weren’t willing to give it up. In addition, after several years invested in a successful career, people have a sense of satisfaction in what they’ve accomplished.

    • How is it not equal now? Is it too expensive? Singapore suggests that a full meritocracy would be equal access but in some ways is impossible and wouldn't necessarily change the current system much anyhow. Maybe I'm missing something.

    • Admission into university is usually based on a quota system. So one race is given more slots than others. Some scholarships are also given based on race.

    You've been invited!