Don’t view education as a competition


Jace Loi chen Min

Published: 4:02 AM, August 31, 2013
Updated: 3:00 AM, September 2, 2013

I read with interest the debate on the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) and the various education-related changes announced at the National Day Rally (“GEP a source of positive pressure for students”, Aug 30).

I think the system we currently have in place has its merits and demerits. As many have pointed out, what need to be changed are parents’ mindsets.

We should cultivate the attitude of seeing education and learning as a non-competitive journey to maximise a child’s potential, and not homogenise an entire generation’s skill sets by providing the same thing for everyone.

It is not wrong to have GEP or “top schools”, because they seek to maximise the potential of those who can excel academically.

What is wrong is to tag a superior value to them, which has also led us to tag a value on all occupations and skills and mentally rank everyone using those supposed values.

Our Government has emphasised the need to remain competitive and stay ahead.

But when we started out as a new nation, we had nothing and citizens then were not competing with other countries — they assumed their roles guided by the bigger goal of survival and a better life and we thrived.

Hence, we should ask ourselves: Do we truly thrive in competition or do we thrive when we each assume our strengths and do our best guided by a bigger sustainable goal?

Motivation by competition is not sustainable and takes a toll on a person’s mental well-being in the long term. It discourages lifelong learning and the continued honing of inherent strength.

Worst of all, it makes your happiness dependent on others’ performances, which you have no control over, leaving you and your children in a continuous state of stress.

We can implement changes to minimise comparison in the education system, but this may end up holding back the potential of some. It comes down to individuals choosing to stop comparing.

This is the best thing we can do for our children — to embrace their strengths and accept their weaknesses, view education as a non-competitive journey, pursue the bigger goal of maximising their potential and equip them with the skills to lead a happy and meaningful life.