Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ngiam Tong Dow and danger of Group Think

Hi Friends,

Ngiam Tong Dow is yet again trying to get the ruling class to listen to his opinions about where the system needs tweaking.

His mind is a treasure trove that the government would do well to take advantage of.

I have already written about this here ( yes, I know it was also a well-disguised shameless plug for my alma mater, ACS!).

The argument can be succinctly summarised in one sentence:

If all our future leaders , who are today’s smart kids, are schooled in only 1 or 2 schools, it is highly likely that they will see the world through the same set of lenses- and that is not ideal.

I agree with Ngiam that a diversity of opinions and solutions for Singapore’s complex problems is preferable to the situation now where scholars who will likely be senior civil servants or politicians pass through the same well-trodden path which their seniors had trodden upon. The risk-free path.

The talking is the easy part.

The gargantuan task is this (warning-Long sentence) –

Since Singapore’s educational system is purportedly meritocratic, and “risk-averse” parents being “risk-averse” Singaporeans would naturally take the path most well-trodden and prod their kids onto this self-same well trodden path, how do we tell these parents that for the sake of diversity of ideas and for the good of the nation, their kids should not go to the “R” schools even though they got A* for all subjects at the Primary School Leaving Exams and are already representing the state in Wushu/Youth Orchestra/Five Stones by virtue of attending enrichment classes since the time they popped out of the womb, but should attend secondary school and Junior College in the Best of the Rest instead?

Tough sell!

Only diehard ACSians ( and others from St Joseph/ Chinese High) will contemplate such folly!

For the records, I have nothing against the R schools. I even have many friends from these fine schools! (haha)

Cheers and have great weekend!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Addendum (9 Sept 07 8.55pm): I just remember that I wrote about Mr. Ngiam some time ago and here it was about "Singapore the Nation is Bigger than Singapore the Country" Enjoy

S'pore in need of a talent spread?

Don't crowd bright students in a handful of top schools: Ngiam

Jasmine Yinjasmine@mediacorp.com.sg (Today 7th Sept 07)

EVEN after retirement, one of Singapore's most prominent former civil servants cannot resist bringing up a pet topic whenever he bumps into the political leadership.
.
The Republic's best and brightest should be "spread out" across the public and private sectors — and across schools — believes former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow (picture), 70.
.
Trained by different mentors and with diverse sets of thinking and skills, they would then be in good stead to tackle the challenges of a highly-competitive world.
.
For instance, bright Primary 6 school-leavers should be sent to different schools, instead of congregating at a handful of top schools.
.
"It's very dangerous to hot-house them ... I think we should spread out our talents … to support a stronger country.
.
"I'm still trying whenever I meet the younger ministers. I try to tell them … but so far, I don't think I'm making much headway," he said, to laughter, in reply to a question at a lecture on Friday organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
.
He has a similar concern about government scholars.
.
Recalling a discussion with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew "long ago", Mr Ngiam said he had asked if it was necessary for everyone to serve their bond in the public sector, as opposed to allowing some scholarship holders to work in the private sector.
.
After all, they are still working in Singapore for the country, he had argued.
.
Mr Lee, in turn, questioned the availability of talent in the civil service to accommodate such an arrangement, among other points of dissent.
.
"Intellectually, MM Lee could not accept such an argument," said Mr Ngiam, who retired from the civil service in 1999 after a 40-year career.
.
Over time, though, the public sector has changed, and Mr Lee even said three years ago that the public sector is too talent-heavy, and suggested that half its scholars should be released into the private sector after six or seven years.
.
Currently, there are also selected private-sector attachment schemes for government scholars.
.
Mr Ngiam, the chairman of Surbana Corporation, the privatised arm of the Housing and Development Board, gave the thumbs-up to the Government's focus on education.
.
"As a tax-paying citizen, I do not begrudge for one moment the billions of dollars we are spending on our schools, polytechnics and universities," said the mandarin who became the youngest-ever Permanent Secretary in 1972, at age 35.
.
Equal opportunities for education are the "well-spring of Singapore's social and economic success" and form the "bedrock of the social compact between the Government and the people", he pointed out.
.
It is through competition in knowledge that the Republic got to where it is today, he noted.

Don't crowd bright students in a handful of top schools: Ngiam

Jasmine Yinjasmine@mediacorp.com.sg

EVEN after retirement, one of Singapore's most prominent former civil servants cannot resist bringing up a pet topic whenever he bumps into the political leadership.
.
The Republic's best and brightest should be "spread out" across the public and private sectors — and across schools — believes former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow (picture), 70.
.
Trained by different mentors and with diverse sets of thinking and skills, they would then be in good stead to tackle the challenges of a highly-competitive world.
.
For instance, bright Primary 6 school-leavers should be sent to different schools, instead of congregating at a handful of top schools.
.
"It's very dangerous to hot-house them ... I think we should spread out our talents … to support a stronger country.
.
"I'm still trying whenever I meet the younger ministers. I try to tell them … but so far, I don't think I'm making much headway," he said, to laughter, in reply to a question at a lecture on Friday organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
.
He has a similar concern about government scholars.
.
Recalling a discussion with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew "long ago", Mr Ngiam said he had asked if it was necessary for everyone to serve their bond in the public sector, as opposed to allowing some scholarship holders to work in the private sector.
.
After all, they are still working in Singapore for the country, he had argued.
.
Mr Lee, in turn, questioned the availability of talent in the civil service to accommodate such an arrangement, among other points of dissent.
.
"Intellectually, MM Lee could not accept such an argument," said Mr Ngiam, who retired from the civil service in 1999 after a 40-year career.
.
Over time, though, the public sector has changed, and Mr Lee even said three years ago that the public sector is too talent-heavy, and suggested that half its scholars should be released into the private sector after six or seven years.
.
Currently, there are also selected private-sector attachment schemes for government scholars.
.
Mr Ngiam, the chairman of Surbana Corporation, the privatised arm of the Housing and Development Board, gave the thumbs-up to the Government's focus on education.
.
"As a tax-paying citizen, I do not begrudge for one moment the billions of dollars we are spending on our schools, polytechnics and universities," said the mandarin who became the youngest-ever Permanent Secretary in 1972, at age 35.
.
Equal opportunities for education are the "well-spring of Singapore's social and economic success" and form the "bedrock of the social compact between the Government and the people", he pointed out.
.
It is through competition in knowledge that the Republic got to where it is today, he noted.
Don't crowd bright students in a handful of top schools: Ngiam

Jasmine Yinjasmine@mediacorp.com.sg

EVEN after retirement, one of Singapore's most prominent former civil servants cannot resist bringing up a pet topic whenever he bumps into the political leadership.
.
The Republic's best and brightest should be "spread out" across the public and private sectors — and across schools — believes former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow (picture), 70.
.
Trained by different mentors and with diverse sets of thinking and skills, they would then be in good stead to tackle the challenges of a highly-competitive world.
.
For instance, bright Primary 6 school-leavers should be sent to different schools, instead of congregating at a handful of top schools.
.
"It's very dangerous to hot-house them ... I think we should spread out our talents … to support a stronger country.
.
"I'm still trying whenever I meet the younger ministers. I try to tell them … but so far, I don't think I'm making much headway," he said, to laughter, in reply to a question at a lecture on Friday organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
.
He has a similar concern about government scholars.
.
Recalling a discussion with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew "long ago", Mr Ngiam said he had asked if it was necessary for everyone to serve their bond in the public sector, as opposed to allowing some scholarship holders to work in the private sector.
.
After all, they are still working in Singapore for the country, he had argued.
.
Mr Lee, in turn, questioned the availability of talent in the civil service to accommodate such an arrangement, among other points of dissent.
.
"Intellectually, MM Lee could not accept such an argument," said Mr Ngiam, who retired from the civil service in 1999 after a 40-year career.
.
Over time, though, the public sector has changed, and Mr Lee even said three years ago that the public sector is too talent-heavy, and suggested that half its scholars should be released into the private sector after six or seven years.
.
Currently, there are also selected private-sector attachment schemes for government scholars.
.
Mr Ngiam, the chairman of Surbana Corporation, the privatised arm of the Housing and Development Board, gave the thumbs-up to the Government's focus on education.
.
"As a tax-paying citizen, I do not begrudge for one moment the billions of dollars we are spending on our schools, polytechnics and universities," said the mandarin who became the youngest-ever Permanent Secretary in 1972, at age 35.
.
Equal opportunities for education are the "well-spring of Singapore's social and economic success" and form the "bedrock of the social compact between the Government and the people", he pointed out.
.
It is through competition in knowledge that the Republic got to where it is today, he noted.
Don't crowd bright students in a handful of top schools: Ngiam

Jasmine Yinjasmine@mediacorp.com.sg

EVEN after retirement, one of Singapore's most prominent former civil servants cannot resist bringing up a pet topic whenever he bumps into the political leadership.
.
The Republic's best and brightest should be "spread out" across the public and private sectors — and across schools — believes former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow (picture), 70.
.
Trained by different mentors and with diverse sets of thinking and skills, they would then be in good stead to tackle the challenges of a highly-competitive world.
.
For instance, bright Primary 6 school-leavers should be sent to different schools, instead of congregating at a handful of top schools.
.
"It's very dangerous to hot-house them ... I think we should spread out our talents … to support a stronger country.
.
"I'm still trying whenever I meet the younger ministers. I try to tell them … but so far, I don't think I'm making much headway," he said, to laughter, in reply to a question at a lecture on Friday organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
.
He has a similar concern about government scholars.
.
Recalling a discussion with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew "long ago", Mr Ngiam said he had asked if it was necessary for everyone to serve their bond in the public sector, as opposed to allowing some scholarship holders to work in the private sector.
.
After all, they are still working in Singapore for the country, he had argued.
.
Mr Lee, in turn, questioned the availability of talent in the civil service to accommodate such an arrangement, among other points of dissent.
.
"Intellectually, MM Lee could not accept such an argument," said Mr Ngiam, who retired from the civil service in 1999 after a 40-year career.
.
Over time, though, the public sector has changed, and Mr Lee even said three years ago that the public sector is too talent-heavy, and suggested that half its scholars should be released into the private sector after six or seven years.
.
Currently, there are also selected private-sector attachment schemes for government scholars.
.
Mr Ngiam, the chairman of Surbana Corporation, the privatised arm of the Housing and Development Board, gave the thumbs-up to the Government's focus on education.
.
"As a tax-paying citizen, I do not begrudge for one moment the billions of dollars we are spending on our schools, polytechnics and universities," said the mandarin who became the youngest-ever Permanent Secretary in 1972, at age 35.
.
Equal opportunities for education are the "well-spring of Singapore's social and economic success" and form the "bedrock of the social compact between the Government and the people", he pointed out.
.
It is through competition in knowledge that the Republic got to where it is today, he noted.
http://nofearsingapore.blogspot.com/2007/03/about-anglo-chinese-school-and-why.html

3 comments:

searcher said...

The question - is the grouping of bright students intentional or unintentional?

I believe that our "nation building" planners do not only plan infrastructure and economy, they also plan the way we live our lives and other people's careers.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi searcher,
As far as I know, it is voluntary and as education is such a prized commodity, it is almost a no-brainer that parents would automatically enrol their kids to these few schools. Even if they were old boys/girls of established schools, there is tremendous pressure from kin and friends to enrol their kids into these schools just because they qualify.

I remember this smart girl some years back, signed up for ? Bt. Panjang High School ( which is a school with fantastic track record for producing good students and solid citizens) who was under immense public pressure to switch to RGS.

When my kid got his result and enrolled to my alma mater, kin and friends were wondering if I was nuts not to enrol him in the R school! In their minds, they probably thought I was lying when I said we chose not to. Who cares what they think right? He is my kid and it is my choice.

Cheers

Dr.Huang

KimBS said...

Ngiam is a hypocrite, as far as I can see. He did not squeak a single criticism while he was in the government and now he is making so much noise. Why? Because his career advancement does not depend on saying the wrong things now, that's why.