Fachidiot and the fear of failure in our overcompetitive education landscape

Singapore has done it again by securing 2nd place in Pisa. It means we are still operating at the top level (China was 1st, Macau was 3rd, HK 4th in some subjects) when it comes to excelling in Maths, Science and Reading. Also, at the last three occasions (beginning at 2009), we were top.

Mind you, Pisa is a gruelling assessment. The benchmark is against 600,000 students from 79 countries and economies. We had sent at random 6,676 teens, most of whom were in Secondary 4. It is a reliable gauge of how far we have come and what we have done right to hone our future generation’s critical thinking skills and personal resilience.

Mr Sng Chern Wei, MOE’s deputy director-general said: “We are pretty happy with the 2018 Pisa findings because they show that our students are equipped with the critical skills and the resilience to cope with the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”

In an article today by Sandra Davie, entitled “It’s OK to be No. 2 in academics, but aim to top student well-being”, she raised a few champagne toasts to our educators for the results. She noted that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to critical thinking. “Remembering formulas or chunks of content won’t do. Pisa’s questions require students to use their knowledge and skills to solve problems in unfamiliar contexts.”

You can also say that we have come a long way from the culturally biased and strict IQ tests to Pisa, where students are given an all-rounded assessment from Maths to Science and to Reading. But we can’t rest on our laurels yet. With one good result, there is always another that requires diligent balancing.

I have learned that when you find a solution (in this case, the way we do education on the meritocracy track), we have to watch out for how that solution can be pursued in such a way that we become blindsided to its other less than glowing results. At times, these less-than-glowing results can backfire big time to wipe away all the positive goals achieved.

Meritocracy can breed aristocratic elitism. Democracy can breed mob instinct and chaos. And economic growth can breed income and social inequalities. Need I say more?

Here, Pisa’s unintended consequence is spelt out in this observation: “Students in Singapore are more afraid of failure compared with their 15-year-old counterparts overseas…The Republic had one of the highest proportions of students – more than 70 per cent – who expressed concern about failure in a questionnaire that was part of the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa),”

MOE identified as much when it said: “…an excessive fear of failing could be “disabling” and that it is making changes to dial back the obsession with grades.”

I guess that’s the side effect of the pursuit of grades in a meritocratic bubble. All our kids see is the mirror of their self-worth in the form of academic results. The parental and societal expectations have ossified to demand and define success arising only from the result slips they have in their hand.

Let me preface that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to education, that is, submitting our kids to some form of assessment. But as with excessive assessment based on grades comes excessive fear of failing based on one-track expectation.

There is a German word for that, “Fachidiot” – that is, “one-track specialist who takes a single-minded, inflexible approach to a multifaceted problem.” That pretty much says it all in the way we define success, especially the success for our kids.

Because of this excessive fear of failure, which can be crippling to the child, we turn them into miniature adults, or accelerated maturity, expecting them to always do well, have a stellar track record of good grades, and by our body language, send them unequivocal signals of grave disappointment when they fail us with one or two red splashes in their report card.

When we as parents turn failure as a dread to be avoided, like Ebola, and are laser-focused on the short term dream of expecting them to jump bigger hoops each time they just completed the last smaller hoop, we turn goals into obsession, achievements into bragging rights and success into avoiding failure at all costs.

The only thing wrong with such “parent-o-cracy” is that it is more about us than it was ever about them. The irony is that some of us have a million dreams for them, yet not one they are able to identify as their own.

And if there is a new meaning on what success for our kids is in this age of hyper-competition and materialism, then, it is about allowing them to grow from experiences, however good or bad, and the only way to grow is to assure them that neither their failure nor success defines them.

But what defines them is the love that is shared in our bonding with them. And the only score your child will get in such a bond of love and hope is one that is always positive, always encouraging, and always overcoming.

 

Michael Han

 

 

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21 Responses to “Fachidiot and the fear of failure in our overcompetitive education landscape”

  • oxygen:

    FACHIDIOTs FROM SOME of our CROWN FUN INSTITUTIONS probably scored at the bottom of the PISA rating – their performance shows of asset trading.

    Where is my CPF-money GONE TO?

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  • Well-Educated Bloody Fools:

    There are too many well educated fools.
    Pisa can be trained for.
    It’s gaming the exams using tuition and rote learning, doing all the ten year series. Ang Mors do not like such inhumane ways of learning. So they naturally do not score as high. BUT ANG MORs lead the world in Tech and science and engineering.

    Which PISA Singapore born top exam scorer in engineering invented anything as great as Google or Facebook or 5G ?

    Nothing! KohSong ! Konok! Zero! Zilch ! Boh !

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  • Bapak:

    High Pisa scores can eat or not?

    What is the point of having a high Pisa score if our very own graduates can’t even land a decent job in our own country?

    Whereas these jobs all went to foreign ‘quackduates’ from ‘schools or uni’ way down PISA’s score or not even found at all.

    Which is more practical? High Pisa scores no job or got job middle-finger to Pisa score.

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  • Misguided.:

    All these people jumping with joys of success with this test are misguided, or misguiding new generations.

    This is a test of students of the same age. A high ranking simply means that those students have been hot-housed with knowledge (plus whatever skills you want to claim).

    When they are older, the hot-housed students are not neccessarily better than those students who are free to learn at a slower pace and learn more perspectives in life.

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  • Flabbergasted:

    what’s the use? the white shit still tell us we are not talented enough.

    they can give jobs to ramesh-type non-existent qualifications but our people are not talented despite winning all the bull-shit competitions.

    stop the crap, kick the white shit out and we will get rid of all the foreign shit from our land.

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  • who is a smart person?:

    in a smart city, there must be smart people living in it.

    self declare anything as smart, whether smart city or smart people living in it pass no muster since it is the end result that determines smart or not.

    that pap is lying from top to bottom is no brainer a given.

    yet for pap to try making city a smart city is as good as another lie.

    because there are no enough smart people in the city to ever make it smart.

    how so?

    70% are dumb sheep. only 30% are smart. with less than 50.01% being smart, how can smart city ever be possible unless it is a lie.

    but people in Singapore do very well in pisa.

    don’t be a cock. pisa is rote learning. voting OPPO needs more than rote learning. it needs intelligence guts wisdom truth and all such goods which alas 70% of the people lack.

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  • RDB:

    Writer Michael Han has said it succinctly. Need we add anymore critism to him?

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  • Darth Vader:

    Singapore a “smart nation”????!!!! BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! You have got to be f*****g kidding me!!!! Go on, pull the other leg!

    Oh PLEASE, HOW can Singapore be a “smart nation” when we have COMPLETE IDIOTS running the so-called “Smart Nation” project at IMDA????!!!! Need any proof? Just look at the Pasir Ris NTUC Foodfare social enterprise hawker center. For FIVE MONTHS the hawkers didn’t get paid because the cashless payment system there credited ALL the hawkers’ daily earnings into NTUC Foodfare’s account WITHOUT RECORDING WHICH STALL CREDITED IN HOW MUCH EVERY DAY!!!! Any wonder WHY the hawkers went unpaid for so long, when NTUC Foodfare itself does NOT know how much each stall earned and had to be paid????!!!! And for those ib cockroaches who say the cashless payment system is not at fault for this, well, the very fact that NTUC Foodfare refunded the hawkers five months of subscription fees for the use of the cashless payment means that even NTUC Foodfare itself admits that the system was the cause of the problem? And WHO was responsible for overseeing the installation of the system? IMDA of course!!!!

    And what about all the hacking scandals? WHAT SORT of cyber-security did this clowns put in place? Even if external third party vendors did all these jobs, as the people ENTRUSTED with oversight over all these projects, shouldn’t IMDA be held accountable for all these debacles? And these are just a few examples of the IMDA “Smart Nation” project team’s incompetence!!!!

    Really, with all these blunders and debacles, I’m amazed that the idiots running the “smart nation” project haven’t all be sacked yet, especially the IMDA director running it. Must be some white horse I guess. BTW, does anybody know WHO the lazy, daft, useless, good-for-nothing deserve-to-get-spurs-stuck-in-the-hide moronic cretinous stupid idiot IMDA director in charge of the “Smart Nation” project is? It wouldn’t happen to be tan kin lian would it? Because all these blunders and debacles are right up his street!!!!

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  • Some Emotional Intelligence?:

    Nasrudin was deep in thought while walking down the road near the palace gates when he bumped into a gentleman. The man got really angry at the unexpected knock; he began to rail and shout at Nasrudin.

    “Do you know who I am!” he screamed. “I am the King’s Vizier!”

    “That’s nice,” said Nasrudin. “As for me I am a king.”

    “A king?” asked the man. “Ha ha, over which country do you rule?”

    “I rule over myself,” said Nasrudin. “I am master of my passions. You’ll never find me losing my temper as you did just now…”

    The man calmed down and apologized; he went away feeling ashamed of himself.

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  • What's The Point ?:

    Spore can get top or 2nd position every time but what’s the point ? PAP will not recognize this as they give all the jobs to other countries people.

    Whatever results we get, just vote the PAP out in the coming GE.

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  • Pisa or wangsa:

    Whether Pisa or Wangsa (yefong),
    it’s worthless when we have massive policy failures pap cannot solve :

    1. CPF withheld. Broken promise.
    2. HDB depreciate way before lease expiry and eventually $0.
    3. CECA Heng, Swiss standard Goh, [email protected] Harriet.

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  • Control Freaks & Fachidiocy:

    Human thriving is certainly not all about honing Homo Economicus. Overcompetition does not equate with true learning.

    https://youtu.be/wX78iKhInsc

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  • Control Freaks & Fachidiocy:

    Human thriving is certainly not all about honing Homo Economicus. Overcompetitive test-taking does not equate with true learning.

    https://youtu.be/wX78iKhInsc

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  • Tom Lee:

    Pisa don’t measure leadership which we what we desperately need.

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  • Bobo:

    Pisa or wangsa:
    Whether Pisa or Wangsa (yefong),
    it’s worthless when we have massive policy failures pap cannot solve :

    1. CPF withheld. Broken promise.
    2. HDB depreciate way before lease expiry and eventually $0.
    3. CECA Heng, Swiss standard Goh, [email protected] Harriet.

    Can not solve is like some evil people who created weapons to hurt others. created toxic but do not know how to make antidotes to save lives.

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  • Pisa Hut:

    Singapore PISA or Pizza?

    OK, good at studies and gaming exams.

    So which subject Singapore Pisa champion has achieved real world excellence?

    Eg. Engineering : which Singapore born Pisa champion has invented 5G or Google?
    Nothing that great has ever been achieved by Singapore pizza champion.

    Steve Jobs : drop out.
    Jack Ma :
    Drop out
    Zuckerberg : drop out.

    Do not be a bloody fool singkees.
    They are using rule of law to control you.
    They are using state media to make the world perceive the way they want.

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  • The Ministry of Elucidation:

    Our education is so top class, why are companies hiring foreigners from inferior schools? Some who can’t speak and write English?

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  • Spore is ready for malay PM:

    The Ministry of Elucidation:
    Our education is so top class, why are companies hiring foreigners from inferior schools? Some who can’t speak and write English?

    because they all sing what nice clothes clown is wearing when actually clown is naked. all of them. all for the sake of S$m.

    not one has backbone. yes, not one.

    that is why INDIAN is selected as malay president and none is making noise.

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  • CECA Heng must go:

    PISA high so what?
    What is a typical Singapore “entrepreneur”?
    Well , typically they are traders and not entrepreneurs.

    Singapore “entrepreneurship” is typically merely like a Retail shop where NOTHING of its products being sold were manufactured or invented by Singapore company. Essentially all from China and some other foreign countries which have true ENTREPRENUERS.

    So high PISA ? SO WHAT? The people are typically Zombies byproducts of a strict authoritarian system stiffling creativity due to extremely lack of freedom.

    It’s engineers never make it on world stage. PISA? More like Pizza!

    It’s IT cannot create 5G. Pisa ? Pisai lah!

    It’s accountants never questioned HDB depreciation because they Never really understood the meaning and concept. The question never even come to their mind. They need to be spoon-fed. They only realise hdb will depreciate when opposition forced the answer out of that MP.

    70% zombies. Future is Doomed.

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  • Lousy Economists:

    Find me one economist who has proven the GDP . You won’t be able to find one.

    GDP is a CLAIM.

    PISA ? Look at sg economists. Zombies!

    They cite GDP as if it’s audited truth.

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  • TruBlu:

    the truth is there are many ELDERLY SGS STILL STRUGGLING TO FIND BASIC FOOD N SHELTER and alot of them still got to collect cardbaord litter and clean toilets just to get peanuts while our civil servants and ministers KOMPRAIN THAT $1 MILLION SALARIES STILL TOO LITTLE???

    PI$A maybe???

    pisa my foot!

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