Singapore's Preoccupation with Examination Results
#TIL that one of our founding fathers had said obsession over “outstanding results” for Cambridge exams is “a very bad thing”.
Singapore’s then-Minister for Defence Dr Goh Keng Swee said in a speech in 1967: “The preoccupation in Singapore with examination results is unnatural and unhealthy and we should bring it to an end as early as possible. After all, good performance in examinations only proves one thing – the ability to answer examination questions.”
He said three aspects of education needed more emphasis in Singapore:
- Creative imagination – “which is inhibited by parrot-like teaching of text-books and I hope that abomination of this kind will cease in all of our schools”.
- Character – because “an intelligent person can have no character; that is he may be weak and irresolute. Conversely, persons of lesser intelligence can show a high degree of courage and tenacity when placed in trying or adverse conditions.”
- Moral values – because “the most successful leaders of pirates, brigands and gangsters have imagination and character in ample proportion but they, of course, are sadly lacking in moral stature.”
“Without a widely accepted code of moral values, Singapore will remain what it is now – a community which is basically self-centred and selfish. Such a community may be alright if it is governed by others but it will not survive for long as an independent democratic national state if the more successful citizens continue to place their self-interest before the interest of the community.”
That was 54 years ago. How are we doing today?
📸: A portrait of Dr Goh, taken during a press conference in 1967; Source: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) via NHB/Roots