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1/10/2006

singapore top students not world beaters

this came from a letter by a dr huang shoou chyuan in today's straits times. the general argument is quite similar to what leong szehian wrote the other day. dr haung touched on a few key points. 1. very few top singapore students become 'truly top ranked scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business executives or academics.' 2. these top students would choose easy courses to score 3.8. and 3, it would be beneficial and they would better benefit from their overseas education if they try some other unrelated subjects. i personally have known of many singapore students who are top ranked in their fields. and some of them are not even the top of their cohorts in singapore. for the top of their cohorts are now prime ministers, ministers, permanent secretaries and ceos. they could not become inventors or scientists or others as their career paths are towards government and public services. if only they were channelled to the other fields, these creme ala creme will definitely do much better. lee hsien loong could become a john nash. why not? and many will emerge as top ranked scientists and inventors from A star and dso and other r and d facilities. dr huang must take note that r and d is fairly new in singapore and would take a while to bear fruits. and i think it is an underestimation to think our top students would opt for easier courses just to score 3.8. they might take a few easier subjects. but their core subjects will not be forsaken. doing unrelated courses is always a good diversion and helps to widen one's perspective. and no one can disagree that it will benefit the student in having a more versatile and interesting student life. but it would not necessarily make them better scientists or whatever. no one who wants to push the frontier of science and technology can afford not to specialise and spend gruelling hours in their field of study. taking time off in unrelated subjects is only useful to a little extent. without them will not hurt. but unable to excel in their fields of study, to score As, will weaken their foundation in what they are doing. some of the frills and thrills of life can be acquired along the way as one moves along in life. the basic and foundation courses must be very strong to advance further to test and discover new knowledge when new knowledge are becoming more technical and scientific. spending a year reading the animal farm or about mozart and picasso would be nice but not really that critical.

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