This is a follow-up post on the earlier post on our opinion on the education system in Singapore.
Singapore has a new Minister of Education after the general election. I think many parents are hoping that the new Minister could try to improve the education system especially in the area of making it less stressful for the parents and children.
This is my personal advice on what should be done first for the education system in Singapore. Let me start by giving an example of what I regularly encounter in my medical practice. I often see patients who have seen a few doctors before ending up in my consultation room in the A&E department. For example, lets talk about patient A whom I encounter last weekend. She started off with a fever and flu like symptoms 1 week ago. She consulted the first GP who prescribed her flu medications and a antibiotics for her flu. After that, she had gastric pain and consulted a second GP who diagnosed her to have gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and added a gastric medicine. She now takes all the medicine from the first doctor and add the new medicine from the second doctor. After a few days, her flu was better but she has diarrhoea and she consulted the third GP who gave her medicine to stop her diarrhoea.
As she was taking medicine from 3 different doctors and not getting better, she came to the Emergency department for a second opinion. When I looked through all the medication and examined her thoroughly, I then explained to her that when she took the antibiotics from the first doctor, the side effect of that antibiotic is it can cause gastric pain, and when she consulted the second doctor for gastric pain, the gastric medicine the second doctor gave her caused her to have diarrhoea and thus she had to take her diarrhoea medicine from the third doctor while still continuing medicine from the first and second doctor.
What I did was to take off all her medication as her flu was better and she had finished her course of antibiotics. I just prescribed her an antihistamine for her flu and panadol in case she has fever again and sent her home. Her condition improved quickly.
This example show us that sometimes you need to start from a clean sheet by removing all the previous things/baggages before you add on new things. The problem with our education system is everytime someone senior comes on board (could be one of the young high-flier civil servant or a Minister/Minister of State), he or she would like to implement a new policy to stamp his or her mark in the Ministry but did not dare to remove some of the older policies. With the high turnover of the senior staff in the government Ministries (due to the government strategy of exposing each of these senior civil servants or Ministers to different Ministries every few years), old policies which were introduced previously were still running while new additional policies were introduced. This caused the poor teachers, parents and students to be very stressed with too many things going on at the same time in the school.
It is easy to introduce new policies, but it takes a lot of courage to remove the old policies as the less couragous ones will always worry that if they remove an old policy, would it be detrimental to the system? Its the same as the real medical example I described above, its easy for a doctor to add new medicine to the patient, but it takes courage to remove the old medicine as if the doctor is inexperienced, he is unsure whether he should remove the old medicine from the patients.
Thus my advice to the new Minister of Education is to start from a clean sheet. Please review and remove all the old and redundent policies before introducing new policies. The end point should be to maintain a high standard of education in Singapore with minimal stress.