Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Learning is for oneself, others or money. Can the MOE’s character building kit help students making a better decision?


The Ministry of Education (MOE) has developed a tool kit for character building for students in our schools. Besides schools, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat also wanted parents to play a part in developing their children’s character and value.

"Parents play the most critical role in the upbringing of the children, in inculcating the right values and building the character of their children," he said.

"Indeed, parents are the ones who know their children best. So there has to be a very strong partnership between the parents and schools, and also between the schools and the broader community. (CNA)
In the process of character building and development, we must include the purpose and meaning of learning and studying too.  Students must have the courage to quite the learning and study at schools to seek and search for their own interest, if they think it is the right thing to do. Just like Bill Gates and Steven Jobs did.  Otherwise, if students keep the usual path, then Singapore will not be able to produce innovative and creative products that change the world. 

I am not encouraging students to quite study blindly.  However, the value of education and the return on investment for a university education has gone down as noticed in the western world.  It is important for students to recognize this trend and instead of pursing a degree, especially a degree that not his or her interest, it is better to opt out to do something that gives himself happiness and fulfilling one’s interest.

This is the courage and determination that we hope to build up during the growing up years of a student in schools.  While building and developing their character, they also learn to make decisions that will match their interest and at the same time, can contribution to the society and our country. 

More than 2,000 years ago, Confucius had a famous saying: In the past, the purpose of learning was for self interest, now the purpose was to please others.”  (古之学者为己,今之学者为人)The “now” was referring to the time periods of spring-autumn and warring states. Today, the purpose of learning even goes one step further.  It is for the money.

10, 20 years ago, parents wanted their children to be professionals, like doctors, lawyers, architects, even engineers. These professionals not only carry the prestige that is recognized by the society but also offer well paying jobs and more money. 

However, since we enter the higher level of economic development, service industry has become the new normal for money and wealth creation. It is the finance sector that produces easy and quick money – no wonder we have the financial and debt crisis. It seems that there are too many intelligent people wanted to out perform the market and created more and more financial products that they themselves might not know the real meaning of investing.

Certainly, many of these so-called intelligent people and top students/scholars working in the financial sectors have lost their moral value.

When Minister Heng urged parents to help in developing their children’s character, parents should not emphasize too much on money matters.  Rather, it is important to help to develop the right value and encouraging children to study for their own interest.

A word of caution for working parents, please don’t leave the character building and developing to the maids. A child’s character is developed through pregnancy, home and schools.

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