A contrast of cultures.
Singapore is a strange place. One only discovers how strange, when it is compared to other cultures. Unfortunately, most Singaporeans get little chance to make such a comparison and so, truly, never come to understand their own culture.
Ainan has achieved many things which have never become publicly known. We just haven't mentioned them. Recently, we communicated one of these achievements - a pretty big achievement, actually - to some people we thought should know, since it was relevant to them. One of them was the Principal of his school, another was an institution in Singapore that has contact with Ainan. We also contacted an interested party in Malaysia and another in Australia. What really surprised me, was the difference in responses among these different parties.
Before I tell you what happened, I would like you to consider what you think would a) be the natural response to good news of an unprecedented academic achievement for a young child. b) what was the most likely response by a particular party c) how quickly that response should normally come.
Have you thought about it? Have you come up with answers? Please do not read on until you have.
Right. Are you ready? Well, the Australian University responded in less than TEN minutes, with warm words of congratulation. The Malaysian party responded within a few hours, with effusive congratulations and two pages of advice and leads for further development. The Singaporean institution that Ainan has had contact with, responded, after ONE WEEK, by WITHDRAWING ALL SUPPORT OF AINAN. As for Ainan's Principal - after TWO WEEKS, she has NOT replied AT ALL.
I must confess myself to being rather shocked by this. It is abundantly clear, and could not be more clear, that Singaporean institutions and educational parties, do not wish Ainan to progress. They seem to take news of his progression as BAD NEWS. Their responses are unnatural and unsupportive in the extreme. It defies belief that Ainan's own country should show such a lack of enthusiasm and natural warmth where his progress is concerned - and other countries, such as Australia and Malaysia should respond with congratulations, warmth and offers of further help.
Singapore is a place that does not deserve the excellence of its citizens. For those citizens who are excellent soon discover that other nations are more welcoming of their excellence, than is Singapore. Perhaps that is why Singapore has such great trouble retaining its citizens: they discover, eventually, that the rest of the world appreciates them better than Singapore does. It defies belief that places we have never even been to - such as Australia - should be warmer, more human and more natural in their responses to Ainan - than Singaporean people in authority and educational institutions.
What makes this all the more sad, of course, is that we have tried very hard to remain in Singapore and to make a way for Ainan to progress here. We have been very patient with a system that is pretty inflexible and rather difficult to worth with. We have shown great forebearance with them...yet, when we contrast the degree of local response, with the responses we receive internationally, we can only conclude that there is something wrong with Singapore. The responses here, are unnatural and unhelpful. Singapore is a nation that TALKS about breeding local talent, but what it actually does is IGNORE local talent and IMPORT foreign talent - mainly PRCs. Truly, local talent finds it quite difficult to get access to what is needed to develop optimally. So many barriers exist and are put in the way. The philosophy appears to be that it is easier to bring in "talent" made elsewhere, than to go to all the trouble of properly nurturing it at home.
It is common to hear praise for Singapore's education system - but I find this praise usually comes from people who don't really understand what the education system here is for, or what it does. Very few Singaporeans can understand their own system, because they have no experience of other systems and so have no contrasts to make. Singapore's system is about conformity and efficiency. It is about, not encouraging creative talent to prosper and grow, but about creating predictable cogs in the economic machine. It is not really an education system, it is an ECONOMIC system. Hence, they probably don't think it is worthwhile making Ainan's path ahead as open as possible, because they don't see how he fits into the standard economic model. Indeed, since they can't see where he is going, they would rather bring in a PRC who is already what they want, than to nurture Ainan to become someone who would contribute to society. The same reasoning will be applied to any child who does not seem to fit the economic system. Their value will not be seen.
So, it is that we find that Malaysians and Australians are very quick with their congratulations, warmth, support and advice - whereas Singaporeans either do NOT reply at all - or reply by taking a sanction against Ainan - in this case withdrawing support previously offered. My conclusion is that, if you seek to achieve anything out of the ordinary in Singapore, the system will either ignore you (as Ainan's Principal did) or punish you (as the educational institution did). The last thing you will receive is congratulations or support.
Mind you, it is good to see the truth of the system in action - it tells us, of course, that we are wasting our time with such people and such institutions - and so, of course, we will not waste our time with them, in future.
From our vantage, the future of Singapore is looking pretty mediocre - since excellence is shunned by the system, discouraged and opposed. In a way, it is darkly funny...because publicly the nation's ministers speak of nurturing home grown talent - but privately, what actually happens, is that such talent will find walls everywhere. Singapore is, ultimately, a hypocritical nation: it says one thing and does another. No doubt, this observation doesn't just apply to the field of education - but I make it, initially, as an observation regarding education.
The hardest thing to understand about this behaviour on the part of Singaporean authority figures and institutions is that, if I imagine myself to be them, I cannot see myself ever doing as they are doing. There is no positive motivation, emotion or thought, that would lead to their behaviours. It is only when I start to imagine myself to possess negative motivations, emotions and thoughts, that it becomes possible to imagine making the choices they make. I can only conclude that they are driven by a negative value system that is life denying, growth opposing and, essentially, unethical. The system, here, does not have a good heart. It is not run by good people - because, basically and most obviously, good people don't behave as they are doing. It would not be within the range of behavioural choices of good people, to do as they do. That, in itself, is a startling and rather saddening realization. It is also something that many locals appear to be unaware of - perhaps because they have never been in a position to put the local authorities in a position to reveal themselves for what they are.
To put it most simply. It is the most natural thing in the world to congratulate a young child on an unprecedented achievement. It is the response one would expect, automatically, from 100% of people who were not mentally impaired and unable to understand the situation. In Ainan's case, it was the response of both the Malaysian and the Australian party. However, it was not the response of the Singaporean parties. Their responses were silence and punishment, respectively. It is in this strange contrast of responses that Singapore reveals the true nature of its culture and its educational system. I think it speaks most clearly.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.
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IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/ As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/ My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/
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Labels: academic achievement, Australia, comparative culture, Comparative Education, lack of support, Malaysia, Principal, punishment, the truth about Singapore, unnatural silence, withdrawal of support