Educational Reform Is Our Responsibility.

by Patrick Liew on October 20, 2013

As Singapore implements a wide-ranging series of educational reforms, it will bode well to ask ourselves, why are we doing it? What are the outcomes that we plan to achieve for every one of our students?

May I suggest that the end point of education is not to just produce students who have knowledge and good academic results. Ultimately, we seek to mould and shape every student to become a wise, moral and responsible person. He has the essential qualities, including grit and resilience to live a meaningful, productive and fulfilling life.

Every student should become a useful person who can contribute to strengthening the economy and his community. He must know how to address social injustice and achieve progress for society.

In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, he must know how to connect and communicate with the others in the global community. He must have the capacity and sensitivity to collaborate with them. At the same time, he must have the ability, agility and tenacity to co-create solutions for current as well as future challenges.

To be future-ready, the student should develop a passion for learning and the ability to learn how to learn. He should know how to harness information, think critically, and know how to work for the common good of society.

In this regard, we need to broaden  our understanding of  intelligence, meritocracy and success. We need to redefine them so as to help our students and ourselves to meet the changing needs of our country and society.


We need to recognize that there are multiple intelligences and mental intelligence is just one of them. Moral intelligence is just as important as intelligence of the intellect. Altruistic intelligence can be more important than logical intelligence. Taking action is more important than just acquiring information.

Every student has unique gifts, talents and interests. We need to help him develop his strengths and pursue positive passions in his life.

By helping him to expand his potential and leverage on his strengths, he will be able to stretch himself to value-add to the people and environment around him. He will become more motivated to optimise his contributions to the world around him. Together with others, he will turn it into a better home.

Therefore, we need to develop the student in a wholistic and balanced
way. He must learn how to achieve overall well being for himself as well as for other individuals, groups, organisations, and communities. He must know how to research, analyse and apply knowledge even in the unfamiliar settings of a fast changing digital economy.


Meritocracy therefore cannot be measured by academic results and achievements. In particular, it should not recognise students who game examination systems to achieve good grades. These students can achieve good results through rote methods of learning, constant practices using sample questions, intensive tuition, and an overly focus on studying for exams. It cannot be based on forging ahead at the expense of others and neither can it be about achieving a higher ranking  and leaving others behind in life.

The concept of meritocracy should cover the motives, means and ends of the student. They must be positive, congruent and be aligned to one another.

Meritocracy is about how a student can bring out the best from himself. For example, he can improve his performance by benchmarking with the others. He is able to rise up to face the challenges of the world and world to come. While producing better results, he must also reach out to help others raise their level of performance and accomplishments. He must share the responsibility of helping others who do not enjoy the same position and advantages as him.

We should commend and reward those who stand out and stay ahead on the basis of their talents, competence, hard work. However, it does not mean that those who are behind them have a negative attitude, are not talented, and are not working hard to improve their achievements. We should not leave any students behind and we should help them find ways to improve themselves.

We need to ensure that all students are given equal opportunities and the ability and resources to capitalise on them. We need to provide helping hands and not handouts to help them achieve success.

I hope that someday in the near future, we do not have to offer assistance through racial and ethnic channels. The challenge of helping weaker students is our responsibility and we need to put our hands together to help them. We must never deny the possibilities of social mobility to any student. We should do everything we can to help them appreciate and take advantage of it.

Every student must be educated to take responsibility for his life. He needs to achieve self reliance and have the capabilities to learn, improve, and achieve better results. There should be different tracks to help him achieve success. And even if he is a late developer or has been sidetracked in his growth, he should be able to rejoin the others and achieve the best possible outcomes. He is able to pursue different careers in his lifetime and make a success out of them.

The purpose of meritocracy is to unite and not to divide the people, to advance their interests and not to serve any personal interests. It is to to raise the tide for all – and not for any exclusive groups- to achieve a better standard of living.


Success should  not just have one definition. It cannot be defined by the student’s schools and his academic results. It has nothing to do with his personal income, possession, power, prestige and position. It is about how he makes full use of what he has so as to help others and to improve the environment.

Therefore, success should have  many definitions and be defined from the perspective of every student’s unique personality, advantage, and aspiration. It has to be measured from the benefits generated by the student for the economy, community and society. It has to take into account how the student will look after himself and live his life for others and for the economy. It’s also about how he has gone out of the way to put to right many of the wrongs that crossed his path and the wrongs in the world.


When we know the ‘why’s of educational reforms, we will find the ‘how’s. Our purpose will drive our performance and pursuits.

The responsibility of reforming the educational system ultimately belongs to all of us. If we don’t win the students’ hearts and minds today, they will break ours tomorrow.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please visit my website,

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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