by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

Is Meritocracy at fault?

It’s not meritocracy but the way we have educated our people that may be preventing more Singaporeans from giving back.

Our educational system has largely been influenced by what economists call the human capital model.

In short, the focus is on helping students find better jobs, increase their incomes, and become a productive resource for the economy and society.

As a result of influence of the human capital model, many students may not fully develop their character, values, and responsibility to the people around them.

Learn how to work together to address social injustice and environmental challenges.

They may consciously or subconsciously believe that success is measured mainly according to economic, financial and material terms.

Meritocracy is thus treated as a zero sum game. They have to beat others in academic and other assessments to do well.

Another downside of an over-emphasis on the human capital model is that many students may be more interested in cultivating disciplines that can help them enjoy a higher income or improve their socioeconomic status.

They may be less inclined to undergo broader and deeper learning programmes, and to seek a better understanding of the people and world around them.

Sadly, some of these programmes can help students better appreciate the finer things in life, think more creatively and critically, and pursue more meaningful and sustainable causes.

Is it possible that over-emphasis on the human capital model has contributed to many of the issues in society, including the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome, a prevalent issue in many quarters of society?

Perhaps, it’s time to re-think and refresh our educational philosophy, and review how we can help students achieve more holistic, balanced and altruistic outcomes.

Become a wise, moral, responsible, and useful person who is proactive in helping those who are less advantaged, and strengthening workplaces, communities, and society.

And believe that they can win while at the same time, help others to win. That way, everybody can enjoy a bigger win in the grand scheme of life.

Otherwise, students may perceive that helping others should only be done after they have done well in material terms, and it’s a secondary duty.


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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