How Are We Educating Students?

by Patrick Liew on August 16, 2019

How Are We Educating Students?

Our educational system is directly or indirectly influenced by what economists call the human capital model.

In short, we endeavour to produce students with a focus on helping them find jobs, increase income, and contribute to the economy and society.

While the human capital model has many upsides, we should also ensure that we continue to focus on the overall purpose of education.

We should ensure that students receive
a holistic and balanced education.

To do that, we need to constantly ask:

How are our educational leaders helping students develop their character, moral values and responsibility?

Identify and resolve social and environmental challenges?

Prepare themselves to battle social injustice and contribute to communities and society?

As parents, we should reflect and ask ourselves:

Have we become overly-focused on exams and grades?

Are we helping our children enjoy passion for learning and develop abilities to learn how to learn throughout their lifetimes?

As a result of influence of the human capital model, many students may consciously or subconsciously think that success is measured mainly in economic, financial and material terms.

Meritocracy is treated as largely a zero sum game.

They may believe that they have to beat others to do well.

They may find it hard to believe that they don’t have to lose for others to win.

We have to educate them to let them know that they can win while at the same time, help others to win.

That way, everybody can enjoy a bigger win in the game of life.

Otherwise, students’ may end up perceiving that helping others is a secondary duty.

It should only be actively pursued after they have done well in material terms.

Another downside of an over-emphasis on the human capital model is that many students may only be keen to learn disciplines that are perceived to 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 have a better understanding of the people and world around them.

Sadly, some of these programmes can help students appreciate finer things, think more creatively and critically, and pursue more altruistic and sustainable causes.

There are other plausible downsides of the human capital model.

For example, could over-emphasis on the human capital model of education be one of the reasons why the NIMBY syndrome is one of the issues that we are dealing with in our communities?

Could it also be the reason why Singapore has excelled in so many international benchmarking studies and yet, we have not make a mark in terms of voluntarism for good work?

Perhaps, it’s time to revisit our educational philosophy and review how we can help students achieve a key end point of education – become a wise, moral, responsible and competent person.

A useful person who can contribute to strengthening workplaces, communities, and economy.

Address social injustice, achieve progress for society, and live a meaningful, productive and fulfilling life.


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

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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