Our education system strangles creativity and squanders talent. We want innovation and we want it badly. But every child here has been told at least once by a teacher or parent, ‘Don’t ask stupid questions’.
Questions, even dumb ones, are a sign of a critical mind. By labelling questions, we box up imagination. Any spark of innovation is extinguished in a vice of self-censorship.
A top engineering student has been overheard complaining how his lecturer reprimanded him in class for suggesting a different answer to a calculation. The student’s answer was correct, and he confirmed it with books from the library. He vowed never to suggest answers to that lecturer in future classes.
Creative ideas stem from the freedom to think, but our society clearly does not offer that liberty given our conformist and non-confrontational culture.
No Singaporean has won a Nobel Prize. On the other hand, Finland, with just half a million more people, has four Nobel laureates. The difference between Singapore and Finland is that Finnish children grow up in an environment where their parents and educators do not impose the right answers.
British education reformist Sir Ken Robinson said in a 2006 talk: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
First published on npTribune Volume 40, Issue 2, Page 8 Editorial.