Through the eyes of Singaporeans…

What changes, if any, would you like to see in the people of your country?

In view of the current stagnation of the Singapore economy, people’s flawed discernment of life expectations, deterioration of cultures, and the disunity of individuals in the society, it is inevitable that a group of people living in this country who see the problems would hope for a revolution to improve our island home as a whole. Personally, I would like to see people reconstruct their perceptions of reality in the 21st century, transform their notions of life for the mental health of individuals and society, and refine their ethics in daily lives. I desire to see the reformation of the outdated competitive and judging way people treat those around them. All these for the sake of the betterment of Singapore’s economy, Singaporeans’ spirituality, and Singaporeans’ identity.

(P) It would be a joy to envision Singaporeans change their comprehension of what pragmatism really means, from merely studying hard, to working hard, to working smart in order to build strong careers and to boost the economy. (Ex) Many Singaporeans are being taught from young that the way to living a comfortable life in the future that is different from how many pioneer Singaporeans had suffered during the days of poverty after the World War Two, is to study hard and graduate with a degree from school. Nonetheless, times have changed in the 21st century; majority of the population has at least a university degree now. (Eg) For instance, the percentage of unemployed university and tertiary education graduates have been increasing dramatically throughout the years from our independence in year 1965. (Ev) With an augmented number of people who hold high qualifications and the slow rate of increase in number of jobs, comes the upsetting reality that not everyone with high qualifications can get employment. Corporations set in Singapore are now searching for individuals who display talent in application of knowledge and innovation in technology, instead of merely knowing and reciting theory from textbooks. (P + Ex) Moreover, it is proven by a minority group of people in the world that being successful in the business world depends very little on qualifications but on passion for work. (Eg) Some examples of successful entrepreneurs who do not have university degrees such as Steve Jobs and Sim Wong Hoo, (Ev) have demonstrated that the society should not be looking for people who have qualifications, but people with genuine understanding of knowledge and passion for their work, in order to be successful in whatever the companies are focusing on. There is currently a major change happening in the employment system, and most in the workforce will be affected by the new requirements for recruitment. Working is no longer about remembering model answers from exam papers, but about analysing and applying the skills learnt from learning in school, to be able to critically analyse, understand, and apply concepts in real life for the amelioration of  companies and the society. (L) As such, my hope is that Singaporeans are able to detect the change in pragmatism over the years to be able to lead successful and stable lives and in turn boost the Singapore economy.

(P) It would be a delight to foresee Singaporeans adjust their perceptions of what life truly is about, from sheer practicality to an embodiment of reality and the pursuit of spiritual individuality which can be beneficial to the mental health of society. (Ex) Currently, Singaporeans are generally fixated on doing things that are practical in maintaining their future, in terms of monetary needs and familial relation needs. These are likely to be based on the Asian mindset that people are supposed to study hard, work hard, and get married after being financially settled in the workforce. (Eg) For instance, according to Today’s newpaper, Singapore’s happiness index is the lowest in Southeast Asia, (Ev) which may be due to the overwhelming amount of stress felt by many Singaporeans from expectations of having good grades in school from a young age to having a wealthy household in society when adulthood is reached, when the fact is that these are not easily achievable. It is now harder to get relatively good grades, because most are struggling to get the best grades. It is now more difficult to get higher paying jobs, because many are aiming for better jobs. It is now more burdensome to start a family, because many are focusing on making ends meet, due to inflation of livelihood essentials like housing. In short, the traditional mindset of having a life which starts with good grades and ends in an affluent household has become relics of a bygone age. It is now essential for those people who are struggling to rethink their paths instead of blindly following instructions from traditions. Now, many Singaporeans are unhappy because they are unable to achieve the ideal; they are likely struggling because they are merely doing what they have been told to do. (P + Ex) As such, individuals should start to pursue their personal dreams and passions instead of the given societal ideal, which has become plainly outdated. (Eg) For example, financially and mentally successful people include Tan Min Liang and Mark Zuckerberg. Even though one pursued gaming in spite of graduating with a degree in law and the other dropped out of Harvard and pursued Internet social media, (Ev) which were considered to be unprofitable,  both came out to have net worths in the billions, refuting the social norm that becoming wealthy would encompass studying hard and taking up modules which seem to have better prospects in school. The reason for both of these people to succeed financially and have happy lives now may be because of their pursuit of their innermost passion, in gaming and in technology. With financial stability, Zuckerberg was able to build his own family and live happy lives with them. This is the reality portion in the embodiment of reality and individuality, where the foundation of living would include having finances to afford human necessities like housing and food. (L) Therefore, I would like to see more Singaporeans strive for what they are genuinely interested and good in, but see reality for what it is as well, in order to build memorable lives of their own.

(P) It would be a pleasure to envision Singaporeans impart values such as dignity for themselves, respect for others, and pride for their society into their daily lives, to improve the standard of quality in Singapore. (Ex) At the moment, the culture in Singapore is at its minimal and still being diluted by the influx of foreigners into the country. Singaporeans are now the minority nationality in our own country, making us vulnerable to influences of other cultures from the foreigners around us. (Eg) For example, a woman breastfed her child on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) without cover, which was seen by many Singaporeans as an undignified act towards oneself and the child. (Ev) In modern times, dignified breastfeeding is possible with the help of breastfeeding cloth covers and the increase in availability of baby rooms all around the island, especially in and near MRT Stations. In exposing her breast to provide comfort to her baby in drinking breastmilk can be indecent to many on MRTs, especially to innocent young children or unwed males. This individual could have chosen to stop by conveniently at any train station to breastfeed her infant in a baby room or at least put a cover while breastfeeding on the train, but she chose not to do any of the mentioned. Instead, she chose to go by what is most convenient for her and her infant, and ignore the ethical constraints of the society. In this way, indecency had been shown, whereby she did not respect her body nor the innocent minds around her. This could have been influenced by the foreign workers or even PRs (Permanent Residents) in Singapore, who are likely to be more self-centred due to them being in a foreign land and needing to fend for themselves. Similarly, many other Singaporeans are starting to follow in foreigners’ footsteps, by only doing what is convenient to themselves but disrespectful to others, which is the opposite of upholding their identity and dignity. (P) On this account, in order for individuals to become dignified, being proud of oneself and his country is crucial. (Ex) When people are proud of themselves and their own country, they are likely to behave in ways in which are complimentary of themselves and what they represent. (Eg) For example, through the Dignity At Work Policy in the U.K. (United Kingdom), many have been taught to treat people with fairness and respect at workplaces in the hopes of making the work environment safer and more inclusive for everyone. (Ev) Generally, dignity is believed to be the key to a more cultured and respectful society, as people learn to have courtesy and thoughtfulness toward one another. This can in turn help people to feel more at ease to stay in the country instead of constantly thinking of leaving the country either for a holiday or for work due to stress and inequality at work or outside. (L) Henceforth, I would like to see the bettering of Singaporeans’ quality of life through the increase in their level of dignity.

(P) It would be an honour to see people embrace inclusiveness instead of divisiveness within society where cohesion is the great force to bring the country forward, economically, spiritually and culturally. (Ex) Currently, Singapore is divided because of the competitiveness amongst students, colleagues, and even corporations, which was ingrained into the minds of individuals throughout the education system in Singapore. (Eg) For instance, the education system in Singapore supports the bell-curve system where students are being compared to each other in order to obtain their end results for national exams. (Ev) The presence of this bell-curve would mean that it is inevitable that some will retain in the system for a longer time, while most will be of average standard, and only a few in the top standard, even though majority are able to comprehend the subjects learnt adequately well. Since everyone taking the same exam will be compared, it is unavoidable that many students would resort to bring their standards up but at the same time attempt to lower or maintain the standards of others around them. This concept of always having to be the best or one of the best is being rooted into the minds of Singaporeans, thus creating a competitive workforce as well, where people are always rivaling against one another even within the same company, causing mistrust and stagnation in the society and economy. As such, it is necessary for the reformation of the education system in Singapore, as whatever that are taught to the young would be brought on to the future workforce, and would dictate the future of the country. (P + Ex) Thankfully, the Singapore government is aware of this problem, and are trying to implement a solution to it. (Eg) For example, the government had announced that there will be the removal of the T-score (Transformed score) system for PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) by the year 2021, in the hopes that people will put less focus on academic results. (Ev) It is in the desire of the government, that both parents and students are able to put aside the strive for good results as a whole, but to aim to enter into schools with suitable culture and environment for the students. Nonetheless, students’ entry into schools are still dependent on their hidden scores. This may fuel students’ competitiveness in academic results as they are unable to know their scores after the exams, thus causing them to work harder to compete along with stress. Thus, it is hoped that the government has plans in mind to fix such a setback for them, in order to reduce competitiveness in academic grades, and prioritise the spiritual and cultural development of the Singapore society from the new generation of Singaporeans. (P) Moreover, outside of academic grades, people should also be less critical and more accepting towards people who are different from them. (Ex) In Singapore, it is still prevalent that people may judge due to the way others carry themselves. (Eg) For instance, due to our generally Asian culture, the older generation may teach the younger generation of Singaporeans that people with tattoos are gangsters who should be avoided at all costs. (Ev) People should not be solely judged by their tattoos, nor their religions, nor anything else that does not reflect a person wholly. If every Singaporean were to think in such a way, where unity should be valued over competitiveness and acceptance over stereotypes, Singaporeans are likely to be able to come together and bring the country to a whole new level. (L) As a result, I would like to see Singaporeans reform their mindsets to pacify competitiveness and prejudice, and uphold unity, in order to reach for greater success in terms of the country’s economy, culture of inclusiveness and Singaporeans’ spirituality.

In conclusion, even though Singapore had experienced many forms of improvements over the years, we should be adamant to further ameliorate our society in order to see happier and worthier lives being lived. As of now, it is essential that Singaporeans modify their comprehension of pragmatism, perceptions of life, appreciation of local culture, and inclusiveness in society, in order to meet the physical and psychological needs of people.

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