The System

At last. Education in Singapore has finally turned the corner—towards the uncanny.Primary One and Two students who cannot read will be put on a revamped Learning Support Programme or LSP (the closeness of “LSP” to “Lisp” seems to have escaped our acronymizers) to bring them on par with the rest of their cohorts.This is illogical. School begins at Primary One, so we should not expect these students to be already able to read and write. But of course some 86 percent of this age group can—because they began their education at age two or three, in preschool centers, enrichment classes, Montessori, Kumon or whatever.Well, if this is to be the expected norm, then compulsory education should start at age two instead of six. Just nationalize the preschools. This would obviate the need to separately regulate them. This would begin every child on a level playing field. This would mean the end of frantic parents juggling work, preschool and childcare. Even better, this would mean the end of I Not Stupid sequels.We turn now to higher education. Singapore Management University is offering “Yoga: Physical, Mental and Social Development” as an elective course. It is three times oversubscribed. Singapore Polytechnic offers “Backpacking: The Fine Art of Travel by Roughing It Out.” Ngee Ann Polytechnic offers hip-hop dance, canoe polo and archery. Republic Polytechnic offers adventure learning. National University of Singapore offers “Heavenly Mathematics: Cultural Astronomy.”What is this? How can these things qualify as respectable offers at respected institutions of higher learning? How can they compare to traditional subjects such as Anatomy, Astronomy, Comparative Anthropology, Economics, Financial Management, Geography, History, Hydrology, Indian Studies, Logistics, Marine Engineering, Medicine, Music Theory, Oceanography, Physics, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Sociology of Music, Tourism Studies, Transport, Urban Culture, etc.On second thought, the new offers do contain parts of the traditional (and boring) subjects—the useful parts. This is a darn sight better than forcing students to learn all the useless parts as well. After all, when did you last solve a quadratic equation outside of the classroom? Life would be so much better (and cheaper) if we all learned to tell our Zodiac fortunes, instead of having to periodically consult the roadside geomancer. Perhaps it’s the new three Rs of education: Redundant, Ridiculous and Rich.