Academic Inflation

The PSLE results were released last week and I have no doubt many 12-year-olds would have aced all subjects for their final exams. The time spent on private tuition and enrichment classes have paid off well.

When the education ministry decided not to publish the names of the highest scorers, the group that’s most affected must be the tuition centres, motivational coaches and health supplement companies. They will all run dry of star students to endorse their services for the coming year. No more posters at bus-stops and full-page advertisements in the local newspapers.

I’m so glad this has happened. The school enrichment business has leverage far too long on the basic education system. Every parent wants the best for their children but to keep feeding them with additional work and lessons doesn’t seem like the best approach for holistic learning.

It’s academic doping if you ask me. In order to keep up the standard, the standards get higher each year. There seems to be no end. The kids are already in a rat race before they fully reached puberty.

What about their job prospects when they graduate in ten years’ time?

The same jobs done by secondary school leavers in the past are now filled by graduates. The jobs that used to require a basic university degree are now filled by people with master degrees.

I don’t think there are fewer jobs today. I think there are just too many university programmes churning too many graduates. As lower-level jobs are taken by higher qualified people, the opportunities for young people to learn on the job become fewer.

Except for specific professions like doctors, lawyers or engineers, the general degree holders are fighting hard with other qualified job-seekers for a respectable job. The young men and women in smart suits outside a bank retail branch pushing credit card brochures are graduates. So are the reception staff at corporate events and the back office executives sorting documents in the same way that filing clerks used to do without going through university.

To justify the qualification with the actual role, organizations are giving job titles that do not bear the same responsibilities a generation ago. Vague titles on business cards with words such as ‘manager’ when there is nothing and no one to manage. Similarly, directors and heads of such and such are growing aplenty.

This undermines the real managers, directors and business heads. The lines between job titles and responsibilities are blurred and so are the lines between academic qualifications and job roles.

Academic inflation in the job market starts from academic doping in the school system. Every generation gets smarter than the previous one. But to channel all the intelligence and talent in the pursuit of academic excellence is a waste of a child’s potential and his/her future contribution to society.

It is time to be reminded that education is a preparation for life, and not just for examinations.



4 thoughts on “Academic Inflation

  1. schools here encourages the child to try out new things, encourages them to pursue what they like to do in the adult world. obviously there are some who are academically incline who will get high grades, but they usually end up in the specialist field. but those that seek in fields they love to do also end up doing very well. education is to help you to discover what you yourself is set-up to do in life…not one to purse to get high score and finding that this is not what I will like to do in life. basically being either street smart or book smart.
    but in your context street smart is view as a rebel……….a no hopper!


    1. We have done well in life because of the values we uphold,the determination we possess and the drive we had. Not because of the grades we had in school. It’s like playing golf. You mess up the first hole, you make it up the next. Its the entire game that matters. Australia and many other countries have good education system because they focus on the child’s development. In Singapore, I believe we try and there are super teachers here. But the school system is so pushed by KPIs that forces many teachers to work on scoring grades than nurturing children. At the rate we are going, the poor and underprivileged have very little chance to succeed here. That’s why the growing inequality. I really wish our education ministry work harder to promote true holistic learning.

  2. Ancient China history confers top scholars into high flying officials.
    Singapore PSC systems churn out loads of scholarly million dollars ministers.
    PSLE earmarked bright young sparks whom will make it for life.
    The rat race to the apex …

    Hey …. wait a minute … how did we ever end up here …

    I agree this belief is amplified by the many “vendors” out there to push product and services to create wonder kids.
    This is BIG business!

    I wonder what would happen to the learning culture if these vendors disappeared/vanished.

    1. The intention is good, it started well. We had the real dreams to chase and they were our dreams. Today, the kids are chasing someone else’s dreams – parents, teachers, tutors. The system needs serious reviewing and changing. For example, do you have to teach a language? Languages should part of the school medium, not treated as a separate subject. Allow the kids to watch Chinese, Malay and Tamil movies in school. Get some celebrities to engage the schools with entertainment. Kids are so smart. You just have to stimulate them properly and they’ll learn on their own. I propose that private tuition be banned so we know the real standard of our education system. Stop academic doping.

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