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‘A’ or ‘C’-The Future Talent We Need Now. August 1, 2010

Posted by @Karen_Fu in creativity, human quality, Innovation, talent.
Tags: , , ,


[pic source: www.scivit.de; www.cgb-reunion.org]

I’ve just met another typical parent today. Someone who claims that today’s standard is higher than yesteryears as the technologies to be learnt are far more advanced than before. While it’s true to claim that today’s students learn far more, one cannot deny that our forefathers took the pain to lay the foundations. Should more advanced knowledge be the main guaage to measuring one’s talent? I doubt it. But it appears that taking more tests and the ability to score high in more tests appear to be the mark of excellence. To a lot of extent, a lot of what our predecessors have done are forgotten.

Can we safely say that to invent a bicycle is less intelligent/creative/innovative than to invent a motorcycle? Or can we discriminate someone who could fold a plane in a piece of paper and say the engineer who just made another fighter jet is far cleverer?

I thought this is the kind of mentality that cuts off other areas of knowledge and creativity.

More than half a century ago, scoring 5 Distinctions for the University of Cambridge Examinations used to be a stellar set of grades. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and his wife were top students of their cohorts. While I cannot recall how many ‘A’s they have scored, I am very sure they did not have 10 / 11/ 12 or even 13 As in one shot. Definitely they did not have stand in tutors/enrichment classes to get them to the grades they had. Today, getting a string of A’s is a common sight. This used to be confined to top schools in Singapore. It wasn’t meant to be even reachable among the masses. Not to mention those who are in the 50th/60th percentile of the year’s cohort. However today, a student, under the tutorledge of both school and private home teachers + many on enrichment classes, these students could be stellar students able to reach the stars like anybody else. Naturally the pride goes up. And it is good that the esteem has risen. They have put in a powerful effort to gain the grades and that is admirable. What looks mediocre now was what it was exceptional. Today’s top student is someone of a super hybrid of As, list of accomplishments at national and international levels armed with a few rare skills. The skills of these students are highly noted. Once I went to an European seminar, and a professor from a top northern European country even suggested that the entire Singapore population to migrate to his country. He claimed that there were ample land space for all to go over to settle. To add on, the mix of cultures and race would enrich his entire country.

I was surpirsed or rather should I claim that was a shock. Never had I heard something like that. It could mean a whole bunch of other things as well. But I’m not too sure since he didn’t explicitly spelt it out. He merely suggested it.

While this is all very encouraging, I am actually worried. Not that I worry about the academic ability. But I worry about the true definition of ‘talent’. If we are not careful, we might make a U turn backwards as far as learning is concerned, for learning is not merely about accumulating knowledge, but to learn how to learn. We may be misled to miss the points of other traits, notably creativity and more importantly, moral ethics and a wide horizon of other non-academic subjects that we all need to learn — political and socio-economic astuteness. The possibility of getting ‘A’ scorers to get complacent and even arrogant is very real, and it is happening now. And the humility to bend and move in ways that most cannot do in a leadership way that is like no other, so a nation could remain as prosperous and sustainable.I think this latter portion is way more important. What was an ‘A’ may not meet what is a ‘B’ with other non-academic skills that could easily make up for the loss of an ‘A’.

We want creative leaders / followers who can think not just out of the box, but in any given situation in different professions. Flatted or not, the world is now in its evolved state that anyone with any skills could work in anywhere under any different scenario. Everywhere in the world, people keep blaming that people from poorer countries are undercutting them. If they could cut you at a lower price, someone somewhere would do a better deal. The competition is that steep and everyone’s in.

I often wonder why our gradautes could fade after the top of the crop while other graduates could just perform better & eventually surpass us. There’s clearly something we need to change. I have a school friend who was rendered as a sort of failure. She wasn’t stupid. For if she were, she wouldn’t have cross the hurdles to be in the top high school here. She merely miss the senior high school year & she was seen as an academic failure. Soon, she went off to Arizona State University. Following year till final year, she had been on the Dean’s list. She went on to Penn Uni for Masters (if I’m not mistaken.) She wouldn’t have made it if she stayed here. The level of freedom to research and learn were far more flexible, so your mind just grow. It did for me too when I was overseas, so I knew what she was talking about. Definitely there was something in.

For a changing world, you need people who genuinely loves to learn for the sake of learning,and a zeal that makes people fuel more energy to create new exciting ways of living that enhances quality.Not a group of people who are stuck in an area for just ‘A’s. ‘A’s are not enough anymore for a  world that runs on very rapid change.

For what was an ‘A’ in the past may not be an ‘A’ now. And what was a ‘D’ or even a ‘F’ in the past may changed to be a ‘B’ or even an ‘A’ now.

So what are the grades for? And what are talents?

Only time, not report cards, will tell. – Karen Fu


1. tsactuo - August 2, 2010

Very good, thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

2. Karen - August 3, 2010

thanks, just gone to your blog. Neat posts. I like your quote:
‘“Logic is a tool, not a way of life. Imagination is fundamental to one’s life and humanity.” Nice one!

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