Having chanced upon the article above, I have an interesting read but the content is nothing new. Many articles have been written on the comparisons and differences between the education systems of Singapore and Finland. However, what makes this article interesting is that it gives these perspectives a special touch in that the writer had made a personal trip to Finland to observe for himself what Finland education is like.
What I wish to discuss is a quote from the article:
Obviously, Singapore cannot copy the Finnish education system wholesale. We do not currently have its egalitarian culture and its long-standing respect of the teaching profession.
Personally, I find the quote above very interesting.
There are two points being raised：
1) Singapore does not possess an egalitarian culture
2) Singapore does not have its long-standing respect of the teaching profession.
By the term “egalitarian”, I believe that it refers to ensuring that students in Singapore are treated as an equal, not as a individualised person (as that has already been realised in Singapore a long time ago) but that students in Singapore are given unique educational pathways to realise their different potentials（of which these improvements are already in the works, and there are still some ways to go）.
I am currently reading a book “教育创造未来” (translated literally as “Education creates our future”) by a Taiwanese educational psychologist Madam Hong Lan (洪兰). In her book, she mentions another book “心智地图” (translated literally as “The Heart Map”) by author Li Wen (李文) . In “The Heart Map”, Li Wen mentioned that schools should be one where teachers are facilitators and where students are free to choose their callings in life. This may well be one of the best definitions of “egalitarian” when applied within the educational landscape.
I believe that Singapore may not be the only country which lacks a strong egalitarian culture within the education sector, and that many Asian countries face the same issue. Cultures are brought about by the people and if they are to be changed, it should also be exercised by the people. However, as most of us know, cultures may take decades or even centuries to change. So, an easier way is to change the educational system processes first, which is challenging but more often than not, it’s also slightly easier. This is akin to feeling that it’s much harder to be happy so that we can smile but it’s much easier if we smile first before becoming happy.
Educators and educationists in the relevant departments and organisations who are in charge of curriculum design and lesson planning should take an in-depth look at the lessons’ aims and objectives. Are they student-directed or merely teaching-directed? There is a world of difference, for while the former is already attuned to the current times, the latter is already antiquated and defunct (top-down teaching no longer works).
Hence, an egalitarian culture can first be established through a complete overhaul of the systems and inner mechanics of the existing education system.
Next, educationists have an even more challenging role to improve on the image of educators within the nation and the world.
It often astounds me on how highly regarded educators are in Finland (which it should be, considering that education is one of the pillars of the state), but it is also equally puzzling to me why they are not regarded as so in some other parts of the world.
On a lighter note, in two dating programs originating from two Asian countries, the male contestants are almost rejected by half or three quarter of potential female suitors once the word “teacher” is mentioned. Some common reasons cited for the rejection by the female contestants when queried by the program hosts include low monetary remuneration, long working hours and having a disciplinarian personality. As can be observed, educators are not highly regarded as someone who works to their calling but often to be frowned upon on more practical grounds (which translates easily into a less than a family man).
Furthermore, parents in most developed countries are also placing more of their attention and emphasis on how well their child are being taken care of in school rather than how well their child are learning in school. So teachers are no longer just educators but also that of social custodians?
Although such examples are not all encompassing, such simple observations says a lot about societal perceptions and expectations , don’t it?
So, yes, the world is headed towards a more materialistic outlook, and spiritual callings such as educating the subsequent generations and to better the character qualities of the lives of others get neglected and often fall by the wayside.
That being said, we also cannot deny the fact that with the decline of respect of teachers and educators, fewer individuals who have a passion for teaching and a calling to improve the virtuous lives of the later generations would be willing to heed their calling. The number of quality educators suffers and coupled with the at times heavy workload, many find it a strain to continue their teaching career, which is regretful.
Much have been said about passionate working professionals entering the teaching professional at the mid-career level. On the contrary, there probably are teaching professionals who are heading out at the mid-career level because of poor public perception and burnouts.
I believe all educationists should look forward to a day where they act as beacons in lighthouses, guiding students to choose their own pathways in life, and where educators globally are able to hold their head high and say to both themselves and others: “I am an educationist, and I am proud of being one”.
Education may not be a lucrative career but then again, money cannot buy a valuable education.