Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The University Degree: Changing Culture

This degrees culture gotta shift by a large degree or it is not meaningful. But if we pull this off, we might culturally no longer be Chinese. This is not a bad idea if we are the future of Chinese culture. Of course this isn't possible as we are no longer completely Chinese given EL is our first language. Yet we will make ourselves totally interesting to the Chinese though and they will want to learn from us.

The Chinese Scholar culture is increasingly a liability. For our future sake we have to remake this. The beginning is the hardest as it is tantamount to moving a huge huge immovable boulder. We do not have the strength to do this and so we have to look for leverage. I think we are still looking.

We don't have a lot of time to fix this but impatience would not yield results either. The pay gap between non grad and grads must narrow. Fortunately the changing economy is going to help make this possible because everyone will be a knowledge worker. Today's non grad would have to think and work like yesterday's grads. Every piece of equipment and service we provide is embedded with more and more knowledge.

In a sense time is our friend as we gradually respond to the exigencies of the marketplace. On the other hand we must watch our competitors as they will also be doing the same thing. We can't run too fast or slow and we have to experiment with finding the right pace. The pace will vary across the spectrum of industries with the fastest changing offering the best pay and most interesting jobs.

Remaking culture is not a management task to be achieved in a short time. Such change should be almost imperceptible or they will not be entrenched and cannot last. The government is skippering this against a background of much cynicism from what I gather this morning on 93.8 Talk Back show. So to succeed the civil service must be in the vanguard leading this change or we will definitely not change at all. Then we will have many under employed or jobless grads many whom had obtained their degrees from overseas.

1 comment:

  1. The issue you're raising is a broader issue than degree vs non-degree -- its an increasingly fast changing, globalised world & how one stays employable in it. I don't know (but don't think) PM intended that this is what's being addressed, and if he did, then he did a really really lousy job tackling it. I think he had a more modest goal in mind and that is to forestall potential issue of graduate unemployability. So its something more basic, more immediate.

    That said, I still say that PM had done a lousy job both in communicating the issue and tackling it. As you pointed out, he runs smack into a major Chinese cultural issue - if for >5000 years, the Chinese gene had understood the importance of imperial exams. Today, we even have 陪读妈妈sacrificing everything to give their child the best headstart in life. And our leaders are now telling Singaporeans to settle for less?

    When LKY was first elected PM, he was seen by the masses as an English educated guy, speaks no chinese and he was tackling headon then the controversial issue of chinese schools. He sets up SAP schools and sent his own kids for CL1 education. By using his own children as an example, he gave no cause for sceptics to claim he is anti-chinese. If our leaders are serious that every school is a good school or that you don't need a degree to succeed or that ITE/Poly offer equally good paths to succeed in life, they should do what LKY did - send their own children down this path. And of course, you and I know they'll never in a million years do that. Its one thing to preach, its another to eat your own medicine.

    I agree with the larger issue you raise - how to stay employable in a fast changing globalised world, where even an MBA is no guarantee you'll not need to be a taxi-driver in your 50's. And that this issue should be addressed. But degree vs non-degree is a periphery issue with respect to this issue. The sets of solutions called for are wider too.

    At the end of the day, the people are smart .. in fact, a lot smarter than what our leaders give credit for. As Asians, we'll listen politely, nod our heads. But we're all practical minded and will believe in change, only when we see it.

    You can continue to give our PM a big failing "F" in both his communication and his strategy for tackling this issue. And he deserves it.