How we can become World Beaters
Father: Son, come here. I bought something for you.
Son: Yes Dad
Father: Here, this is for you
Father gives son a globe
Son: Thanks Dad. I’ll put it on my desk.
Father: No son. I want you to hit, punch and bang it.
Father: Yes. That’s about the only way you are going to be a world beater!
As if it were not enough that our local media keeps comparing us with other countries, Newsweek man Fareed Zakaria has done it too. The only difference in the latter analysis is that we are not the bestest in the world. He compares Singaporean and American students and asks why despite us doing so well in exams, we fare poorly in the ‘real world’.
The ‘real world’ according to Zakaria seems to be narrowly (and implicitly) defined as the world of ‘science’ and ‘business’. I don’t even want to dwell on the vast fields he has left out,
In order to succeed in the world of science, there needs to be a passion for blue-sky research and a Phd is a must. The ‘problem’ with getting a Phd is that it takes a lot of time, commitment, money and passion to achieve. There are many Singaporeans with Phds and the zeal for science but once these people come back to Singapore, there is not much scope for blue-sky research. Why? Because getting the Nobel Prize is not one of our objectives. Read the following comment carefully and no prizes for guessing who made them....
'In Singapore, we have a small population, we have no such luxury to do basic science. The key is to be practical. We cannot have everything. By nature, I want to see some outcome...I want something I can feel and touch, and knock.'
'My job is to create jobs. It's not just to create great science and great things. Don't forget Nobel Prizes don't create jobs. Research, to me, is a means to an end. The end, to me, is to attract and encourage local companies and MNCs and create jobs for all Singaporeans, from the CEO down to the cleaning lady.'
Let me clarify. I am not criticizing the person who made the above comments (scared, kenna sue). I am merely stating that there is no ambiguity as far as Singapore's objectives in science research is concerned.
So the main area for research here is when it can be converted to $$ and this leads us to the ‘business world’. Doing well in Math, Physics and Chemistry Olympiads have NOTHING to do with creating a product to sell in the market place. Succeeding in business requires a totally different skill-set. Journalists thrive on correlation but when causality is brought into the picture, they dont have a story.
Anyways, I’m probably gonna buy a globe this evening :)