Raden had some stamps. When he arranged them into pages of 6 stamps, he had 3 stamps leftover. When he arranged the stamps into 7 pages, the balance was 6 stamps. Finally, when he arranged them into pages of 8, he had 5 stamps left over. What was the least number of stamps Raden had?
This was a question which was set by a teacher for her Form 1 students. It's not surprising that our students can't solve such a question because of the systematic dumbing down over the years. But wait... A teacher I knew came up with the answer 9 for this question and confidently gave it to her classes. A friend's son took the question paper and asked his teacher at another school to solve the question. He was told that there is something wrong with the question. Over the years, I have come across Physic teachers who can't explain simple concepts to her students. In my early years as a teacher, I knew a Commerce teacher who could not tell the difference between a credit card and debit card. And she was a Business grad. I've also seen Math graduates asking those old timers with HSC qualification solutions to Additional Math questions.... And about a decade ago, I also knew a Chemistry teacher who was a Master teacher who had not heard about buckyballs (buckminsterfullerrene) 15 years after it was discovered. Don't get me started on English..... The thing is I don't ever remember having teachers like that when I was schooling.
Yet if we take a look at the books from our neighbour down south, such questions as the one above can be found in books for kids in Primary 3 or 4. Apparently they have a section called Thinking Skills in their Math. I supposed that's to train their students to think. Year 4, made up of 10-year-olds are taught to solve questions like the one above. Our 13-year-olds have problem making sense of such questions. And to add more insult, apparently our teachers' ability to figure out problems like this is questionable too.... So is it surprising that 60% of our local grads are deemed to be lacking employable skills....
Something is wrong but no one wants to admit it. Singapore has consistently ranked very well in the PISA, breaking into the top 5 of the world in some areas tested in PISA. PISA tests students for Reading, Writing and Math. We are very far behind and it's easy to see why. The systematic dumbing down because of politics has caused us to lose our standard and quality. We take in instructors who are uninspiring and lacking in desire to upgrade themselves. We have administrators whose preoccupations seem to lean towards playing politics and producing glossy reports on papers of programmes claimed to have been executed.... We sorely lack good and capable people in our education system. Racial politics has seen the recruitment of sub par teachers. It has created an apartheid education system. Our politicians are well-known for their knee jerk reactions which inflict damage after damage to our once reputable educational institutions. Just look at UM! NUS was its offshoot... The world ranking speaks volume about our standing today.
I've been busy reading up about tertiary institutions of late since Son is in the process of applying for his courses. I learned one thing though. If nothing is done to tear down this apartheid system which we practise in our education system, it's only a matter of time before some of the more reputable private universities overtake our public universities in terms of quality and ranking. And that also means that our government has failed in one of its core duties of providing an education that will provide our people with the competitive edge needed in this global economy.
Sad, sad state we're in. Depressing too..... cos there seems no one up there willing to admit our malaise and administer the bitter pills.