Do PAP MPs know what leadership is?

Singapore Democrats

Freelance writer Ms Elaine Ee reported yesterday on The Online Citizen about a PAP MP, whom she declined to identify, having difficulty defending the policies of his own party.$CUT$

The MP even seemed to disagree with those policies but couldn’t or didn’t know how to correct them.

“In fact, there were moments when it sounded like he was apologizing for these policies,” Ms Ee wrote, “saying that he agreed with the audience, knew that the policies are flawed and have always been flawed – but he can’t do anything about it. The big ship can’t be easily turned around.”

One of these involved the PSLE. Those present at the meeting raised the issue, pointing out that the exam was too stressful for children and wondered if it could be removed.

But instead of telling his audience of the merits of such an exam, the MP simply pointed to the fact that the MOE conducted a survey showing that parents wanted the exam to stay.

The first problem is that he did not say how the survey was conducted: which parents were asked or the type of questions that were asked. These have an impact on the results.

Second, if the PAP doesn’t provide an alternative to parents and show how such an alternative is better than the current practice, how are parents going to want to scrap the PSLE?

This is the problem with Singapore today. The PAP sees the problem, understands the problem but have no idea how to rectify it. Groupthink within the party is so strong that no one is able to think out of the box and propose alternative and better ideas.

Worse, they don’t seem to have the courage to speak out. No ship is too big to turn. If we all adopted such a fatalistic attitude, the Singapore ship – currently drifting without a compass – will, sooner or later, run aground.

Leadership is not about suing bloggers and activists and trying to look strong. It is not about controlling the media to present only one side of the story.

Leadership is about having principles and values, and formulating policies based on those values. It is about explaining the merits of policies to the people and then having the confidence to let them choose freely in elections. No matter how long the process takes.

This is what PAP MPs must learn. Defending the indefensible or playing tai-chi does not benefit anyone. Singaporeans elected them to lead, not obfuscate.

For the record, the SDP has said that the PSLE must be done away with. Why? One, it causes much psychological, and even physical, harm to our children. (Read this) Two, it kills creative thinking which is what the future demands. Three, it is unfair to poor students and late developers and a waste of potential talent.

So what is the alternative?

1. Reduce class size to 20 students per teacher. (The mystery PAP MP above agrees with this policy.) In this way, students will be given personal attention to facilitate their development.

2. Cultivate creative impulses in our children by encouraging them to speak up in class and make mistakes. It is only through making mistakes that we learn.

3. Lighten workload but broaden the curriculum to include subjects like speech & drama and humanities. Encourage interactive and collaborative activities in the classroom as well as reading for pleasure.

(Read the full paper here.)

The future is all about innovation, and innovation is all about reading, collaboration of ideas, and the ability to express and communicate those ideas.

The next time PAP MPs talk to their residents and come up against tough questions, they should demonstrate leadership and tell their audience that there are alternatives, albeit from another party.

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