Really saying nothing.

Case in point #1:

A talk by a city planner, supposedly on urban planning, ends up being a longer than alloted monologue about how his professor from the past, whom he personally met from the airport and chauffeured around says that what he sees around our city is among the finest. The minutes seem like hours as he waxed lyrically about other examples with similar accolades by seemingly qualified people whom he knew personally, some while being driven around by him as well.

Case in point #2:

An elderly and well-established local architect gives a presentation at a seminar on architectural issues related to Islamic civilisation which consists entirely of a slide show of his travels in younger days through middle eastern countries – with images of him and others looking like The Grateful Dead and all the anecdotes that came with the experience. Point consistently reminded throughout was how the younger folks in the seminar should follow his example, which we are to assume would cover the subjects pertaining to the seminar on Islamic civilisation. Older folks in the audience nod smugly in agreement.

Case in point #3

A tutor displeased with his class for what he considers lackadaisical attitudes, proceeds to grill them for no less than 4 hours on improving the situation. In those 4 hours he has managed to cover the hardships of parental roles in general, deftly segueing into dedication to studies [especially his], and eventual commitments in matrimony before being released into the real world. He highlighted the commitment of the university in giving the students the opportunity to study within their hallowed halls from out of hundreds of thousands of applicants, and the faculty’s relentless pursuit in extracting the necessary funds to carry out said nobility. Naturally this would follow with his own personal altruistic roles which includes the sacrifices he made braving the traffic day after day to be there at the expense of how his own flesh and blood would have to rely on other means of transportation while he stays dedicated to his task, as does his spouse in another part of the city.

Then comes the government’s role providing for the youth as they are the future of the nation to the extent that the nation has even paid for a foreign architect to design and foreign technology to build not just one, but two very tall buildings that we can be proud of. [The foreign part was my own addition. The way he put it you’d believe we designed and built it ourselves.] I hope you can see where this is going cos i’d really like to move to another case in point; but rest assured, not a peep about the actual problems the students were having with their tasks at hand which led to their poor performance.

Case in point #4

A workshop for learner drivers included a seminar where the presenter goes on and on about how in developed countries similar schools would have very hi-tech facilities including furniture from world renown furniture house, Ikea – like that was a good thing.

Case in point #5

Elderly folks telling the young ‘uns about the hardships of life during wartime, the perils of foreign occupation, the misery of rationing, the lack of proper sanitation facilities, the joys of independence, you get the picture. But was it so that them young ‘uns would appreciate the times they’re in and not take things for granted? Nope. It was so them young ‘uns will watch less TV, read more books and study much harder in school.

Case in point #6

Some politician on a TV forum where the topic was on how we should be moving forward with the times, declares out that rather than moving forward he’d like to look backward and went on and on about how things were in the past and proceeded to reminisce about it while the others in the panel, including the host, fell in as subordinates and nodded diligently till it was time for the final credits to roll.


I could barely fathom what was going on in all those characters minds as to how they could just go on talking about things actually irrelevant or barely contributing to the subjects at hand, if at all. One would expect that if not much was known of the subject matter then there wouldn’t be much to say; but they just went on and on, totally engrossed while digressing further and further till all that was left was to thank them for having taken the time to talk, regardless if they said anything of significance. Just for the act of talking, never mind the lack of actual content.

The first case was just telling you what’s considered good by whom he considers good [like you should too] as if that was good enough. Whereas shouldn’t he be talking about what makes the good good, and the inverse for what’s bad?

The second case – I don’t know, I’m still figuring out that one.

The mystery in the third case is why the tutor would not delve into the actual causes of the students’ problems in order to help them out of it? If he already knew what that was, what could it be that warranted the 4 hour sermon of sorts?

Case in point #4 appears to be very insecure as it seems like he needs to impress the audience with what he knows [as if that is what it takes to impress them], in order to coax a sense of authority from them in order that they’ll listen to him. And of course by the time he established his authority, the time ran out.

Advise from the elderly in #5 should be taken for the intentions behind and never the form in which that they actually choose to carry it out.

Number 6 is a politician.

A’s are for Attainment not Achievement

I don’t much mind the initial objectives of the local education curriculum. It does seem to have the right intentions – primarily that of dispensing fundamental knowledge and the base skills required to acquire them. These can be seen from the textbooks designated by the ministry. Of course you have to be charitable and overlook the occasional errors in spelling and paging, the choice of graphics, and the cover with strong nationalist overtones with sensationalist fonts. Never mind the propaganda. Past that and you’d find contents geared to enable the understanding of the fundamentals of what is to be learnt. For instance, they attempt to convey the concept behind division through examples of sharing in daily life rather than merely laying out division tables to be memorised. History is laid out as stories and events rather than simply listing dates and names to be remembered. The latter examples that emphasises you to memorise is in the realms of the supplementary or interactive books that are preferred by the teachers.

In the hands of these teachers, the process of learning is reduced to a subset of 3 r’s as notes and data to be recited, remembered and regurgitated at exams. And to further buttress the success of those 3 r’s, there’s also the phenomena of question spotting based on experiences and observations of cycles and probabilities – which is trying to determine through hypothetical patterns of which questions came out when after how many years, and when was the last time they appeared.

To further ensure those 3 r’s are properly instilled, there’s always tuition with more exclusive notes and tutors with better answering tips and techniques and even higher q-spotting acumen. These are centres or persons with reputations forged by the gross total ratio of A’s to students over the years.  [I believe the desired ratio is 8 A’s to a student.] Of course, tuitions are also to provide good practice for those requiring remembering by repetition. If you are not confident of your natural memory retention facilities, fret not, there are centres that boast on banners to being able to boost it for you solely for exams.

What are exams then? Shouldn’t they be about the assessments of one’s comprehension, absorption and assimilation of knowledge, and not merely a challenge that needs to be overcome with the grading marks as medallions? With the amount of adulation and fawning particularly through extensive national media coverage, the challenge it seems is more the favoured way in these parts.

But isn’t it just an illusion of what the true objective should actually be? No question it’s all about the hardwork. But if exams are mere challenges than the toils are more about covering as much as possible in order to remember as hard as possible rather than to genuinely understand things. And that’s not an exercise of intelligence. That’s all about memory retention, which has been confused for intelligence.

So maybe we should remove the deception of the accolades and adulation which upholds such illusions so that future generations would actually strive with due diligence for actual intelligence.

Shouldn’t we? Could we?

I gather not. First to be up in arms and throw fits and tantrums over even the suggestion of such would be the parents. Don’t even think about it. No way would parents ever allow such a travesty to even be considered. After all, that’s the labyrinth of illusions they came through.