We need to improve early-life career guidance in secondary schools

I applaud the Ministry of Education’s efforts to introduce education and career guidance (ECG) counsellors (ECG) to all schools (24 October 2017). As Singapore reduces the emphasis on grades as the sole measure of one’s value, I believe that our education system needs to explore the passions of students earlier, and in far wider fashion.

What makes us wake up each morning to go to work? Is it the need to pay our bills, or is it out of a genuine excitement about the contributions we can make at work?

Studying in one of Singapore’s ‘elite’ schools, the range of career guidance talks involved professions as a doctor or a lawyer, or a scholar. I only began my own search for the unique niche I could fill in this world when army afforded the time to pause, and think. In my current experience studying in a British university, I have noticed that there is a deep respect for all professions – whether it be as a librarian, a doctor, or a social worker. I hope Singapore’s education system, and our wider society will begin to move beyond reputable professions, towards recognising all professions as vital in our economy.

As Singapore looks to build and harness a more creative economy, could (ECG) counsellors also raise awareness of the possibilities afforded by self-employment? Can we encourage more students to create value independently, instead of merely as part of an organization? At Hwa Chong Institution, our school organized the annual Projects’ Day Competition, a competition that encouraged all students to pursue and grow a pet-project to showcase to judges. I would encourage all schools to also have opportunities like these for all, and not just a select few.

As John Dewey once said, ‘Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.’ It is my hope that students do not merely see themselves as cogs in an efficient machinery. It is my hope that students can eventually find the unique role they can and will play in the world following their education in schools. It is my hope that our education system continues to build lifelong learners, who continually improve the world through their work.