A Dream for the Future of Our Children

On the 26th of July 2010, a lovely boy entered the world. Today, 14 months later, this little baby has grown up to become a confident young boy; one who has a zest for life - a deep love for nature and the outdoors, a deep hunger for all kinds of food, and a deep love for the people in his life. For a long time since our son was born, we have been wanting to share our parenting journey, as well as the societal issues associated with parenting. This blog was written as a result of this desire.

For the last two weeks, I have been involved in the annual social-academic exercise otherwise known as the Polytechnic Forum. Every year, some 300 poly students in Singapore would gather to discuss a salient issue. Eminent speakers would be invited, qualitative discussions would be organised, and at the end of the event, the students would present their findings to a prominent government leader, in this case the newly-minted Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat.

The theme of this year's forum was "Our Singapore Dream", based on the re-invented 5Cs in Singapore - Career, Comfort, Children, Culture and Charity. Then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had coined the new 5Cs in response to changing trends in 21st Century Singapore, and they are supposed to replace the original 5Cs - Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condominium and Country Club - a popularised embodiment of Singaporeans' aspirations.

Being assigned to the "Children" sub-group, it was particularly meaningful for me to look at how my child would be able to thrive in today's complex world. Already, political commentators have hinted of a wind of change, a movement that has become apparent in the wake of two explosive elections. It is still unclear as to what the future holds, and I'm particular concerned about two issues that were raised during the forum.

Firstly, we considered whether the children of today can look forward to the "quantity of lives" or the "qualitity of lives". In today's fast-growing world, government leaders have called for an increased population to address declining fertility rates and avert the crisis of a greying generation. Definitely more people are required to fuel our economy and help the country to increase its economic growth year by year. However, how much is too much? Will there be a time when our land is so overcrowded that we can hardly find a place for our children to play? Already my wife and I find it difficult to find a place for our child to play. As a nature lover, our son loves wide open spaces. However, we have discovered that places such as East Coast Park are far too crowded. These were the places that we used to go to when we were younger. Today, it is difficult even to find a carpark lot on a weekend evening. And when we arrive at the park, we see more people than trees. I'm certain this is not the future that we want for our son; we want him to grow up in a country where he can play and learn uninhibitedly; and this seems to be a pipe dream if things continue the way they seem to be heading.

Secondly, we discussed at length the importance of building character in our children. The discussion was sparked by the Education Minister, who in a major speech, called for the education system to be re-examined. He is now pushing for values and character education to take centrestage in the education of our young. At the closing ceremony, Mr Heng shared passionately why civics and moral education should not be sidelined in favour of mathematics and other "core" subjects. He instead spelt out his own version of the 5Cs - Creativity, Collaboration, Conviction, Character and Contribution. The Minister's comments are indeed one of the most refreshing in recent times. I agree with him that values and character should constitute the bedrock of a child's education. Without such a firm foundation, the house of cards will crumble. So many of the youths-at-risk whom I've had the opportunity to meet fall under this category, young people who were brought up not by principles but by pragmatics. I truly hope Minister Heng's policy is implemented well. Often policies might be formulated coherently, but if they are not implemented well, all would come to nought.

It remains to be seen whether Our Singapore Dream for the children of today will come to pass. In the meantime, I know I will continue to parent my child purposefully. Too much is at stake and I truly want the best for him.

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