SINGAPORE: In a recent interview, Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim had his educator’s hat firmly on as he touched on why Singapore has never had a Nobel laureate and how being a straight-A student may not bring on the perks it promises.

The Sengkang GRC MP, an Associate Professor of Economics at ESSEC Business School, during a guest stint on the Yah Lah BUT Podcast, posted on YouTube earlier this week, acknowledged that Singapore has been “remarkably successful” at one level but added that “there are glaring gaps at another level.”

It’s hard to argue against Singapore’s educational system, given that the country is a consistent top-notcher on education rankings such as PISA.

Yet, Assoc Prof Lim provided another perspective that looks forward to a future where Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take on increasingly important roles in our lives and where thinking outside the box will be needed.

“Singapore has never generated a Nobel laureate and, okay, you might say that’s because we’re a small country. There are other small countries that have generated laureates” across a range of disciplines, including the sciences, economics, and literature.

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What is important, he added, is to not merely bring average scores up. “That’s what we have managed to do, bring the average level up, such that our averages are among the best in the world, if not the best.

And that’s what is reinforced year after year by our performance in these international comparison education exercises” such as PISA.

But Singapore needs to ask itself if “we are generating… workers of tomorrow. That part is much more unclear to me.”

With AI already taking over many types of work, he added, “What we are only doing is purely climbing up the skills acquisition ladder.

I fear that that ladder will run out or the bottom will be pulled away from under because what we also need is to recognize that innovation, creativity, and thinking outside established parameters are not only just as important, but are going to become increasingly more important.”

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He also talked about the social contract where students work hard and get straight As.

“But if that social contract gets rent? If what it means is that you know someone who gets straight As will get an okay job, they’ll graduate with a degree, and they’ll be able to plug into the workforce, but they will never rise to the top because they’re good operators.

We don’t need operators in the future.

If you want to put your finger on what is truly going to make a difference in terms of opportunities for not just business but for the arts, humanities, for science even, it is a people who can truly go past what is already available in terms of what we know to be universal possibilities.

That really requires us to free our minds from the frameworks that we are currently in.” /TISG

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