Another dot in the blogosphere?


Posted on: September 7, 2016

In a slow news day, STonline reported how there used to be about 20,000 payphones in Singapore. There are now just around 2,000.

People might resort to using payphones when their phone batteries run out or when their service plans run low. Very few people actually need payphones because they have their own. And not just phones but also mini computers, cameras, TVs, gaming machines, and more all rolled into one.

That there are still so many dotting our country is probably more surprising. Someone could organise a scavenger hunt by placing special Pokémon Go stops where these phones are.

I know my son’s school has a couple of payphones because personal mobile phones are still not allowed. The school (and many others) are still operating in 1980.

There could be a use for such phones of course. Imagine a disaster of epic proportions: Telecommunication outage, zombie apocalypse, telecommunication outage caused by zombie apocalypse. While these are unlikely, we keep the payphones around just in case.

So we retain old products and processes for the minority or for the exception. In the mean time, the rest of the system tries to move forward. But it cannot because we are only as fast as our slowest. Chemists might call this the rate determining step.

Step back and eyeball the schooling system. How much of it is recognisable from 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago? Look at photographs of classrooms taken 100 years ago. How much have environments, layouts, mindsets, and practices changed?

What is the rate determining step in our schools? What is our just in case emergency? Why is the rhetoric “prepare for the future” but the practice so entrenched in the past? What are we more concerned about: Letting go or doing what is good for kids?

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