Another dot in the blogosphere?

Ruminating on stolen lunches

Posted on: May 8, 2017

The opening quote from this article might have caught the attention of Singaporeans and non alike.

Amid growing competition, and workers hungry to learn in places like Chengdu and even further away such as Russia, Singapore must not only protect its lunch but steal other people’s lunches, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged.

It is probably safe to say that our PM was not advocating thievery, but for us to remain competitive instead. Further down the news article were clarifications about the need to be flexible, spry, and adaptable. So while the stolen lunch comment might have been attention-grabbing, it was par for course.

What caught my eye instead was a reference to and skimpy details on Russian teachers.

Likewise, citing a teacher training project in Moscow, Singapore Teachers’ Union president Mike Thiruman said the students were “very eager to learn”, pick up concepts quickly and apply them.

He said: “The spirit is very strong, and it’s deeply inherent, and you can see them moving, wanting to move and say that we want to be the best.”

I wonder how a snapshot visit might allow visitors to gauge an eagerness to learn leading to application. Teacher preparation is a sociocultural phenomenon that takes years. It generally requires an immersion in context to understand and appreciate.

A snapshot and a soundbite is like a non-Singaporean claiming to be knowledgeable about Singapore after spending a two-hour transit at Changi Airport.

But I digress.

As an educator, I was hungry to know:

  • What were the Russian teachers-to-be doing differently?
  • What drives them to be the best?
  • How are we planning on stealing the equivalent of their stroganoff or caviar?

If “stealing lunches” is the theme, then one cannot just throw breadcrumbs and call that a meal.

If the Russians were decentralising teacher preparation in schools instead of relying on universities, then that would be something substantial to chew one.

If the Russian preservice teachers are not paid as well as ours are, but are somehow motivated to serve, then we want to steal and unlock that secret sauce.

If all of Russia was doing this and if all of its preservice teachers share a drive that ours lack, we want to raid the pantry, observe the kitchen, and perhaps kidnap the head chef.

We want to not just steal lunch, but also breakfast, tea, dinner, supper, and dessert. We want it all, including the kitchen sink. But it is hard to make a simple meal when all we have is a breadcrumb paragraph.

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