AS SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE (EDUCATION), Dr Tay Eng Soon has seen many changes in Singapore's education policy. Some of these changes have been criticised by parents.
Dr Tay was asked about the need for the changes.
His reply: ''Don't forget our society itself is undergoing change, rapid change. If you look at what Singapore was like 10 years ago and now, there's a world of difference.
"I think it would be foolhardy of us not to adapt to all these changes.
"And education is no different. The needs of school leavers are not static. I will give you a very good example.
"Employers are indicating through the way they hire people that they need them to have a more general education. Previously, if you just went through school and you left prematurely and you went and picked up a skill or two, employers will take you.
"But today they are more discriminating. And the reasons are very obvious: They want a worker who is more educated and more able to think of his job and to adjust to his job.
"So that has forced us to change some of the policies.
"We change because of the need to do so, not because we have some sadistic wish to just change for the sake of change. Frankly speaking, it's easier not to change."
Especially if there is a political cost?
"There is a political cost. But I think it is worth paying the cost provided you correctly anticipate the needs. And then you must be bold enough to make the change."
BUT what is the highlight of your own political career?
"Well, it's related to the changes in policy and being involved in making those changes. And secondly, being involved in the implementation of those policies.
"For example, in the early part of my MOE career, I was very much involved in implementing the new education system. There was the streaming of primary and secondary school students ... It took a number of years.
"And there was a lot of explaining to do to parents because there was a lot of unhappiness. But we stuck to it because we believed that was the right policy.
"Ultimately, we proved it so because more kids are going to schools and the dropout rate is going down."
The above article was first published in The Straits Times (Aug 7, 1993).
Next: No point in self-pity.