How many Western leaders are there that look like respectable men? Okay, we got Trump. We also have Trudeau, Macron, and a whole bunch of other clowns. There are people in leading positions, sometimes ministers, who dropped out of university. Handing out positions of powers due to quotas is also common. In Singapore, you have none of that. Instead, it’s a meritocracy. It may be flawed in some details, but overall, their system is incredibly sound.
To give you one data point: Singapore’s current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, studied mathematics. He didn’t just study mathematics. He studied mathematics at the University of Cambridge, which, arguably, has the most highly regarded undergraduate program in mathematics in the entire world. Yet, he didn’t just study mathematics at Cambridge, he was the top student of his entire class, the Senior Wrangler. Other people you may have heard of who were Senior Wranglers include George Stokes (cf. Navier–Stokes equations) or Frank Ramsey, and a whole slew of most eminent mathematicians. Titans like
James Clerk Maxwell and Lord Kelvin did not become Senior Wrangler, but only Second Wrangler, which probably gives you some idea about the level of competition.
Now, if Lee Hsien Loong degree was some bullshit subject like literature, I would fully support an interjection like, “So what?”, but mathematics isn’t like that. I would say that a degree in mathematics at a reputable institution is one of the clearest proofs of having a very high IQ. While there are of course high-IQ people in fields other than mathematics — arguably not so much in Gender Studies, Education, and other joke subjects —, no moron will make it through a maths degree. Heck, you’ll probably have a pretty hard time if you’re not at least a solid two standard deviations from the mean.
Yes, Lee Hsien Loong is also the son of Lee Kuan Yew and he certainly got every possible advantage in life. Yet, I have little doubt that Singapore’s Prime Minister is, in raw intellectual power, the by far smartest person among world leaders. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a good 30 to 40 IQ points above the typical buffoon that governs in the West. We have people like Angela Merkel who makes you wonder if she’s mildly retarded whenever she opens her mouth as she hasn’t even managed to master her mother tongue. Listen to her in an interview, and you’ll only shake your head. If you’re not a German native speaker, you’ll have to take my word for it, but you’ll surely find an apparent idiot in a position of power no matter in which Western country you live.
Singapore is run by a very smart man who is the son of another very smart man. I’m quite certain that Lee Kuan Yew, himself a Cambridge alumnus, and one who got the rare distinction of graduating with a ‘starred first’, was an intellectual giant among his contemporaries just like his son is. If you look up Singapore’s ministers, you’ll largely find people with very impressive pedigrees. Singapore is a country that is run like a company, and thus it is not surprising to have successful business people take powerful posts later in life. It is also not surprising to see people with stellar careers in academia change sides. Yet, in the West, we make someone a minister whose only distinction is that he came from an aristocratic woman whose only claim to fame is that her family has always had money.
Instead of just looking at the elites, we also have to look at the funnel at the other end, i.e. the educational system. Singapore gets some flak for its pressure cooker school system. Surely, those are the same people who secretly envy that country for its stellar results in international comparisons like PISA or TIMMS. Of course, according to them, those tests don’t capture “real intelligence” and “real knowledge”, at least if you’re your typical low-IQ Western academic working in the field of “edumacation.”
From what I gather, the system in Singapore is great. You have national exams, one after grade 6, the other after grade 10. If you want to go to a better school, you have to do well because otherwise, you won’t get in. There is a clear focus on academic achievement. If you’re a top-scoring student, you may find yourself at the world’s top feeder school to the University of Oxford, Raffles Institution. Seeing how much I had to suffer in the egalitarian Western system, Singapore sounds like a dream come true.
An alleged problem is the high pressure of the school system. I’d say if that applies to you or your kids, you’re playing the wrong game. Singapore is full of misguided parents as well who buy into all kinds of empty promises by private education providers who have developed curricula based on junk science. Thus, after a regular school day, plenty of kids get carted off to “enrichment centers” (no, this isn’t a place where they get mugged, raped or beaten up by illegal immigrants) for a few more hours of study. I had a look at Singapore exam papers. They clearly aren’t asking for anything superhuman. Yet, IQ is a reality, and dumb parents who make dumb decisions for their kids will mess up their lives more than they would by inactivity.
Another supposed problem is that there is no good alternative path in Singapore if you don’t do well in school. However, it’s like that everywhere. You can go into the trades, of course, but then you’ll compete with Indians and Malays, or guest workers. Yet, the same is happening in the West. You think you could learn a trade as an alternative, but then you realize that your boss is happy to pay you next to nothing during your vocational training, only to replace you with another apprentice afterwards, or cheap labor from Eastern Europe. If you romanticize the trades in the West, you should do more research.
I don’t think that primary and secondary education in Singapore are too demanding, if you stick to the public school system and don’t torture your kid with tutoring. Junior College, the last two years of the secondary school system, are seen as very difficult. I think this only applies to people who want to perform at a very high level both academically and athletically. I’ve heard the same complaints about German secondary education, back in the day when you learned Latin and more maths than most degree programs at university nowadays ask for. These days, only the least able German high school students complain about having too much to do. Instead, professors complain about the majority of incoming students requiring remedial classes.
I think a big difference between the West and Singapore is in tertiary education. I have only had some insight, but from what I gather from my girlfriend and her friends, no matter what degree you are studying, and at what university in the West, your workload in Singapore would be a lot higher. In the West, your professors do not expect you to work on the weekends. In Singapore, on the other hand, you are supposed to work all the time. According to my girlfriend, Asians consequently view all Western universities essentially as “party schools”, even in engineering, because there is so much less work to do. Well, in the West we believe that you “get out what you put in”, and willingly turn a blind eye, or two, towards students who don’t put in any work. I don’t have to tell you where I stand on that matter. I’d say Singapore simply holds its students to a very high standard, while we in the West are very willing to turn a blind eye towards the lazy and incompetent, especially if they are from some underrepresented minority.
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