Archive for January, 2006

Creativity through Education?

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Intelligence is not just about scoring high marks in exams

The discussion on the need for our top students to become world beaters reminds one of the campaigns emphasising the highly educated (smart) versus the rest (not-so-smart).

Like those campaigns this issue seems predicated on the same assumption that importance = intelligence = high academic attainment.

Human intelligence is still not fully understood and it is more extensive than IQ. Intelligence exists in various forms and scholastic achievement cannot be the measure for all of them. It indicates a certain type of intelligence – IQ perhaps.

Even if IQ can be gauged through the education system, memory plays a significant role. A person with a good memory can excel over another individual with higher IQ but who suffers from poor memory.

Examinations are about testing a student’s ability to recall and use what is learned. There are individuals who are not good in studies but are gifted in their own ways. They possess other types of intelligence.

Wit, intuition, insight and inventiveness count among them. Their importance cannot be over-emphasized in an age when creativity and innovation are critical to progress.

There is also instinctive intelligence, being street-smart. Those with little education seem to have this quality. That many local successful businessmen come from this group can be explained partly by the fact that they think and act instinctively.

Has it occurred to educationists that education should not only be concerned with learning but also with unlearning?

The highly intellectual, structured approach in education can constrain the thinking process. Unconventional ideas may well be the stuff of creativity and innovation.

A local artist interviewed on TV commented that the approach taken by the government in promoting creativity is wrong because what is really needed is allowing more freedom and creativity to flourish. This is a very insightful comment.

This is not to say that education is unimportant. It is certainly needed to train individuals in certain disciplines. But we must be aware of the downside of formal education and bring into the educational process a freer, more leisurely and more open-ended approach so as not to kill off the other types of intelligence in the individual.

Some US undergraduates are given 30 per cent free time to leisurely engage themselves in any project unrelated to their courses. This is an open-ended approach to education. It was precisely through such leisurely activity that the Yahoo! search engine came into existence.

The exam-orientation and emphasis on good grades in our schools represent too ‘kiasu’ an approach. I believe that many individuals drop out of schools not because they are not smart but because they have had enough of the dehumanising and life-sapping education system.

The parody in the popular local movie ‘I Not Stupid’ that the school is a prison is quite true.

Our education system needs to reform by loosening up and becoming more multi-faceted, richer in approach. It is too narrow to focus only on the top students. We must not forget that there are individuals who have achieved excellence along non-scholastic paths too.

Why is the idea of world beaters so inextricably connected to top students? Is having world beaters so important that other positive contributions to society matter less to us? In fact, fame can cloud this issue and cause society to ascribe more importance to such world beaters than they deserve.

For every top scientist and highly successful entrepreneur who has attained celebrity status, there are many unknowns working under him. These are the people who are instrumental to his success.

This shows where the emphasis should be more appropriately placed, on collective honour. I am sure such an approach can motivate the collective effort and propel society to even higher levels of accomplishment.

Chia Hern Keng

(via ST forum)

A bit about the local film industry

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Money no Enough Money No Enough (1998) was Jack Neo’s first movie on the big screen. I believe it’s also the first local chinese movie in a very long time. Till date, it still holds the highest box office returns, the 3rd highest grossing movie in Singapore ($5.84m), just behind Titanic and The Lost World.

Here’s some interesting things to consider.

Money no Enough was released in 1998, when Singapore was still in the midst of the Economic Crisis. (Usually less people go to the movies when money is tight.)

Money no Enough is a movie about … well … not having enough money! Heh.

– In 1998, SFC reports a drop in total cinema attendence, from 17.3 mil to 16.3mil people.

– Singapore only has slightly over 4million people. Back then, movie tickets were lower, perhaps about $6? For Money no Enough to rake in $5.84m, 974,000 tickets had to be sold. That is insanely high!

The question ‘What is the problem with the local film industry’ still remains, though the answers we have now are speculations at best. A friend and I did however come to a few conclusions though:

– Singapore’s market is too small. To survive commercially, Singapore films have to be marketable to other Asian markets like HK, Malaysia and perhaps even China.

Also because the market is small, budgets likewise are small, so that movies can be commercially viable. Thus, we don’t see many action-packed full of fast cars and explosions kinda movies, but more story-driven ones instead.

– But at the same time, piracy is too rampant, and it is kinda killing local productions.

– To make things worst, most people don’t have good feelings about watching local films in general, expecting them to be crappy before even stepping into the cinema to watch them. They prefer to invest that money in foreign movies.

– A lot of local films are doing really badly in the box office. It’s not that these films aren’t good, some are, but perhaps Singaporeans aren’t ready for local artsy films. However, bad office returns unintentionally gives a bad rep for local films, making more people unwilling to try watching them, if they don’t know what to expect out of it.

– With the exception of Jack Neo’s and Eric Khoo’s films, most films never do make back their production costs, due to meagre box office figures.

In 2002, Jack made a slightly different movie, I Not Stupid. It’s the 2nd highest grossing local movie, racking in $3.8m at the box office. Some were surprised that the Sg Censorship Board let the movie through. Not only that, it caused ripples in Singapore, and started people talking about the education system. Countless letters were sent to forums, discussions made, and the ripples became bigger, that even MOE was forced to relook at the education system. Since then, many chances have been made. It’s still debatable if its merely a change in packaging, or a true change in the system, and time will tell.

In 2005, Eric Khoo’s Be with Me made the news when it failed to make the cut for “Best Foreign Language Film” for consideration for the 2006 Oscars. Meanwhile, Martyn’s Singapore Rebel (banned in Singapore) and Royston’s 15 (2003) made its way round film festivals in the US and other countries.

It’s not uncommon these days to expect at least one local movie to be produced and to hit the big screen each year. More and more people are starting to give their support to local films.

I not Stupid 2
I Not Stupid Too: “Can we Talk?”

In a week’s time, on the 26th of January, the much anticipated sequel to Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid (2002) will be released Nationwide. Storywise, it isn’t a continuation from the first movie, but so far, I Not Stupid Too has received great responses by students, teachers and parents privileged enough to catch the sneaks.

Everyone interviewed loved the 2nd more than the first, and when asked who if they would recommend the movie to their friends and relatives, most said they already did. As with the last movie, this one is suitable for all age groups, (especially parents, insist the students). So do make use of these holidays, to catch this movie, and see what people are talking about. Jack did it again!

It’s exciting to see local cinema progressing and becoming more accepted locally. Films are interesting in that it captures an era and preserves it on a media where in years down the road, would proof interesting material. There are still other interesting things to examine, which might help shed light on how to improve support for Singapore films. Size (of Singapore) is not all that matters.