Saturday, February 16, 2013

Economic Defence: Entitled mentality of Linksters pose challenges for Singapore teachers

The advice from well-meaning teachers was as sincere as it was serious: Not more than five consecutive Powerpoint slides with words or the audience might lose interest. And make the job sound "fun".

Anyone who has ever had to speak to Singaporean young adults would recognise the challenge of keeping them engaged. And we're not talking about an audience of juveniles but IHL students - our future managers and industry leaders from institutions of higher learning.

To call them Gen Ys indicates you're behind the curve. Linksters is a moniker bandied about by lecturers who can see that today's tech-savvy youngters, linked almost 24/7 to the online world (hence the term), are cut from a different template from students of the pre-Internet era.

The different audience profile is obvious the moment your eye sweeps across the terraced seats in the lecture theatre. Laptops and mobile devices propped up in front of students outclass one's company-issued laptop. You are shy to bring out your mobilephone because it is the previous year's model that Linksters discarded several semesters ago.

Even as you mentally rehearse your presentation, online competitors like Facebook, blogshops, twitter feeds vie for the Linksters' time and attention. iPhone SMS chimes echo around the room, stealing yet more of your face time.

And so a different engagement gameplan is needed.

Revised pedagogy

Singaporean teachers are struggling to keep up, trying their best to make our youngsters work-ready and globally competitive. This in itself is a lofty ideal.

For most teachers, the challenges are more basic: Making sure the student attends school and can pass his/her exam.

To get these basic needs met, teachers have turned creative. The classroom need not be a physical space in school. Excursions disguised as "learning journeys" are common.

Many learning journeys are funded by the Edusave grants from the Singapore Government. But the Linkster probably doesn't care where the money comes from as long as it keeps coming.

That their Singapore dollar gives them more bang for buck while overseas is another point taken for granted as students set free overseas help prop up the tourism sector there.

Even with the best intentions, learning outcomes can be easily upset.

Companies that have hosted school visits would probably recognise that time-keeping is a perennial problem for certain IHLs. And these industry representatives would have heard the litany of excuses why the learning journey could not get moving on time: Traffic jam. Bus came late. Couldn't find the meeting place and so on.

And when the learning journey (finally) gets going, the disconnect between what the average Linkster wants from his/her work day and what the real world can offer is often an eye-opener.

What students want

Students these days do not want to be chained to a desk. They want mobility. They expect "fun". A good starting pay is a given but can be overlooked by the Linkster if the career path leads to their self-actualisation. And woe betide the company if the Linkster is not promoted to "manager" in a couple of years.

In short, it is all about them.

Whether this Entitled Mentality mindset stems from immediate self-gratification from the online world (games, e-commerce etc) is a point that many teachers have pondered.

During our parent's generation, Singaporean students who entered the working world were greeted by a 5.5 day work week. Work was work. There was no MSN messenger, no SMS, no twitter to eat into one's work hours, as is the case in many Singaporean offices these days (look for the tell tale flashing orange icons at the foot of the computer screen). If one was lucky, the office would be air-conditioned.

With their entitled mentality, today's youngsters would probably recoil in horror at the privations suffered by their parent's generation. Many Linksters would not be able to take the heat.

This is probably why students willing to work hard and are willing to learn outshine their peers at scholarship selection interviews. They are that hard to find.

Add in a candidate who can articulate his/her thoughts sensibly, write well, have a sense of humility tempered with wit, an above average EQ so he/she knows when to speak up and when not to, and you have a winner. It is a joy to discover such candidates and this is one reason why those involved in education or industrial attachments continue to power on.

Reality check

But while many Singaporean students take things for granted, the world is moving fast.

It may surprise you to know that graduates from as far away as Europe and the Americas write regularly to certain companies in Singapore asking for jobs. Some effort has gone into these cold calls. Cover letters are tailored for the company. Resumes are more crisply written than some of the sloppy CVs that Singaporean graduates use for job applications.

Global companies have many options to set up shop elsewhere and give jobs to people more hungry for work and with a better work ethic than sheltered Singaporean students.

In terms of tenacity, it is not uncommon to find Malaysians who live in Johor commute daily to report for work on time at SMEs and MNC companies here. They do so every work day, knowing the Singapore dollar gets them more bang for buck when coverted to the Malaysian Ringgit.

In short, we have become more replaceable as new economies mimic Singapore's growth spurt during our post-Independence period.

And then we have Singaporean students for whom a stint at a workplace on Sentosa is "too far". Tick them off for misconduct and they want to quit. Every management directive has to be sugarcoated, less brittle egos are hurt.

The entitled mentality of Singaporean Linksters can give their teachers hell while they are in school.[If you have friends who are teachers, ask them what their work day is like.]

The reality check will come, inevitably and painfully for some, once final examinations are over and it is time to emerge into the real world.

For these students, the clock is ticking.


Anonymous said...


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