Monday 24 September 2012

National Conversation = National Education

Let citizens take centre stage in National Conversation

Deputy editor Zuraidah Ibrahim believes that Singaporeans need to be educated on the significance of trade-offs, that our Government - contrary to popular belief - cannot deliver all of the citizens' wants ("Accepting a govt that can't solve all your problems"; last Sunday).

I agree, and against the background of the ongoing National Conversation, my view is that if our politicians do not have all the answers, it would be increasingly constructive to engage citizens in participatory, collaborative sessions to appreciate these notions.

The National Conversation, hence, needs to be framed around the citizen.

More often than not, initiatives are overwhelmingly didactic, with too much emphasis placed on a guest politician who indulges in expositions instead of actually conversing with the audience.

My proposal is to get participants more involved during sessions, to start talking and debating with one another.

Why should our ministers take centre stage? Instead of being preached to, we should be given the chance to explore and experience.

For example, picture a discussion session concerning education policies, involving parents who are grouped into smaller clusters of four or five.

While one group may reckon that children here are burdened by too many school assignments, another group may argue that syllabuses are not rigorous enough, and that there should be more work.

How can they reconcile their differences? No resolution might be reached, but through the conversation, would they not see the complexities of policy dilemmas?

My point is that we should stop the government hand-holding. We, as citizens, have the abilities and intelligence to bring something new to the table.

Our heightened involvement does not mean that we work independently of the Government, or that policymakers abdicate their responsibilities.

On the contrary, our engagement can be complementary.

A more informed and know-ledgeable electorate would serve as a good balance to the Government, making it more accountable in the long term.

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