Michael: Why do you think doctors in Singapore are focused on efficiency and sometimes lack the personal touch for their patients?
Me: If you ask me – it’s structural. The education system breeds us to compete. And the principle of meritocracy forces people to strive to succeed. So they have become very focused on the paper chase and achievements. Our education system also didn’t focus on values and principles. So naturally for people who grow up wanting things to be efficient and who have been doing things that are self-motivated, whatever job they go to, they will carry these ideas into their jobs as well.
Michael: So in the end it’s the problem of the education system huh?
Me: That’s only one aspect of it. I think if you want to study this issue, you do have to look at the policies that the government had implemented over the past few decades – not just pertaining to education and healthcare but also to other areas.
Michael: Hierarchy in hospitals is especially notorious
Me: Another reason could be this – what are doctors measured by? Perhaps these performance indicators shift their focus away from being concerned with the welfare of their patients.
But to be fair, the lack of welfare or service isn’t just restricted to healthcare workers. In general, Singaporeans are so focused with efficiency and doing things fast that we forget to slow down and think.
Also, we are so used to thinking in terms of logic, for example, that we have learnt not to be empathetic or understanding. So then we forget to show care at times.
So yes. There’s a structural issue that needs to be looked at. What is good though is that the Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has acknowledged this issue. So he wants to introduce values to be taught in schools and remove banding for schools, to remove the negative consequences of meritocracy.
Michael: I hope they accelerate that process
Me: But – the government wants people to compete and be efficient. So there would only be as much as they would do to inculcate a people who would think for one another. They do not want to over-inculcate, in that sense, because they are worried that people might lose their drive and won’t then strive. They are worried that this will slow the economy down. They want people to still be self-centred to a certain extent.
Michael: Ah yes. In the end, everything is linked to the economy. Even our syllabus in schools is created with the needs of the economy in mind. Not the education of an individual
Me: The bigger reason is also this – because Singapore is in Asia. Even though Singapore has achieved a standard of living where we feel that we can start thinking for one another, we are in a region where other countries have not reached the standard of living. Other countries will keep striving. So if Singapore decides to slow down, in that sense, the government is worried. We can’t go it alone. Investments will flow out and we will lag behind and become irrelevant. If we are in Europe or Australia, we can slow down, because the countries are moving at the same pace, but we are not.
But for now, on our own, we can change our mindsets to think positively and find balance for ourselves.