Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s quotes on education

Here are some of the words said about education by our first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in 1966:

Teachers are very important:

“In my experience – both as a pupil in school and in universities, and subsequently in trying to teach people at large simple political ideas – the most important person is the man who is in charge of the boy. The principal is also important: he maintains discipline in the school, although he cannot substitute for the teacher, the form-master, who commands the respect and the affection of the class and who gives of himself. For effective teaching, – such as explaining to an ignorant audience the simple A.B.C. of currency or reserves backing, and why our currency could be sound if we do this and do that – one really has to give of oneself. The process demands effort and nervous energy.”

Principals must be dedicated to their work:

“After all those who are good enough to be promoted to principals must have had some dedication; otherwise, it is sheer lunacy to put a man in charge of a school.”

Why engineering is unpopular (even today):

“Secondly, we cannot afford to produce the kind of pupils we did before. All of them went in for qualities which led to individual survival. You ask any bright boy what he wants to do. He wants to be a doctor. Why? Because then he can go anywhere in the world; he will still be a doctor and make money. Or, if he can’t, he will be a lawyer because he also makes money that way. But if he is asked to be an engineer or an architect or to do something else he says “Then what happens? If the country collapses I can’t get another job elsewhere. This attitude must change.”

The kind of students we want to produce:

“What is the ideal product? The ideal product is the student, the university graduate, who is strong, robust, rugged, with tremendous qualities of stamina, endurance and at the same time, with great intellectual discipline and, most important of all, humility and love for his community; a readiness to serve whether God or king or country or, if you like, just his community.”

Teachers must feel they are doing something worthwhile:

“No teacher can really perform his duty unless he feels he is doing something worthwhile. Every school teacher in the classroom must feel for and with his flock of 35 or 32 children. Unless he does that, the teacher cannot give his pupil something.”

Schooled but not educated:

“I am extremely anxious about the generation that is growing up literate but uneducated. They can read; they can write; they can pass examinations. But they are not really educated; they have not formed; they have not developed. They are not effective digits for the community.”

On single-session schools:

“No more primary schools need be built until the day when it is decided that Singapore is rich enough to have every school running only one session. And that day will come, provided the people work hard and good administration is maintained; and most probably in ten years’ time, there will be in each school a playing field, gymnasium, school hall — all the paraphernalia required to build a complete citizen.”

The above are taken from an address — New Bearings in Our Education System — to school principals in Singapore, by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, on August 29, 1966.

 

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