Environment to blame for lack of drive, risk-taking: students

Chua Yini

Young Singaporeans that Yahoo! Singapore spoke to generally agreed with Education Minister Heng Swee Keat’s recent comments that employers believe Singapore students lack drive and the willingness to try new things to succeed. 

But they also said that apart from a few “brave ones”, the risk-taking culture was simply not part of their make-up. Rather what was foremost on their minds was a stable job and career.

“We are very driven in the conventional way, to lead the conventional life of earning money but no one dares to take risk,” said 22-year-old NTU undergraduate Cecilia Ang.

She added that students here are driven to achieve “tangible results”, as most are more concerned with achieving good grades and securing a stable job.

Another undergraduate from Singapore Management University said part of the reason for the lack of risk-taking is that local students are used to being “spoonfed”.

“We have this perception that everything we will have in the future is going to be provided for because we’ve been spoonfed our entire lives,” said 21-year-old Rachel Thong.

Thong recognized that the lack of confidence to try new things “is more of a worry”, as it might lead to the drying up of creativity among entrepreneurs.

Lim Shu Hui, an NTU student, also said the environment of the local education system played a huge factor.

“The way we were being brought up and the environment we are in might have caused us to be afraid to try out new things,” said the year three undergraduate.

However, the 23-year-old admitted that not all Singaporeans are risk-averse. “There are an increasing number of entrepreneurs these days. Not all are afraid to try new things. There are still some brave ones,” she said.

Another student from the National University of Singapore, Matthias Chia, said that Minister Heng’s comments were not applicable to everyone.

“Not everyone is going to be a millionaire or CEO, CFOs and the like,” he said.

The 22-year-old said that most university students are overworked, which may be a reason why they did not try new things. “Most Singaporean students have co-curricular activities, which take up time for study and research,” he said.

Citing union council members and sports captains as examples of such students, he added that joining new co-curricular activities outside the classroom should also be considered as venturing out of one’s comfort zone.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said he was surprised by how many top CEOS  in Singapore had told him how Singaporean graduates lacked the drive and confidence to venture out of their comfort zone,  The Straits Times reported.

Speaking before 300 students at a forum at the Singapore Management University (SMU), the Minister recounted how one CEO described the response between a Singaporean worker and a European worker once promoted.

When the CEO approached a European worker to take on a new role with different responsibilities, “the staff asked, what sort of training will I get, how will you help me succeed, what will I do, and so on,” reported ST.

On the other hand, when Singaporeans were approached, they responded with negative questions of “What if I fail? Do I still have a job? If there a support system, and do I get retrenchment benefits?”, the paper reported.

In addition to his speech, Heng introduced a “Singapore plus plus” strategy to develop local talent and skilled foreigners, reported the ST.

According to the paper, the strategy would address the issue of increasing competition from global giants such as China and India, which possess a huge talent base and cheap workforce.

More plans on the initiative will be rolled out in a few weeks’ time, ST reported.