‘Going home already ?’, the friendly Taxi uncle asked as soon as I got into his taxi.
‘Yes Uncle, long day today. Very tired’, I said.
He kept to himself for sometime and let me in peace for I was drained out completely in a meeting that lasted for 4 hours with no obvious agenda visible.
‘So, how is the new year treating you?’, he began.
‘Well, the year appears to be the same as last year. Same long meetings with no particular agenda’.
‘So, you get paid to attend meetings?’, he asked nonchalantly.
‘Meetings are part of the job. But now-a-days I see that meetings are becoming the job’.
‘Can’t our folks speak in meetings ? For this you have to come from another country?’, he asked.
‘Well, his question seemed logical. I didn’t know what to say when he continued.
‘Actually, our schooling system produces great students. We produce the most elite people in the world’, he continued.
I tended to agree with him. The Singaporean schooling was one of the finest but it was also full of unnecessary stress. However, based on my interactions with a few Singaporean colleagues I agreed that the schooling system produced some of the smartest people on earth. So, I let the uncle continue without interrupting.
‘See, our schools have classes where children are streamed. So we have classes that contain the smartest in the country and hence get the smartest teachers teach them. And for other children, there are other classes and other teachers’.
Let me explain this part. The children are streamed as ‘Bright’ quite early on and are grouped together. They get some of the best teachers. And they naturally outshine the rest of the students in the school. While the not so great children are grouped together and are allowed to learn at a slower pace with lesser material to study. Their futures are also decided even in their primary 6 levels.
‘Yes uncle, I know this. My colleague’s children are also in the gifted education stream’, I say, trying to show off my knowledge.
‘Oh yes, you see, that is why we have the smartest children who graduate for the universities, go abroad to get more education and then having learnt what is to be learnt, don’t come back’, he said. I was not able to understand if he was mocking or was speaking as a matter of fact.
‘Well Uncle, that is the case every where. Even in India, the government spends millions to educate children in some of the finest graduate schools and they go out of the country never to return back’, I said.
‘No, not that. Just because our bright people have gone abroad, people like you have come here to work for our country’. he said
‘Partially true, as fluids move to fill in the vacuum. However, when fluids are pushed out of a container, they tend to spill out and occupy any available container’, I reasoned.
‘So, you mean you were pushed out of your country?’, he asked seeming to have got the point.
‘In a way yes’, I said
‘So, don’t your government need you to work for them?’, he asked.
‘Uncle, whether the government wants us to work for them or not, I am willing to work for them. But they don’t want me and my ilk’, I said hinting at the reservation conundrum in India.
Uncle brightened up. ‘ You know what, in your case, they don’t want you to work for them so you go out. But in our case, we want our bright people to work for us but they somehow feel pushed-out and escape at the first opportunity’, he said and winked at me.
Enlightenments in Singapore taxis are not new to me. But this one was rather different.
What ya say ?