Imagine describing your school days with words like “passion”, “joy of learning” and “interests”. This almost ideal direction is exactly what Singapore’s Ministry of Education is aiming for. The recently announced changes to the secondary school and junior college curriculum are meant to counter Singapore’s traditional pragmatic approach towards education; with lower assessment stakes, learners are encouraged to pursue their interests and follow their true passions, even outside the classroom. 
Would the average Singaporean student live happily ever after? 
Perhaps not yet. As one astute student pointed out, subjects not considered useful to one’s desired occupation in the future may still be eschewed in favour of traditionally “safer” subjects that, ironically, offer greater flexibility in career options.  
Like it or not, market demand for certain skills and competencies will influence the kind of subjects that students opt for, especially in university. You can expect the more forward-planning student (or parents) to reverse-engineer the process and conclude that the road less travelled is the road best avoided. If curriculum reforms fail to take market forces into consideration, we might run into a problem that Japanese law schools face: dismal career prospects even for the brightest minds.   
What is needed for our students to succeed is a whole-of-society attitude shift in values, not just in schools. The fostering of lifelong learning and inclusive educational pathways already show a positive step in that direction. It will take time and effort for existing attitudes to change, but this balance between passion and practicality is not impossible to establish. Our society may just turn out to be all the kinder and better for it. 

Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.