By Rachel Yeo
Our teachers have ingrained in us the importance of learning current affairs since young.
It helps an individual stay updated on what is happening around the world, sharpens critical thinking skills, and allows them to form intellectual conversations with others through their improved worldviews.
These are some of the reasons why schools are so focused on acquainting students with the latest current affairs. In secondary school, students are made to cut out interesting newspaper articles and write short reflection pieces in English class. The compulsory General Paper (GP) subject for junior college students prepares them with skills to tackle issues that are of local and global significance.
Even polytechnic students have to learn current affairs too. For example, all final-year students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic must take a module called World Issues: A Singaporean Perspective. This module makes student write position papers and present relevant issues pertinent today.
Yet, Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Mr Eddie Teo, who supervises the prestigious PSC scholarship interviews conducted annually, commented that the reason why potential scholarship candidates are rejected was because “only a few are knowledgeable about, or interested in current and foreign affairs”.
Why is this so? Haven’t schools done enough to make their students more aware about what’s happening in Singapore and the world?
One particular incident made me realise another reason why students read up on current affairs.
A friend of mine was preparing for an internship offer in a public relations company. Merely a few hours before the interview, panic hit him and he asked me, “Do you know what the news has been talking about recently?”
I casually replied him with a few relevant news stories at that time on top of my head and then quizzed, “Why do you ask?”
“I forgot that they might ask me about something that happened in the news, and I haven’t been following up recently,” he replied in an anxious tone.
Students know that current affairs will come in handy in assignments, exams, or even future job interviews. I have heard of cases where students cram general knowledge a few days before an important interview, when they know that interviewers may ask questions ranging from the latest SkillsFuture scheme in Singapore, or the rising political tensions between North and South Korea.
This seems to defeat the purpose for equipping ourselves with general knowledge.
In January 2016, there was an opinion piece sent in by a reader in The Straits Times. The reader had a misconception that polytechnic students do not have current affairs knowledge, unlike their junior college counterparts studying GP. It managed to spark a big hoo-ha about how polytechnics do have the necessary modules to help students be familiar with current affairs.
But there really shouldn’t be an argument about how JC and polytechnic students are learning about current affairs in the first place. Whether you are a secondary, JC, or polytechnic student, the education system in Singapore has already done a fair bit in trying to integrate a student’s curriculum with current affairs learning.
The real question is whether we are interested enough to keep ourselves informed without help from our schools.
We must realise that no compulsory subject or module will help us completely learn about a topic that is constantly changing with the times. We should play our part to be more inquisitive by reading, engaging in intellectual conversations with others, and constantly travelling to new places. Learning shouldn’t feel like a chore that consists of completing homework, projects or acing interviews.
After all, it is people who bother to extend their knowledge beyond the classrooms who have made current affairs a part of their lives.