New approaches needed to educate our young

They need to respect every occupation


For many years, it has been common to hear from elders in our families or from teachers in schools: “If you don’t study or work hard, you’ll end up sweeping the floor or doing other forms of manual labour.”

Such stereotyping is not only unhealthy but also unfair to thousands of good people who are working hard for an honest wage, doing us a favour by providing essential services for our society to function.

While it is understandable that parents hope to see their children become doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc, there will always be workers in less glamorous, blue-collar trades. They deserve respect, too.

On the other hand, these employees must raise their standards of service and behaviour to earn the respect and be proud of their respective industry and the professionalism they provide.

For instance, one stereotype is that public transport and lorry drivers often drive very fast, are sometimes reckless and are horn-happy. Such perceptions could be changed over time through better education, skills upgrading and training for these drivers.

Also, if the drivers feel appreciated by society, service standards would improve. More importantly, more customers may be willing to pay slightly higher prices, which would allow such employees to earn decent pay in order to look after their families.

More Singaporeans would then be attracted to the trade jobs, and society would be better off as a result.

In countries such as New Zealand and Japan, people employed in customer service industries, or as drivers, etc, stand tall in their jobs and their service levels.

They are called craftsmen or tradesmen (including both genders), are proud of being professionals in their own fields and look forward to going to work. We ought to learn from them.

The Government, businesses and employer associations often raise the issue that few locals want to work in blue-collar, lower-wage or service industries as restaurant waitstaff, factory workers, delivery men, refuse collectors, domestic helpers, etc.

The need to educate and re-educate our people to respect and better understand all individuals, regardless of occupation or income level – which is still lacking – must start from a young age, beginning from our schools, and start now.

This is vital for our nation to move forward and also to attract more locals to enter the aforementioned industries, which would help increase local employment in these industries and reduce our dependence on foreign labour.

A simple “thank you” or a gentle smile from either side, or customer reciprocity through a “thank you for your good service”, is enough to get this kick-started.

by Harold Siow Song Teng
04:45 AM Mar 13, 2012
The writer is a research fellow and administrative manager at the Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. The views expressed are his own. 



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