ST Forum Mar 4, 2011 – Serve up more Stefanie Tans, please

Mar 4, 2011

Serve up more Stefanie Tans, please


I APPLAUD student tennis player Stefanie Tan (“Tan serves surprise”; Wednesday) for quitting Raffles Institution to play professionally.

We have placed too much emphasis on only one route for success – via the paper chase. This is perpetuated by the way schools and parents drive children to prioritise examination results about everything else. Having been in the education industry for nearly 20 years, I strongly believe that there are alternative ways to be successful in life.

Not many youngsters are as certain as Miss Tan about her choice. It is not the eventual tennis ranking that she achieves that we should use to measure her success, but by how hard and how passionately she pursues her goal.

I have employed staff with good academic results and testimonials from elsewhere. But when the passion is missing, they do not achieve what is expected. Eight years ago, while running a fast-growing e-learning business, I could not hire the right people with the passion to continue to drive the growth. I switched strategy and challenged selected passionate staff at the junior ranks to join the head office.

It worked and these employees continue to stay driven in the business today. Their academic qualifications and prior job experiences were inferior to that of those we hired earlier, but their job performances were far superior. Today, as an employer, I look carefully beyond academic results to see what drives the person.

The rigour of competitive sports will provide Miss Tan with something school cannot teach her.

People often tell me they cannot do certain things because they are not trained for it. Our education system sometimes stifles people and leads them to rely on only what is taught in the classroom, making them lack confidence in themselves, There are so many more things one can learn outside of school if they are pursued with a passion, be it in sports, the arts or business.

I hope Singapore will have more Stefanie Tans, and more of the type of parents that support their child’s pursuit of something good, albeit outside of academic achievements.

Yee Jenn Jong


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