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I want to share two articles that talks about the fear that students in Singapore are facing.

  1. Where does students’ fear of failure come from? by Daniel Wong
  2. Parents are co-perpetrators of fear, by Jenni Ho-Huan

If indeed fear can be a source of a student’s motivation, what does it mean when such students become “self-motivated”? What is in their heads that makes them so driven all the time? Maybe this?

Yeah, if you always see the shark in your mind, you will keep paddling.


In a meritocratic education system like the one in Singapore, students are put through a lot of selection to get into better schools. Why better schools? They will tell you because the good schools have better teachers and they have more budget and better resources. And those resources can help to get you into yet another good school when you are promoted to the next level. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell argued quite convincingly in his bestseller “Outliers: the Story of Success” that success under this kind of system can be traced back to the advantage gained by getting this better resource from an early age. There is thus a great demand in places like Singapore, for ways that can motivate students to study hard from an ever younger age.

The industry of private tuition flourished and whether it is for profit, or due to the short-sightedness for a child’s long term growth and development, many will resort to the anti-patterns to persuade the students. Teachers from the public schools are appraised by their students’ grades and many will also resort to the anti-patterns. Students grow up and become parents, they will also use the anti-patterns, because those are the only ways they know.

When it comes to persuading children to study hard, using fear, as agreed by the authors from the shared articles above, is a very popular way. It is also very effective.


But what we should ask is at what cost? What are the side-effects? Is there a way that will also help us achieve the same goal but doesn’t have those side effects?

More importantly, is kayaking really that full of danger?

Sometimes I would reflect on the sharks in my life, and how did the memes came into my head. Sometimes I could find out something new about myself. Maybe you would too.

In Closing

In closing, let me share a paragraph from Richard Brodie‘s “Virus of the Mind“, in the chapter “Survival and Fear”. It is actually just a paragraph of questions:

           Why has fear — this wonderful, complex, adaptive response to danger — become such a burden on our modern lives? Why are so many people in therapy, so many more reading self-improvement books, and, sadly, so many more still quietly despairing, all because their lives are filled with unwanted fear? Why did our responses to danger, which served us well for so long during our genetic evolution, suddenly turn against us and become the main roadblock in realizing our full potential in life?

Something to think about.

[photo credit: unknown source from the Internet]