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Archive for May 30th, 2007

Singaporean Pragmatism

Posted by intellisg on May 30, 2007

The following is an extract from the book, “Harvesting the Seeds of Prosperity,” written by Christopher Ng Wai Chung. His own blog can be found in He can be reached at In chapter 1 entitled “Are you a scholar or a statistic”, he examines the concept of Kiasuism.


Singaporean Pragmatism

As an engineering undergraduate studying in the National University of Singapore, Chee Ming, aged 23, does not really care for anything else other than his examination results. After all, engineering students have punishing workloads, often requiring 25 – 30 hours of lectures and tutorials a week. Chee Ming’s philosophy as a student is simple – tune out all the extra-curricular activities and simply focus on his studies. For examination subjects, Chee Ming chooses only those subjects which he believes he would score in, considering complicated factors like the leniency of his lecturers and the feedback on course difficulty from his seniors. Chee Ming deduces that by scoring a solid Honours degree, he could land a good stable job. The technicalities of the work in the industry can come later.

In this country, there is a Chee Ming in everyone. From the uncle who carefully orchestrates the family on a proper strategy to attack a buffet table ( “ Ah Kow ! You go get a plate of prawns. Ah Zhu, you go for the fruits. I grab the fried rice for everybody ! ” ) to the middle-aged woman who positions herself next to school children in anticipation of a vacant seat in an SBS bus, Singaporeans are pragmatists – they do what works, optimise all their choices and alternatives and focus on their goals with religious fervour. In Hokkien this is known as being “Kiasu”.

Before we start to think that we invented “Kiasuism”, we should note that Pragmatism is largely an American invention. Pragmatism, first coined by William James, is the philosophy which emphasises the importance of results, consequences, utility and practicality as opposed to the navel gazing and intellectualism espoused by other philosophies.

If it works, it has to be true. That is the Singaporean way. Read the rest of this entry »


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Today’s Reads (May 30)

Posted by intellisg on May 30, 2007

Posted in Digest | Comments Off on Today’s Reads (May 30)