Most parents would encourage their children to pursue higher education, but higher earnings have never been guaranteed.
In the latest episode of The Zoe and Liang Show, Zoe Tay, Guo Liang, Shaun Chen and JJ Neo discussed the necessity and purpose of education.
Right from the start, Zoe shared openly that she has had a change of perspective on education over the years.
"When I was young I thought I must get academic qualifications in order to survive. But I realised in reality, studying isn't the only way to make money," the 55-year-old veteran actress said.
"[What's more important is] to have your own thoughts and visions. But parents have to keep an eye on their children and give guidance occasionally."
Local actor Shaun, 44, concurred with Zoe, while veteran host Guo Liang continued probing into Zoe's thinking.
Guo Liang, 52, asked if she would just let her children do what they want if she is unable to convince them otherwise. Zoe agreed and explained that young people should take some risks.
Zoe, who has three sons aged 17, 15 and 11, added: "If you genuinely want something, you should venture and experience it for yourself. You should try to give yourself a time limit, for example, six months or a year. If it doesn't work out, then think of a plan B."
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'I'll break your leg!'
Subsequently, Guo Liang posed a hypothetical dilemma where their kid can choose between philosophy and medicine, and asked Zoe what she would do.
Zoe said calmly that it was for her son to decide himself, and that he could study philosophy if he wanted to. She added that there were too many doctors in Singapore.
Regarding that statement, Guo Liang expressed his strong objection: "There can never be too many doctors! Once there is a war, lawyers are useless. But doctors are needed anywhere. Even enemies won't hurt them!"
Guo Liang has a son who is in his second year of university.
While Zoe looked doubtful, Guo Liang explained that in extreme situations, doctors are the most valued. For example, on an airplane when passengers experience a health emergency, people will shout for a doctor. Thus, doctors are treated like heroes.
Zoe had a sobering view though, she believes that being a doctor requires a sacrificial spirit so people need to think carefully before choosing to become one.
"All parents want their children to be doctors and lawyers. But being a doctor is not just a job, it also requires the right spirit. I told my son, 'Don't become a doctor just for money.' He needs to have the heart to serve and sacrifice for people. Other things in his life will become less of a priority."
Guo Liang was relentless in his preference for medicine, saying: 'I'd grab [my son's] leg and say, 'If you study philosophy, I'll break your leg! You can just become a doctor who knows philosophy, okay? I'll help you."
All the other guests chuckled heartily at his dramatic statement.
'Kids are fickle nowadays'
Nonetheless, both Zoe and Guo Liang seemed to share similar views on kids being fickle-minded.
Zoe said that she would give her son the burden of decision so that he does not blame her for it, as he is fickle-minded.
"For example, when they were young I sent them for piano lessons. Then they don't want to learn piano anymore. I told them it's their own responsibility and to tell their teacher themselves.
"And the following week, they were enjoying themselves at piano lesson [and did not say they wanted to quit]. Kids are just fickle. When they have to bear the responsibility of deciding for themselves, they find it hard to voice it out."
Guo Liang echoed her views, sharing that his son wanted to change his major even though he is already in his second year of university. However, Guo Liang strongly disagreed as it would involve repeating two years of university, and in addition to two years of National Service, he would be behind some people by four years.
"Kids don't realise the challenge of reality till they encounter them! It's easier said than done," he added.
Shaun suggested a moderate approach of letting his son finish his current studies and make further plans after that.
'They may become more narrow-minded'
Guo Liang also elaborated on the greater purpose of education, apart from the subject-specific knowledge.
"Education is not just about applying yourself to the subject, for example, using chemistry knowledge directly. A person who has been formally educated thinks and sees the world differently, and has a different level of tolerance. Parents have to let their child know this," he explained.
Zoe agreed and said that someone with little education may become more narrow-minded and has fewer choices in the future.
Singer-actress JJ, 27, added her view, saying that youths will eventually reflect about the education they are receiving and what they need. When she turned 18 herself, she thought about her next step and felt conflicted.
Nonetheless, she followed her mother's wish for her to complete her university studies, so that she could "better herself and form her views in a right way", in her mother's words. JJ's mother is former Channel 8 host Lucy Chow, who was active in television in the 80s.
'There is no clear yes or no answer'
Guo Liang seemed to have softened his views by this point, expressing that he believes everyone should receive higher education yet "there is no clear yes or no answer, as parents can help their children understand, but they should still decide for themselves".
Shaun, who has two daughters aged seven and five, values something more than education: "I just want my kids to speak and read well, be good in math, and their way of talking and character is very important to me. In society, people judge you by character and not academic achievements."
Earlier on, he also mentioned that family upbringing is more important to him than education alone.
In a closing note, JJ and Guo Liang both agreed that parents offer valuable advice and know things their children may not be aware of, so children should respect and consider their parents' views even as they decide for themselves.
Zoe stood by her more liberal risk-taking stance, saying: "Kids have many views and influences nowadays. They're always changing. If they haven't matured yet, they should learn to figure things out for themselves."
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