Heng, who made it a point to teach school principals a thing or two about school girls who show up like female versions of Kojak instead of donning wigs as promised, missed the precious moment. Instead of educating the precocious child about the complexities of supply and demand of good educators, he taught her the art of taiji. Taiji is the Chinese art of shadow boxing. But the Singlish expression, to practise shadow boxing, means shifting the blame to someone or something else.
Avoiding her question altogether, Heng told her that a good school "cannot just be defined by an academic yardstick." The poor girl just wanted to study the humanities, not ace the subject. To study human culture, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, and having a significant historical element, as distinguished from the cold empirical approaches of the natural sciences. Scholars working in the humanities are sometimes described as "humanists". It must be all Greek to the inhuman Minister, who's focus is probably about GDP numbers, and how many more foreigners his comrades can pack into the Little Red Dot, to achieve the "sustainable economy" proposed by the White Paper.
Heng is putting the blame on parents ("Parents' mindset key to education change: Heng"), without being upfront about the failures of the existing educational system. Like teachers who haul up parents to tell them to hire private tutors, so as not to drag down the school's academic track record. Like teachers despatched to remote corners of the Middle Kingdom, to sign up foreign students to boost the school's academic track record. And, for good measure, to dig spurs into the behinds of our own locally born and bred kids.
Fortunately, the future is not all bleak, when we have bright sparks who can see through the inhumanities inflicted upon us, and boldly speak out about the inconvenient truths. Heng may gainsay the shortcomings of his ministry, but the people, the young and not so young, refuse to be hoodwinked.