By Nury Vittachi
Asia IS the best place to be educated, according to a global survey I read recently. I was astonished. Education elsewhere must be REALLY bad. I mentioned this to a headmaster friend, who replied that he wanted to introduce an entrance exam for his school. Why? “Because we pretty much accept anyone who will pay, but the parents of the kids like to be able to boast that it’s tough to get into,” he explained.
Parents are strange creatures. They were irritated when he said that there was no waiting list for his school; so he started pretending that there was. This ALSO annoyed them.
One parent lectured him on the evils of grade inflation and in the same sentence demanded that his son be given ‘A’ grades, despite having an IQ to match his shoe size. Another tried to bribe him with a dusty box of cakes which had clearly been passed around since Confucius had been the big name in Asian education.
The headmaster asked me to write an entrance exam like the sort of contests you get in the media, which are so easy that it’s almost impossible to get them wrong.
So here it is: The World’s Easiest Entrance Exam. Time limit: 30 minutes.
1) Greens are a healthy vegetable. What colour are they?
2) What time is it when both hands are on the 12?
3) What does UN (United Nations) stand for?
4) How many weeks are there in a two-week period?
5) What do coffee shops sell?
1) A bald man’s hair is 0.0 inches long. Convert this to centimetres.
2) If I had three apples in my left hand, how many apples would I have in my left hand?
3) If two and two equal four on every day of the week, what does two and two equal on Tuesdays?
1) What was Henry VIII’s personal name?
2) What was Mahatma Gandhi’s family name?
3) What rank was Admiral Nelson?
4) How many rules are there in The Ten Commandments?
1) What language do Urdu-speakers speak?
2) What country is the Queen of Denmark Queen of?
3) Where is the North Pole?
4) Name the moon which revolves around the planet Earth.
1) Birds are a type of bird. True/False.
2) What insects do anteaters eat?
3) What is the breast colour of a robin redbreast?
4) How many cells do single-celled amoebas have?
5) What substance do woodpeckers peck?
Score: 13-21 right answers: Congratulations, you’re in! 7-12 right answers: Congratulations, you’re in! 1-6 right answers: Congratulations, you’re in! 0 right answers: Try again!
We tested the exam out on a group of five children. Only two of them passed. The third spoke only Urdu, the fourth Hokkien, and the fifth lost the paper.
So we decided to shorten the test to just one question and allow the parent or guardian to answer it. “Does he know his own name? Yes/No.” This time, most of them passed. The Hokkien-speaking family just sort of glared at me, but I took that as a “yes”.
Besides, there are no wrong answers in that sort of test. If only the same was true for real life.
Did you read about that pilot who lost it and started shouting and screaming on a JetBlue Airways flight? Wow, on JetBlue, even pilots can’t get earphones and a drink?
I would have loved to have overheard the conversations on that flight.
Passenger: “Who’s the crazy lunatic being pinned to the floor?”
Flight attendant: “That’s the pilot, ma’am.”
Passenger: “No, really, who is he?”
The incident above reminds me of flying through Russia in the old days. It was never us passengers who drank too much, got rowdy and had to be restrained, it was the pilots and flight attendants. One of the passengers would hold down the pilot while the rest of us took turns flying the plane.
The travel business gets wackier every week. Case in point. I don’t usually agree with statements by religious extremists, but I like what one group in India did recently. They issued a fatwa against airport full-body security scanners, the ones that can see through clothes. I hope they assassinate the cheeky machine at my nearest airport before my next flight. (Only because the sight of my magnificent body unclothed may leave staff feeling traumatized and inadequate.)
And what about the news that you can now check your Facebook page in mid-air? A journalist told me that Facebook’s efforts to connect users through overlapping contacts led two Washington women to find out they were married to the same man last month. The guy has been arrested for bigamy.
That got me thinking. The Facebook computer is going to cause big trouble for Asian guys like my late lamented Dad, who tended to marry more than the recommended number of women. And what about all those Hong Kong/Singaporean/Indian guys who have secret wives in China/Malaysia/other parts of India? For Asia, the “friend suggestion” programme needs to change its heading from “People You May Know” to: “People You May Have Married.”
But of course you don’t need a computer to get into that sort of trouble. A friend of mine worked for a well-known hotel chain in a coastal resort. To drum up business, he made a list of all the couples who had booked into the hotel in recent years and wrote letters addressed to the women: “We hope the two of you enjoyed your previous visit. Why not surprise your husband with another romantic getaway?”
It was only when furious responses started pouring in that he realized that Asian businessmen don’t have romantic getaways with their wives. They have them with their secretaries, mistresses and hourly paid workers.
I’ve decided I really like the system of government in the book/ movie “The Hunger Games”. Next election, let’s put all the candidates on an island and get them to hunt each other. The survivor will be the next leader. And of course if the citizens are really lucky, none of the candidates will make it. We can but pray.
Talking of books, I was excited to hear that J.K. Rowling has started writing a novel series for grown-ups which will focus on “the major concerns of adult life”. I assume the first volume will be called “Harry Potter Considers Competing Annuity Packages”.
The ad agency Ogilvy and Mather has rigged up a drinks machine in Singapore so that if children hug it, free cans of Coke come out. Okay, the needle on my creepiness detector has gone deep into the red zone. Coca-Cola is a wildly profitable habit-forming drug that children consume instead of actual nutrition. Kids, go hug trees instead.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)