British education vs. American education
At the workplace, I find it hard not to miss subtle differences in attitude between the British-educated and the American-educated person. I consider Singapore and Malaysian-educated people as British educated as their education is derived from the British system.
I’ll try not to stereotype so I’ll use the word ‘generally’. Generally I find US-educated people to be less formal and more likely to take risks than their British educated colleagues (asking questions in a staff meeting is a risk). The way they write is also different, like how they would start and conclude their formal letters, with long and stiff salutations and all.
I recall how we were conditioned in the US system, at least the one I was in. Yes we were informal. We wore whatever we liked. We were encouraged to ask questions, even to pose a challenge to the instructor. One of my classmates brought his dog to class everyday. Another guy once showed up with his parrot. It can’t beat one of my professors who turned up in a dolphin suit one day. He had just returned from a ball game and didn’t have time to change. My physics professor would bring candy. He’d ask questions and if anyone gave an answer – whether its right or wrong – he’d throw a candy bar to him or her as a reward. And once during early autumn we had a sociololgy class out in an open field, complete with barbecue.
The syllabus was quite liberal too. Apart from the usual dry math-and-science subjects, there were fun subjects you could get credit for. I took up bowling. You could also take golf, music, drama, and a bunch of other stuff many people here would raise their eyebrows to. In fact you can’t graduate unless you take a few of these so-called ‘electives’. Maybe they wanted to make sure you don’t end up square like Spongebob. The subtle underlying point was a simple one. Be original. Be different. Be something new.
And its heartening to see the outcome of such bold craziness. MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, and a bunch of live-changing inventions. Not bad.
I’m not sure what goes on in the British system but it does appear that form and compliance is very important. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Never question authority. Tradition above all. I don’t know if its true for all British grads but its just something I observe.
I was managing talent for a brief period when I had this thought. If you want someone innovative, someone who dreams and thinks out of the box, get an American-educated dude. If you want a serious worker, someone who plays by the book, get a British educated dude. You need both types in any organization.
Yes I know people can be different individually. This is just a general pattern that I notice. I wonder if anyone else sees the same thing.