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
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
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
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 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
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
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
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and
comments via www.mrjam.org)