The expression "moving the goalposts" is a kind of sporting expression but commonly used to refer to the changing of targets by one side in a competitive process so that there will be an unfair advantage to that side. In an academic setting, it could refer to the changing of the aim of a debate/discussion so that greater and greater evidence is required to prove a point.
Singaporeans are "used to" working in an environment where the goalposts keep changing. Progress, she is called. After all we live in a rapidly changing environment where targets are non-static. Change or stagnate. In Singapore, any change is implemented so that targets are achieved yesterday.
At about this time last year, the NTU embarked on a large scale review of her staff contracts. Many saw it as a culling exercise. The university's mission had morphed from a teaching heavy one to a focus on leading edge research. So the goal posts moved. And in the process, a large cohort of academics who had given the best years of their lives, and had served the teaching mission faithfully were unceremoniously booted out.
More recently there was the problem about the maths paper in PSLE. A last minute change to allow calculators resulted in a flurry of complaints from concerned parents. Not a real problem here except that Gigamole couldn't see why the goalposts had to be moved. Was it not something that could have been implemented the following year so that the students would not be surprised by the changed location of their goalposts? Was it so urgent a mission that one could callously disregard students' anxieties? Apparently so.
Then today, the new residency programme for the training of medical specialists was outed. Nothing new here, as this has been the hot topic in medical blogs, and has caused immeasurable angst among medical students. But this was really a problem of moving goalposts. Students shouldn't be so upset. This is Singapore. And goalposts change here. Frequently. We know it was done as a last minute scramble to match the graduating class from Dukes-NUS. The question was 'wasn't this anticipated?' Didn't management figure out Dukes-NUS was about to graduate and usher in the residency programme? I figure they had about 4 years heads-up on this. But the goalposts changed at the 11th hour as if the problem developed overnight. One must question, why? Why?
Please don't get me wrong. I am all for change, for dynamism. No problem for me if management wants to move their targets. After all the world is not sitting still. But what is good for management is not necessarily good for staff or students. I believe management is getting away with much of this because, the management style is very much top down. Can staff complain? Not really. Can students protest? Not really? What happens usually? Management issues some bland unsatisfactory statement to gloss over the issue, citing how we need to remain top of ranking, or how we are on the way to performance excellence and everyone quietly swallows the bitter pill. But the bitterness remains.
Effective. Progressive. And scores a lot of points with the man upstairs looking at metrics. But cold, uncaring and soul-less.
Management should be aware that there is a limit to how much of this shifting goalposts angst people can absorb. At some point in time, a price will have to be paid in worker's satisfaction, or student's loyalties. There is a limit to how much one can continue to depend on imported talent to replace disenfranchised citizens. At some point in time management will need to count on its own citizenry to staff the hospitals, and to look after our own. Then by that time, there might be no one left.
5 years ago