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I Not Stupid 3 Review: “EM3 Standard” and Out of Touch with Today’s Education

Thinking of taking your family (especially your kids) to watch a Singapore classic about our education landscape?

“I Not Stupid” was perhaps one of Jack Neo’s best works in the early 2000s. Golden Village (GV) theaters were packed full of families laughing and crying at what was an accurate reflection of the “kiasu” education landscape in Singapore. 

More than 20 years later, Jack Neo is back with “I Not Stupid 3,” but this time, it feels like he has missed the mark. 

Despite being the school holidays, the Shaw theater was very empty during the premiere of “I Not Stupid 3”. 

Perhaps everyone is in Japan and enjoying one of the best Singapore dollar to Japanese Yen exchange rates in history?

“I Not Stupid 3” tries to bring back the success of the original “I Not Stupid,” but it ends up feeling outdated and disconnected from today’s education scene in Singapore.

Out of Touch with Today’s Education

Students are still studying, but it is not how it was 20 years ago.

One big problem with “I Not Stupid 3” is that it seems out of touch with what is really happening in schools now. 

The movie recycles a lot of the same old themes from the early 2000s, but the education system in Singapore has changed a lot since then.

Today, there are new challenges and improvements that the movie does not show. Our Ministry of Education (MOE) has implemented a lot of policies to look after the holistic development of students. 

Schools now pay more attention to students’ mental health and their passions, not just their grades. 

In fact, schools have already removed exams for most students. Even students at the Upper Primary Level are taking Weighted Assessment instead of full examinations. 

The scoring system has also changed to an Achievements Level (AL) system. This focuses on a child’s personal achievements, instead of comparing them to their peers on a bell curve. The goal is to nurture their joy in learning.

There are also no more “top student” spots for the national exams. Remember Brands’ Chicken Essence? No more new ambassadors for them.

Furthermore, students are assessed on their competencies in individual subjects to help them work on their weaker subjects at a lower pace.

All these policies and more have been implemented after “I Not Stupid” was released because it was an actual problem back then. And these policies have been largely effective. 

Some may say it has been so effective that certain backlash effects have started to appear. Hear the success stories from the parents who have enrolled their child in our study habits transformation programme.

One common worry nowadays is that they are too relaxed with their children.

But this movie hardly talks about these modern changes and backlashes faced in 2024.

Recycling Old Ideas. Nothing new.

Reuse and Recycling was done for this script. Why not reduce the need for this movie too?

Another issue is that the movie recycles old ideas from the first “I Not Stupid” film. It’s the same story of academic pressure and the struggles between parents and children. 

It feels like Jack Neo is stuck in the past and cannot come up with new themes or fresh perspectives. 

Same themes of mothers working in an office setting comparing the results of their children. Spamming tuition and overloading their child.

Pressuring their children to achieve the top 1% results and resorting to abusive actions.

The big problem is this is no longer representative of how most families are like in Singapore today. This is exactly why we are not a tuition service. Instead, our programme focuses on helping students become confident and independent learners without relying on tuition.

Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to explore the effects of mobiles games and social media addiction among this generation of students who no longer have to worry about exams?

Or perhaps the movie could have dived deeper into how parents are struggling to help their child identify and pursue their passions?

The original message was powerful, but repeating it again without adding anything new makes the movie feel tired and unoriginal. It definitely felt like a cash-grab, quick money-making scheme.

Messy Plot and Feels Fake

When “Limpeh” is more relatable than these “Oppa” wanna-bes

The plot of “I Not Stupid 3” is also a mess. It tries to cover too many things at once, making it hard to follow. 

There are too many unnecessary mini-plots, and it feels like they are just there to fill space. This makes the story confusing and not very enjoyable to watch.

Additionally, the charm of “I Not Stupid” was always how relatable it is to the average Singaporean. The characters felt like actual people we know.

The dialogues in the original “I Not Stupid” were familiar enough that students would have heard them in schools. Adults have probably said the same things to their own children.

Not this time. The teachers and parents are dressed to look like models in a Korean drama. Since when have our school teachers looked that good? Why do the mums always look like they are about to attend an expensive dinner?

Furthermore, selecting a Chinese National family to be the center of the plot definitely felt off. This is a movie about the education system in Singapore. Why not follow Singaporean families?

It almost feels like Jack Neo was sponsored to cast certain people in this movie and the script was written for them.

Shallow Impact on Our Children

No need to stress our kids so much. It’s not a pressure cooker!

“I Not Stupid 3” depicts the stress that academic pressure takes on children. The children’s struggles are a reflection of many students’ realities in Singapore. 

The stress and anxiety from constant competition can lead to burnout, affecting not just their academic performance but their overall mental and emotional health. 

It’s just unfortunate that the exact same message was delivered twice in the two prequels.

But maybe this is for Gen Z children to watch? If they did not watch the first two movies, then perhaps there is some key values to take away from “I Not Stupid 3”

Unfortunately, the impact is shallow. There are so many more interesting angles to approach this.

Maybe talk about the lack of motivation to study because kids are dreaming of becoming Youtubers or Professional gamers?

Or perhaps look into how the lack of exams is giving many students too much free time and they are wasting it all away?

Perhaps explore the new style of parenting approach that the millennial parents are adopting these days instead of the same-old boomer/Generation X Tiger Mum approach that few are still using now?

Overall, “I Not Stupid 3” is a disappointment. It fails to connect with the realities of today’s education system, rehashes old ideas, and has a confusing plot filled. 

If you’re looking for a meaningful and engaging movie about the current education landscape in Singapore, this one might not be worth your time.

Instead, you might want to read articles from publications such as Readers’ Digest and Forbes featuring how the education landscape has shifted to focus more on the child’s character and habits.

Since “I Not Stupid 3” is basically the recycling of “I Not Stupid”, I suppose it is an appropriate callback to say this movie is an EM3 standard, right?

Because just like EM3 students from the first movie, this movie could have been promising but ended up being a disappointment because Jack Neo did not help it achieve its best potential.



The latest resources direct from First Principles Education.

The latest resources direct
from First Principles Education.