Thursday, June 05, 2008

The kiasu Singaporean parent

Only someone who is a parent can understand the kind of stress and worry that one goes through for the sake of his/her child.

Parents worry about everything, from the point the child is born.

No - in fact, they usually start worrying even BEFORE the child is born! From the: "What kind of name shall we give him, must sound good and have good meaning" and "I hope the baby is healthy..." to the "I'm afraid he will be naughty when he grows up"; "What if he cant cope with the stressful education system in Singapore next time?", etc.. the list continues...

I know these thoughts did go through my mind (at various points throughout my wife's 9 months pregnancy period), and some worries continue to bug me now that Kai is 4+month old.

Recently, there's been quite a lot of debate - both on the papers, as well as over the web - on the sort of school/education system (here in Singapore) that we are currently putting our young through. Many parents feel that the schools are "teaching" too much, and that "more is less". Some feel that the schools (or more precisely - the schools' management) are so caught up in the rat-race (to be the top X% in exam results) that they 'sacrifice' not just the well-being of their teaching staff, but also that of the children as well. By having tonnes and tonnes of extra classes (many conducted over the supposedly "holiday" period) and homework for the pupils, unneccesary stress is loaded onto the shoulders on both the teachers and the pupils.

Then comes the related debate on whether or not having private tuition for the children is a "good thing". While many parents gripe about the schools not living up to their purpose of being the "primary" education source, the ironic truth is that these same parents are usually the ones who'd rush to send their kids to tuition centres or to hire a private tutor for their kids. "We have no choice! it's that or risk my kid losing out to his peers in schools, who all have tuition." Again, they point the finger at the schools for "setting too difficult exams in exams", "trying to teach too much within too short a time frame", etc.

And they may have grounds for these criticisms, in truth. Yet, more than likely, this is a "chicken & egg" issue.

If only the majority of the parents stood together and CHOOSE not to send their kids for private tuition, then the schools would have little choice but to cater to the learning curve of the majority of its students. After all, it wouldnt reflect well on the school's management to have a 80% failure rate in exams, would it?

Unfortunately, being true-blue kiasu Singaporean parents, it is more likely that the trend of private tuition will continue, since "failure in exams" is utterly and completely unacceptable in our result-oriented society.

As for those parents who are garang (not because they cannot afford to, but rather they choose not to ) enough to go against the "tuition trend", I salute you. Hopefully your kids will not one day ask you "Why do I always fall behind my classmates in grades? Am I not smart enough, or are you not providing me with all the help that i need?"


Anonymous hansen said...

The more experience I get from teaching, the more I wonder how did I survive the Pri-Sec education system. You ever wonder that? I assumed you had no tuition, grades were good and even if we have 1-2 poor subjects, we never beg our parents for help.

I mean, I'm the one studying, not my parents!

Btw, my school Kranji Sec holds NIGHT study classes for the Sec 4s and 5s, from 7-9 pm. For 2 weeks, prior to mid year exams. Technically it's on a volunteer basis, and the reason is because a lot of students 'do not have a conducive environment to study at home'.

Basically, I think that standards of education has increased but the intelligence and independence of the kids remain the same (or even lower). Not to mention the huge amount of distractions enticing them. Hence external help is required.

10:50 AM  

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