Monday, December 15, 2008


Last Friday night, I met up with some ex-colleagues whom I have not seen in a while. We were part of a small outfit then, all of us young and unmarried. So I suppose, without the husbands and wives and children, we got to strike up close bonds as only young people do. 

Now we are much older. The oldest child we have among us is already in Junior College - all of 17 years old. So it was natural that part of the conversation over dinner turned to children and their education. Pre-school education was raised - words like Kumon and what-nots came up in the free-flowing conversation. Apparently, many of my ex-colleagues have sent their toddlers to these specialist schools to, I suppose, gain a leg-up in life. All this while I kept silent, because I never ever believed in these schools. I sent my son to a PAP kindergarten for two years, and that was it. Tried to get him interested in Piano, but he wanted out after a few lessons. So that was it too, until he was enrolled into a neighbourhood school just 7-10 minutes walk away from where I lived. He passed his PSLE with straight As (although A+ would have been more impressive), got into another neighbourhood Secondary School, now biding time till his 'O' levels. 

Such is the life of every Singapore boy and girl. We have to pass through 2 major exams in our young lives, exams which many parents treat as a matter of life and death. So I could empathise with a parent who wrote in to Today's (15 December 2008) forum page lamenting the lengths to which Singapore parents would subject their children to regimentation memorisation, regurgitation, creativitisation, etc. from as early as 2 years old. I often wonder if there is anything wrong with us parents. We bring a child into the world, and just as soon as they are ready to walk, we rob them of their childhood by subjecting them to an endless regimen of training in the hope that they will turn into an Einstein or, at least, some'thing' they could brag in parties and gatherings.

I often also wonder whether, somewhere along the line, education in Singapore has taken a wrong turning, for the worse. I do not know, but 20-30 years hence, when our children themselves becomes parents, they would reverse these practices because they know it didn't so much benefit them as it did their parents. I would be disappointed if this state of affair is perpetuated by them and those that come after them. Then we would know that the turning has been too sharp.

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