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SG Education: A Survivor’s Tale

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In response to my recent post, What’s Wrong With The World’s Best Education System, a reader left me this powerful story of his journey from despair and desperation to hope in my comment  box.

I am republishing it here as a post because I believe that he is not alone in what he has suffered.

Regardless of your opinions of our society and education system, you should read this young man’s sharing.

As I’ve mentioned before, the education system survives in a larger ecosystem influenced by politics, culture and economics. While I do not think his traumatic experience is the mere fault of an imperfect education system, it does make me want to re-examine the reasons for how schools can get so menacing, and to see how we can make school less so.

Some of you may read this and think that his parents probably placed undue stress on him and so on. But for what it’s worth, in my own experience with friends who struggle with their children’s depression sparked off by school stress, I am inclined to think that given the increased emphasis on academic excellence and long hours spent in school, away from home, societal factors and school can overwhelm and subdue even the best of parents.  

And because depression seems to be a growing disease – not just among our youth in Singapore, but also in the world.
The WHO estimates that “by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world”

So perhaps, like Davin and I, you too have your own story into freedom and hope to share. If you do, won’t you take that step of courage to share your journey so that someone else struggling with the same issues may too find some light in the midst of darkness.

Please remember that you are precious. Your life is precious. No one or nothing should ever make you feel that you are otherwise.

<< One Young Man’s Story Of His Experience With The Singapore Education System>>

I agree with you that Singaporeans in Singaporean society have long been turned from human beings into… things. Throughout my childhood in Singapore I constantly felt like I was just a thing, or some kind of cattle being reared for the sole purpose of becoming an economically productive cow. The grading of my cattle-worthiness started with streaming at P4 and it would never cease in never-ending periods of 2 years.

“When will it stop?!” I exclaimed to my mother when I was 12, on the eve of taking my PSLE exams. “Never,” she pointed out, at how I was going to be arts or sciences by Sec 2, then again with the O Levels at Sec 4, and again and again. That cattle-like feeling never ceased even after I emerged from the years of being in the Singaporean education system and enlisted with the SAF, but that’s another tale for another day.

Dear Author, you hit the nail right on the head. The Singaporean system of education constantly strives to dehumanize us and forces us to submit to the system. What really scarred me the most was the way my teachers reacted to being told of my condition of Asperger’s Syndrome – which placed me on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Even though I attended high-ranking and “elite” schools like Pei Hwa Primary or ACS (Independent) the teachers would publicly humiliate me by announcing to the entire class that I’m some kind of spastic child which led to neverending waves of bullying. I ended up being told by my teachers that people of my condition would never amount to anything and all I would ever be good for was to reassemble and clean airplane headsets for Singapore Airlines at $1.50/hour.

You can imagine my despair and anguish even though I knew myself and that I was capable of so much more. It got bad enough that I nearly blew my own brains out with my mouth wrapped around the muzzle of my rifle whilst on guard duty in NS.

Then I found a solution: I decided to start my life in a different country. It’s been 3 years in the US so far and I’ve become a much happier human being. The most shocking to me was that my school and professors were treating me as if I was an actual person, not some cattle to be whisked through the bloody system. I received so many opportunities for me to shine… it’s something that would never have been afforded to me in Singapore. I helped a professor with research material on a future book. I clinched an internship with one of the best defense think-tanks in the world in London. I have never felt more valued before in my life. In Singapore, I was scum. In the US, people respect me here and appreciate what I have to say.

With all that said, why would I want to go back to my birthplace which harbored nothing but scorn and abuse for me? I hate the Singaporean education system, and I don’t think that any loving or ethical parent would want to put their child through the meat grinder that it is. I would rather die than to let that happen to any future child of mine.

 Do you have a similar story to share? 
If you do, I would like to encourage you to share it.
You can email me your story, and I am glad to keep your identity anonymous  for republishing. 
However, I would like you to write to me using your real name and a legitimate email so that I am able to verify the authenticity of the story source.

One Comment

  1. it’s heart-wrenching to read such stories. i’m happy that he’s happier now. growing up for me wasnt easy too, esp being academically “not intelligent”, teachers tend to stereotype students like me back then. but looking back, i knw i have succeeded in life in my way. a longer path than my other friends, but at least i hit the finishing line.

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