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What’s Wrong With The World’s Best Education System?

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Even though I am a former education service officer with the Ministry of Education (Singapore) aka teacher, I find it most difficult to write about education in Singapore.

Why Talking About Education Is So Hard For Me

Perhaps, it is because I have an overwhelming number of thoughts and opinions and emotions related to the whole issue of education.  To try and condense those into pithy posts takes Herculean effort which I don’t have stamina to muscle up.

Perhaps, in more ways than one, I have found myself grappling with my own hang-ups and hangovers from being a product, and participating in the production, of the local education system for a large part of my life.

And perhaps, because I know that ANY, yes, any and every post written on this sensitive topic is likely to draw attention – positive or otherwise. Attention that I am not too sure if I am able nor keen to handle.

However, I read a post about education off the Facebook feed of a fellow mom blogger which kickstarted this whole long spiel of mine about education as it is now in Singapore. I made so many long comments there that I think I ought not waste all that effort commenting. So ta-dah, like it or not, here’s my take on the education system in Singapore.  Okay, not the WHOLE state of education. Just one aspect of it which is really, the corporatization of school management system in education, and its impact on students.

Unfortunately to get some sense out of what you’re about to read, you probably need to read this open letter to principals by a mom of 6, Mummy Wee.

Done?

So here’s my response to Mummy Wee’s letter.

The Onus Of The Matter Lies With…

I don’t think it’s so much the principals as much as a problem with the system –  how it selects, ranks and subjects principals to a whole set of performance criteria which I honestly don’t believe serve the whole education vision that well. (And then, we must consider the entire eco-system within which the system of education operates in – governance, politics, finance, economy, society, culture, global pressures etc and etc.)
However, I concede that the senior principals are perhaps more motivated by a more sincere altruistic set of values than the younger generation of school leaders.

Mummy Wee wrote: You are not the head of a corporation. You are a leader, with the power to inspire and garner the energies of a legion of teachers under your wing. Who in turn have the power to influence and shape the lives of thousands of young people, who will go on to shape our country. Take good care of your teachers, even if it may mean a smaller bonus or less accolades for your school. Lead your teachers with integrity, courage and wisdom. After all, isn’t that what we are trying to teach our children? 
BUT doesn’t dear Mummy Wee realise that the way the ministry runs its schools ARE very much corporate world-like?

The EPMS (Enhanced Performance Management System, I think it is. It’s a work review of sorts).
The various quality assurance awards like the SQC, ISO and all the whatever nots awards.
Our schools seem to have a WHOLE load of awards they garner, year in, year out.
What’s wrong with awards? Nothing much except I question just how much of a teacher’s time is spent on achieving these awards than on teaching.

Whatever They Say, Ranking Still Happens.

So as much as I will like to believe primary schools are not ranked, I cannot find myself believing in that because all education service officers in employment  from principals to  cluster superintendents to DDs (deputy directors) and Directors and all higher-ups are all ranked for their performance, are they not?

KPIs. Key Performance Indicators.
Evidences of achievement required to show KPIs are attained, no?
Else, how do we explain the calibration of annual performance bonuses?

By the way, if anyone wants to blog further about Principals and school leadership, I think reading Parker Palmer’s ‘Courage to Teach’ is a good place to start. In my rather distant past, in the early 2000s, this was THE buzz book amongst school leaders and the MOE HQ top brains. I greedily devoured every page, every idea noted in that book about education. I engaged in vigorous discourse with other more experienced educators. A decade later, I still find it ironic just how many of the things Mummy Wee and other parents have shared, echoed also by teachers themselves, have already been addressed.

And really, I don’t care what anyone says. 
I only care what I see being done, and its effect on people.

What My Greatest Issues With The State of Education Are…

Well, I don’t hate the education system. I believe there are merits to be found. And I also believe that there are many passionate, though maybe somewhat wearied, educators still inside doing good for our kids and society. And to some crazy optimistic degree, I do think that we may be just at the cusp of seeing a positive reformation in our education because of an increased willingness of parents and authority to engage with each other.

I left the system because of the fundamental crisis I faced in the values system and the dissonance between what’s professed and practised.

And here are just two of my biggest bugbears with our great system:

1. The deficits of having a performance ranking system of teachers.

2. Another is the seemingly depressed state of students and people we have in Singapore, in spite of us having life good here.

Why I Dislike The Performance Ranking System

Palmer in his book denounced the relevance of having ranking systems for teachers and in education. Alas, soon after this buzz book was read and discussed (to death), tadah! An enhanced performance work review programme was rolled out. No prizes for guessing that it was an EVEN more rigorous (read: more obtuse, IMO) performance ranking, work performance assessment system.
But never mind what someone else says, I just rely on my empirical knowledge of what happens in the system. I do not like what I’ve seen and still see happening in schools. I see a lot of awards a school plasters on the banners outside its gates, and my danger radar just starts bleeping non-stop. Because, with all those awards usually come a lot more administrative work and narrow-focused skill honing work with the students. And all these just really make me wonder how much real holistic development of every individual could be achieved whilst meeting the syllabus demands. Is it strip-mining talent? Or true talent of every individual developed?

Because you know, education like what Palmer wrote in ‘Courage to Teach’ is a long-drawn process where the fruits cannot be so easily known to be good or bad till perhaps, 20 years after.

But performance-based teacher assessment cannot wait that long, can it?

Why Should Education Affect A Person’s Sense of Worth & Happiness Negatively ? 

This leads me to my second issue with our education system – that breeding of an insecure people. Let me elaborate. I find that many of us who have gone through the system seem to find our security and identity in what WE can do/achieve, or in other words, our performance.  In other words, many of us seem to need that external validation to find our self-worth.

We also seem to be more extrinsically motivated to do things, rather than thrive on an intrinsic motivational drive. Maybe it’s my age that makes me feel that the youths these days really lack initiative, and they are even less willing to take the extra mile. They’ll go only as far as what is necessary to ‘get the job done’ and ‘get the pay’.

In principle, it doesn’t look like this is a great issue.

But I find that in life, it makes a WORLD of difference to the sort of individuals and society we become.

I believe that this external validation which is prevalent in our education system affects the way our children  develop their sense of identity and worth.

I find it ironic that education that should liberate and empower us to live life with the optimism of limitless possibilities and potential has seemed to produce the opposite effect. Recent research shows that almost as many as 1 in 5 children in Singapore suffer symptoms of depression (Woo et al, 2007).

In another study of over 600 children aged between 6-12 in Singapore, researchers found that 22% indicated that they harboured intentions to commit suicide or held suicidal tendencies (Liew et al, 2009).

The despair is what disturbs me most.

Depression and suicidal thoughts shouldn’t be something our children and youth should grapple with.

During PSLE week alone this year, I heard of two separate cases of attempted suicide by tweens.

Even in my early years as a primary school teacher, a decade or so ago, I’ve encountered pupils as young as 7 expressing thoughts like ‘ I want to die’. Another, a 10-year-old,  wrote to me in her English journal that she felt ‘useless’. She said she felt ‘useless’ because ‘no matter how hard I study, I only get band 2 for English. I help to cook and clean the house and look after my younger sister, but I’m useless.’

I believe the depressed state and unhappiness in our children is a reflection of the adults in the society too.

The failure to meet standards set by a system seems to drive people – children and adults- to despair of themselves.

By some fluke last month, I chanced upon a blog post written by a lecturer at Singapore’s teacher training institute.

From reading his blog, and poking around the blogosphere, it seems that he’s a really successful educator and educationist. On his birthday, this successful man wrote a hard-hitting, and for me – a heartbreaking one, titled ‘Failure’. He sits on national committees for education, creativity and innovation, trains school leaders and has also won national awards. But in spite of his successes and credentials, Mr Teaching Fellow listed 16 ways he was a failure, on his birthday.  (I’m not going to publicise his blog here because I pity this man for his own fear. See his F8 below.)

This is an excerpt of Mr Teaching Fellow’s birthday blog post to himself:

on my Bday, i think i am a failure …

F8. i exclaim that technology can transform the way digital natives learn and interact… but yet i kept editing and self-sensoring my own private thoughts for fear of backlash someday with my digital footprints;

F9. i tell others its important to help children know that its ok to be themselves  … but yet i dont even dare to share the contents of this entry for fear i stumble i others;

F10. i  give creative parenting talks to other parents … but yet i had to succumb using the cane to discipline my daughter;

F11. i long to carry my son the way i used to… but yet each morning he refuses even to say goodbye to daddy;

F12. i love my parents my deeply … but yet i do not have the courage to say “I love you”;

F14. i (used to) teach others the harm alcohol does to the liver as a bio teacher … but yet I drown my sorrows in wine;

F15. i lead worship in church … but yet my own relationship with God is…broken.

In short … i am a failure. F!

Isn’t that just heartbreaking to read?
It seems that I am not alone in that struggle to overcome the need for external validation.

And if a top educator who’s training teachers and principals can feel like this about himself, I really wonder how many more depressed and discouraged individuals we have in the system, and our society at large.

I’m not flogging these educators. I was one of those depressed, and depressed enough to be suicidal once before. And I’ve known teaching colleagues who have also broken down, and who had to also seek professional help.

I’m not saying that it’s all the fault of our education system. There is most definitely a lot more than education at play.

But I think for all its worth, our education system and the values it transmits through the way it’s been running does contribute significantly to how every child develops his sense of worth and identity.

So If You Were Education Minister, What Would You Change?

That was a question my friend, also an ex-teacher, threw at me last month.

I paused for one second before answering. And here is my answer: I don’t know.

Like I just said, it’s not just THE education ministry. It’s our entire society.

Our entire society and culture affects how we as a people respond to life.

If we are constantly made to feel we are just numbers or machines and our government focuses on numbers and KPIs, such  dehumanisation of us as a people and individual will naturally lead to a state of ennui that trickles down to even the children. And that ennui leads to many other complex psychological state of fear, angst, hopelessness in self and life.

I believe the spiritual state of our country and countrymen’s souls ( nothing to do with the religious but the state of the fullness of our emotional and mental/psychological state) are at peril of being quenched of life.

I don’t know what I will do if I were the Minister of Education.

But I can tell you what I can do as Sarah.

Laugh at me if you want. Here’s my simple 4-step response to the problems I see in our society:
1. Pray
2. Reframe
3. Play
4. Be the change I want to see

1. Prayer
This is my way of navigating life, and its many challenges. It’s about the constant need to find my centre and anchoring deep into the source of Faith, Hope and Love for me.  Because I believe that Life IS a spiritual journey, and prayer can move mountains.

2. Reframe
Now as as a parent, I am learning to reframe my battles. I believe I will not be able to fight the battle the way parents like Mummy Wee do. I’ve also come to the stage in my life where I don’t even want to engage in such battles much anymore because I feel they are often so arbitrary rather than activist. In many ways, I have also run out of words and energy to fight it the same way I did as a youthful, idealistic 20-something.

I have also chosen to take my children out of the usual school route due to a series of unfortunate, or fortunate, events that have led me to the epiphany that regardless of where they study, I have to bear sole responsibility for my children’s well-being. And if I have fundamental philosophical disagreements with the system, it would be terribly unethical of me to subject my children to those value systems and standards.
3. Play

So for me, I am fighting my battle for the education and upbringing of children using another stratagem – that of play, unconventional educational choices for my children and through grassroots activism.

I am trying whatever i can to push for more creativity and playfulness in education and family life in my own capacity.

4. Be the change I want to see

This then brings me to the next reason why I seem to some people ‘having a lot of time on my hands’ in organizing events like my recent ‘Voyage of Dreams’.

To some my event, I like to call it my ‘campaign’, may seem just pointless and frivolous as this refrain can sometimes overwhelm:
This is Singapore! Grades, paper, results are what parents care about.
Play is a nice idea. But we have to be realistic.

I get this refrain from parents who detest the system but feel powerless to go against it.
I hear this refrain from the teachers, the professionals, who believe in play but feel powerless against the sytem and parents to do much.
I read this refrain between the lines of media reports about changes being mooted and introduced for our education system.

But for me, I choose to believe that promoting creativity and playful family bonding can help counteract the kiasuism , ridiculous overemphasis on academic achievements (stripmining children’s talents) rather than personal development of talents and strengths. Having a playful attitude can help give us all the strength of mind and spirit to see the best in the worst of situations.

Yes, I will not deny that I am cynical about empty promises and lofty platitudes being dished out ever so often here.

But being the idealist and optimist and activist, I want to still do something to effect positive change on this society I grew up in and still living in, where I am raising my children.

My Current Life Motto: To Be The Change I Want To See

I refuse to be defeated because things have always been like this.

I refuse to accept the status quo and I refuse to be told there is little point in trying to buck the trend.

And My Hope For You & Your Family
When the going gets tough, may we, the tough, get creative and courageous in declaring and defending what we believe.
References
Woo, B.S.C., Ng, T.P., Fung, D.S.S., Chan, Y.H., Lee Y.P., Koh, J.B.K & Cai, Y. (2007).Emotional and behavioural problems in Singaporean children based on parent, teacher and child reports. Singapore Medical Journal 48, 1100-1106.

Liew, A., Choon, G.L., Fung, D. (2009) “Suicidal Behaviour in Children and Adolescents – Prevalence and Risk Factors”,  Singapore Institute of Mental Health

26 Comments

  1. Thanks for this very insightful post. My main qualm as I discussed about education matters with my hb is about our kids overall well being esp when they are unable to cope to even make the mark and having to handle the ridicule and emotions of being a failure. Indeed, we are taking the route of praying because we need all the divine help and wisdom we could to guide our kids in navigating around their academic years. We are unable to take the brave step to homeschool our kids just yet but who knows where God would lead us to, we’ll just have to adopt the HOST (hear God, obey God, step out in faith and trust God for the outcome) route!

  2. Enjoyed reading this! I have lots to say about our education system too, and the person whom I complained to the most is my hubby. Lol! 

    I hate the EPMS and ranking of teachers. I think most teachers feel that way too. My other gripe about the system is also wrt its emphasis on grades. As much as I dislike it, and as long as my kids are in it, tests, exams, marks are real issues that we have to deal with. There is no escape from it! Even homeschoolers have to sit for the PSLE! Along with this comes the issue of making sure my kids do not determine their self-worth / self-esteem based on their report book results. As a parent and a teacher, I feel the frustrations (ALOT!!!), but fighting it is like fighting against a huge giant that takes decades to change…

    • Ing, no worries about whether we can make that Goliath topple. I think it is more important that we do what we can to raise our children the best we can. If a parent really believes that the system is the best for her children and her, I see no need for me to contend with her conviction because I believe that the system does work for some. Whatever we choose, I believe we must choose to do what we believe is right by our convictions, value and faith. It’s about living with integrity.

  3. Thanks for the post! I’ve enjoyed reading it as well. As an educator myself, I see what you’re driving at. Though I agree with many points you raised in your article since they are all valid, I don’t lose sight of the reasons why I am in this battlefield. You were right in that there are many depressing children in our society today. These kids would fall into a deeper ditch if not for the love they receive in school. Parents should be the prime provider of love, care and guidance as you said but the reality is not happening. Teachrs and counsellors in schools are filling in these roles these days. The system is not the best indeed. Full of flaws if we take a closer look. But, look at the educators fighting the battles in this system. We all have wounds (kana complaints top-down , outside -in), marks and scars but we stayed. We are not giving up. For me, I want my children to know that though it’s not a perfect world I’m giving them but somethings we’ll always do: Laugh at it together, believe and we move on. And, he will take us where he wants us to be . PTL, dear sis in christ

    • Jessica, thank you for sharing your thoughts too.

      Educators like you are just precious and very crucial for our schools and society.
      And it is for educators like you who have been called to this battlefield I pray for.
      Having said that, I also come to terms with my place in the whole landscape and ecology of education and parenting. I am very clear too that God has not called me to work within the system for various reasons.

      One of the great merits of our education system is what it tries to do to provide financially disadvantaged children the means to have an education.
      But, as for the strength of the syllabus and implementation in achieving a true level playing field, that is entirely another debate. I guess having taught youth at 14, with 8 years of primary school education and yet fail to differentiate a ‘b’ from a ‘d’ and who do not even know the alphabet, I question the effectiveness of our literacy programme.
      Nonetheless, I cannot discount the many efforts of our government in making sure those needy amongst us have access to the financial suport they require to get schooled.

      However, whether the education system serves to raise workers or leaders is quite another issue. A former teacher, and whom I believe you would know too, put it quite plainly to me that ‘government funded education systems are about raising pawns that can be used for their advantage for the good of the national economy’. That statement rather stunned me, and to this day, I still grapple with that thought.

  4. Well written! Coming from someone who hopes for positive change from the system, but not seeing anything practical done to improve things. I am cynical as well.

    Realistically, this system is a big lumbering giant, and it will take too much effort for things to effect major changes. What it needs is a major overhaul.

    There needs to be major mindset change too amongst the ‘consumers’ of the system. But I don’t see it coming from the majority, who feel powerless and don’t have the courage to take the other direction.

    There is a choice, but ultimately most minds are already ‘trained’by the system that there is only one good choice available to them. Sure I can understand if the world is the only way that most will know and trust. But how about Christian parents who knows that there is a better way, but are too afraid to trust God’s ways? One can’t serve two masters.. Will it be the world’s ways or God’s ways? I know what I will choose even as I have decided to put my son in regular school.

    Now your post gives me fodder for a new post to continue to conversation.. Haha…

    • Rachel, I love how you term us parents as ‘consumers of the system’. There was a point some years back that I began to also see educational organisations like schools begin treating parents like clients. The term ‘stakeholder’ is often used in education service to describe the different groups with vested interests in it. But I always felt that even the term ‘stakeholder’ is too corporate, and implies a business-consumer relationship more than a necessary collaboration between school and home.

      And again, as we have discussed this before on other platforms, I believe it’s really not whether we ought to homeschool or send to public school that is the most weighty issue. The most important thing is that regardless of WHERE, it is the HOW and WHAT we are doing with our children to help them learn what truly matters in life.

      For me, I plan to share at greater length my reasons for why public school is currently not an option for us. But that doesn’t mean I disapprove of public schooling. I know many great and wonderful families whose kids are very well brought-up and grounded in spite of having public school education.

  5. I love that you are an agent of change! We definitely need more people like you to keep edging our society forwards instead of falling backwards. It might feel like a tough fight, but some baby steps are better than no steps.

    • Yes, baby steps in the right direction is definitely better than none. Parents like you and I will just have to continue encouraging each other all along the way.

  6. 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.

    • Dear Davin,

      I just wished I could give you a really big hug if I could, and tell you I am so sorry that you had to endure horrible teachers and people who treated you like scum. You are NOT scum. Truth be told, I am actually reeling from the shock of reading what you had to suffer. You’re obviously bright, and why the teachers would humiliate like this is beyond me.

      I am so thankful that in spite of the scorn, shame and denigration you had to suffer, you have managed to somehow survive it and find your own person. That IS a miracle, and I am glad you have found that miracle.

      Funny you should mention how in NS you were also made to feel like cattle being herded, and branded, in NS. Because a fellow Singaporean male just remarked the same to me a few days ago. If you don’t mind, I would really love to hear your miraculous journey to hope and freedom in spite of all that has happened.

      I also hope that all that scars and anguish afflicted upon you by educators, who themselves are likely hurting and in anguish, and an unforgiving system will one day completely fade and fall away from you, if that has not already happened. While I am already in my late 30s, I am still myself battling with certain negative attitudes and insecurities from my education in the local system. Like you, I experienced a sort of liberty when I had the privilege of doing my tertiary studies abroad. It’s not that I think the grass is greener on the other side. But that I think being out of a system we’ve grown up in can be so valuable in helping us see life, and our home country, in a more balanced light.

      Thank you too for your courage and willingness to share your experiences. It is so remarkable to me that you seem to bear little grudge, or hatred, against those who have unfairly trampled upon you. Thank you for showing such grace.

      You are indeed capable and a precious person in your own right. And I wish you the very best of wise companions and life opportunities where you will shine and thrive.

  7. Thanks for penning down the sentiments that I share but was too lazy to write about. I too believe in the power of prayer and play. Thankfully I had my own epiphany early on when I was around secondary two, and am glad to testify that the formula of prayer and play has worked for me. Keep going!

    • Hi Daniel!

      You are blessed to have receive that epiphany in Sec 2! May individuals like you help our society to learn to value what’s truly valuable.

  8. It is impossible to change Singapore Society. It is so successful that China and China people are copying the education slavery and exams. China people and India people have flocked to Singapore.
    I am sorry, it is too late.
    I lived outside for 12 years already and I see it.
    Really I want to return and have my children there, growing up. But growing up to be what?
    Another coolie?

    • Kam, I wonder if it’s really impossible. We’re in a state of flux here as are many other countries as we accelerate towards globalisation of our economies and societies.
      Your coolie analogy is , however, something that I would like to mull over.

  9. Look at the top, he is a soldier not an educator. It is as simple as that.

    Has anybody read Aldous Huxley s Brave new World , Singapore is the closest to this dystopia.

    Meanwhile put your kids on the graded reading lists from all good schools and libraries from overseas, this is block out all the indoctrination and open their eyes.

    • Hi Raymond! Some of the best educators who have opened up new worlds to me were not educators by training nor vocation. They were just individuals who lived authentic lives with a clear set of values, passion and the stubborn conviction that people are always more important than processes and products. Reading great literature can indeed help expand one’s horizons and perspectives. But just relying on book knowledge has another danger. A dear filmmaker friend of mine remarked to me that Singaporeans know so much but are just a big bunch of cowards who rather live life in their heads and not have the courage to live life itself. Is that an accurate description of our people? I’m not too sure. He’s chosen to leave Singapore because of the opportunities he finds elsewhere. For me, I’m stubborn. I am rather bent on proving him otherwise. I’m staying in Singapore, and have chosen to return here in spite of opportunities to live abroad, because there is something in Singapore that cries ‘Home’ in my heart.

  10. Thank you very much for writing this. As a mum who is only getting to grips with the Singapore school system, I have to say that our family is overwhelmed with it. Our son (now 8) feels trodden on by certain teachers even though my hubby and I think he is doing perfectly fine. In a bid to do extremely well, teachers are pushing their students harder and harder, and then berate them for not getting full marks. I really feel that the school system here is like a production line – if you don’t fit the mold, then “bye, bye!” To the little girl who said she’s feels useless, you are most likely learning a lot more about life!

    • Hey Agatha, a production line it is in spite of all the notions of change for creativity and ‘Teach(ing) Less Learn(ing) more’ that have been mooted. I really don’t know where to begin to unpack the system so as to chart a clearer course toward valuing every individual. But well, we just have to navigate ourselves through somehow. And having companions who share similar sentiments and values does help immensely. There is hope. We just have to hold on to our courage to keep pressing on towards a better tomorrow.

  11. Great article! The chasing for different awards disturbs me. Very often there is so much obsession with GETTING the award that the whole purpose of the award is forgotten.

    I believe that each child has their own strengths and weaknesses (and so do adults). Just because their strength is not what the system is looking for doesn’t make them a failure.

    • Nueyer, yes unfortunately a system has its limitations. And our systems’ very strengths seem to be turning out to our own Achille’s heels instead. We need a more authentic assessment of the state of our systems so that we can have a better grasp on the issues that we need to confront with courage. Definitely not deny things like students do not need tuition which leads to an almost ‘demonization’ of parents and kids who have to turn to tuition to keep afloat in the schools.

  12. Pingback: Singapore Parents and the Education System : A Parable (Part 1) - Catch 40 Winks

  13. Totally agree with 90% of your assessment. The fault lies not with any particular person or ministry. The fault lies with the way the system has been shaped and how we the people have adapted towards it

  14. excellent writeup babe! You echo the thoughts of many! I was just beginning to feel that suicide n depression rates r going up for tweens coz just the other day a p5 boy of mine took out a knife to threaten his brother! thereafter he went into a crazy outburst n started rolling on the floor n said he rather die or go to jail than to study. This has been happening n it’s so sad as when I spoke to the parent on probably seeking professional help, she said there’s nothing much she can do. The parent has chose to engage herself fully in her business instead. I felt so upset n clearly there is a major flaw in society.

  15. Hello, thank you for this extremely insightful article. I am sitting for my As this year. Having benefitted from the education system’s inclination to placing emphasis on examinations and grades, I honestly only started to realise the flaws in the system when I stepped into JC. I think the epiphany came about partially because I’ve recently developed a strong appreciation for creativity and empathy (owing due to certain life experiences haha). And I don’t think that the system allows these intrinsic and extremely valuable traits to be instilled in students as much as it should. Up till now I still can’t make heads or tails with the JC system. I like what I learn in school, but at the same time I highly doubt that the syllabus/curriculum inculcates a genuine love for learning in me and my peers. I hope that whatever policy changes that are going to be rolled out will alleviate this problem. More importantly though, like what you said, I hope that we as a society can gradually attain a shift in mindset about grades and qualifications :)

    I apologise for posting such a long comment.

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