The truth about life as a Polytechnic Student Part 1

By Teng Cheow Yi

Exhausted.


It's finally the end of my third academic year in Polytechnic before the start of Internship Programme. Everyone's tired. We all need a break from this crazy Final Year Project (FYP) that everyone has been losing their sleep for. I can't say that I'm a committed student myself because I'm always late for classes and am quite the slacker in school. But that's only because I'm tired of this environment that we're in.


Project groups competing against one another so as to appease our lecturers. "What if we don't meet their expectations? What if this is not what they want? What if the other group does better than I do? Will that pull down my grades? I can't let that happen. I need to get my group mates to exceed expectations." And there you will see, everyone struggling just to pacify the ones who are liable for our grades, not even sure what knowledge they are gaining out from this anymore. Then you'll hear the usual few phrases that will try to bring you down. "spoil market" / "stop being so hard-core" / "we didn't even put in that much effort" And strangely enough, these phrases come from the teachers' pets who are most committed in their work and getting their A.


Answering questions in class for the sake of participation marks. Is this even normal? The kids my age when I was in primary and secondary school didn't have this kind of mentality. Teachers were there to guide us and clarify our problems if we needed genuine help. Whoever remembered needing to give two damns about "participation marks"? It never even crossed my mind. And the shame of students having the cheek to (not even jokingly) say "participation marks ah" right after they answered a question correctly. Excuse you.


Forcing ourselves to attend lectures just to mark our attendance. Oh, am I so guilty for this. We don't even know what's the point of lectures anymore. Lecturers need to fulfill their job as a lecturer, so we can't put the blame on them. In fact, no one is to blame. It's just really sad having to see all of us stoop this low and "waste our time" just for the small tick on the attendance list. In case some of you don't know, if you fail to attend 75% of your classes, you could be potentially debarred from examinations or given a Pass/Fail grade for that module. Nobody in the right mind would want to retake a module. Forcing us not to "waste our time" by listening in lectures and stop using our phones or falling asleep isn't going to work either. What we are taught can be self-studied a week before the paper. There isn't really a need for lectures, only consultation classes.


Your presence for group meetings determines your contribution. I realized that, sometimes, students don't even need to contribute much for their groups. Just attend meetings punctually and be there when your group mates are discussing work. Obviously, I'm the opposite of a punctual student who attends school regularly. However, I can say that I make the effort to finish up the assigned work tasked for me when I'm resting at home or on self-declared holidays. However, it just somehow doesn't tally with the amount of contribution you make if you're not present in school, even if you're in school and not even contributing as much. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the impression that people similar to my situation had left on the others. Once you're seen as someone who doesn't contribute much, no matter how hard you try, most of the people around you will see you in such a light. So, why bother trying so much?


Backstabbing. This couldn't be a shock to the society today, could it? It's so typical - such a typical situation that I don't even really have the energy to fight back against the negativity anymore. Not that I've given up as someone who lost the battle, but I've given up on people with such personalities. There's a difference. Can't bring up situations from the past because it's too personal and not a very nice thing to do, but all I can say is that, if there's a problem, always talk it out nicely to the other party, let him/her understand what you feel about his/her contribution. There's no point plastering those happy smiles on your faces if the next step you make is stab a few daggers into his/her back. Group work isn't group work if you don't act like a group. Thankfully, I'm glad most of these conflicts seem to be over for now, and things have been cleared up. However, ever since I've been scarred (not trying to sound like a pitiful victim here, though) from such incidences, I can never bring myself to fully trust anyone anymore.


At the end of the day, everyone wants the best for themselves. You might have a few close buddies whom you always hang out or gossip with over lunch break. Course mates who are really lovable and fun-to-be-with, the course clowns who love cracking insider jokes (while the rest laugh along together) and the ones who occasionally bring sweet treats for everyone to share. It's a nice feeling knowing that people care.


But when it comes to projects and school work that concerns their future education, always remember the fine line in between work and play. Most of them aren't really your friends anymore. They are your work mates. Because this would be the treatment you will receive from most of them. I always feel that these people are training themselves when entering into the working society in the future. A realistic bunch who would succumb to selfish acts just to remain at the top. Probably also because I come from the School of Business where it is not normal for one not be competitive.


I'm not even referring to anyone in particular, but many would probably think so, because the boot fits, doesn't it?


And slowly, we unknowingly turn into the type of demons we said we'd never be.


I don't even remember how many times I have heard people saying "I hate school" because everyone is trapped in this unhealthy environment of studying for grades rather than actual learning. It's sad, but I'm glad it's all over, for now.


This post first appeared on the blog of Miss Teng Cheow Yi on 27 August 2014. It is reproduced with permission.


YOU MAY WISH TO READ:


But we want our schools to be closed, elite schools


Diploma and ITE graduates: One race to the top


"There are many ways of being smart"