Opinion: Is our education system failing us?

Mitch is a freelance writer. He used to write full-time. These days, he only writes what he feels, making him a writer with freedom. He contributes articles when he has some spare time, and when it suits his smoke-breaks. Hence, he’s also a free writer.

You say “Drop-Out”, this writer says “Opt-Out”. Same same but different?

Education in Singapore can be a touchy topic with heated competition beginning from the offset with such fierce competition just to get into a Primary school of choice.

It doesn’t help that its followed by streaming in Primary four, PSLE in Primary 6 followed once again with yet more heated competition to get into the Secondary school of choice. All this even before a child starts gearing up for perhaps the most daunting of challenges, the ‘O’ levels.

Many a time it may look like this:

• Express – Junior college / Polytechnic

• Normal Academic – Polytechnic / ITE

• Normal Technical – ITE

Every once in a while however, we come across individuals who strive despite the odds. Inspiring and wholly deserving of praise and accolade, for example this undergrad I just met: Denis. Denis currently reads Political Science in NUS on a scholarship took a route not many would. Having finished Secondary school in lacklustre fashion, he took a gap year to decide what he wanted to do before re-sitting for his ‘O’ levels, scoring well enough to earn a place in Temasek Polytechnic.

Denis on exchange in Europe

The polytechnic system benefitted Denis a great deal giving him the platform to hone his abilities and pursue a career in an industry that interested him. The industry-centric education provided by polytechnics suited him well because he knew his interests, strengths and where he could excel since a young age. On the other hand, as a student who was keen to specialise early on, he struggled with the broad-based syllabi offered in secondary schools. Denis’s disinterest for several secondary school subjects led to him doing badly for his ‘O’ levels, and he had to retake the exams as a private candidate to eventually qualify for the media diploma programme at Temasek Polytechnic.

Having struggled and faced rejection in his formative years, Denis is aware that the education system could have introduced alternative pathways for students with different interests and needs for a life beyond secondary school.

Having said that, Denis recognises that the education system that might have been a setback to his progress has also been responsible for presenting him the opportunity to step up from initial failure with a second attempt at success.

So in truth, the streams and standards set in place may not always be ideal, but it definitely doesn’t define the route or trajectory of one’s life. As proven it is more than possible to step out and chart your own success and utilise the education system set in place to one’s full advantage.

This article first appeared on Five Stars And A Moon. It is reproduced with permission.


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