Leaders, future and the running education.

By Karen Fu

Reading this article, ‘Accident, financial woes only make two PSLE students stronger’, I can’t help but think of the many brewing troubles that are beginning to stem from the current education system- or rather the new education environment. The type that seems to groom an unhealthy mindset about intellectual capacity and academic abilities. The truth is education should bring up fine characters who possess genuine empathy, real curiosity for knowledge and all these should come with proper values of humanity and a very tough character. The kind that is devoid of jealousy, unhealthy competition, egoism and the most dreaded imbued sense of hierarchy that somehow makes one feel superior to his/her peers. The kind that knows how to endure suffering and is capable of fighting and winning over the wrong, never straying from the path of righteous, decent humanity.

The students in the above mentioned article are exactly the type of students the country should be grooming, not the ones who already hail from prestigious and well off families. Students who went through extremely trying hardships and survived are the real talents we ought to keep.

Many, if not most, students do not know what is hardship and life's woes. Students these days seem to have formed hierarchies within themselves. The ranking of gifteds, special, express, and normal class students are strongly embedded in the system, where some of the better streamed students become inclined to think too well of themselves, to the point their egoism and downright snobbishness are unfairly projected upon people whom they deem less intellectual.

The rampant hurry to stuff students with a ridiculous amount of information for national examinations like the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations) or the Cambridge ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examination are commonplace. The wealthier families send kids to top schools and take them to various niche classes in the private tuition sector, spending thousands of dollars on just a single subject of learning. In my opinion, these are unnecessary. Then again, perhaps in a rat race so insanely intensive as the one here in Singapore, maybe these are a must. If they are a must, then the education curriculum in public schools must have been inadequate in a multitude of ways. Why else would parents want to pay and send kids for more tonnes of homework when the public school system is already assigning (presumably) significant workloads? One reason could just be the plain desire to scurry (meaninglessly) after the prestigious scholarships and the kind of prestige that holds for the kids if they manage to get into top schools here. But then again, have the parents understood what truly is education and how intellectual development is different from student to student? Everyone’s got their individual strengths, why force them into one standard mold?

Education is about learning how to think and mastering skills that are innovative as it is informative in a healthy way, that does not incite jealousy or any other ill hatred mindset. But I always question myself if the current learning culture in public schools as well as that beyond school premises are exactly healthy. If school education standards were homogenous, why are there so many students out there who like to compare with one another regarding the schools they attend and how prestigious their respective schools are?

The current atmosphere appears to favour the well off and the economically advantaged families who are able to afford thousands of dollars to groom their kids that place them well ahead of the standard classroom learning pace. The question therefore is, why aren't public schools sufficiently adequate in providing these knowledge and abilities? Why do students need to head to private education vendors to get all that? It used to be that school teachers were enough, and tuition was reserved for those who had a real problem of assimilating what they had been taught in public schools. Now this is not the case. Even gifted stream pupils go for private tuition, and mind you they attend a whole bunch of different classes. Little surprise they are over stressed and how the PSLE spells horror and hell for many. A 12-year-old should be able to enjoy his/her childhood as he/she learns in an enriching, nurturing academic environment.

The less advantaged ones usually end up behind these kids who can afford the lessons beyond the public classroom. But to tell the truth, I think these kids are the real ‘Gifteds’ as they are usually able to chart out solutions on their own. And by doing so, they see different ways of producing the answers, which is exactly what education should be about when as far as the discovery of knowledge is concerned.

Most students, typically those who come from advantaged families usually fail to genuinely sympathise with the poor and the disadvantaged. To some, being poor means one hasn’t work hard enough. Though that is partially true, they usually fail to see that some people are not born privy to a reasonably smooth start in life and inevitably suffer setbacks that are beyond their control. Such as the examples given in the above article, where one student had a poor financial background and the other who met up with a serious accident.

We need future leaders who are not only intelligent and wise, but are also able to come to terms with life’s various hardships, thus employing these knowledge to offer good solutions. We do not need leaders who are short of genuine empathy, who stratify people into social classes thereby creating undesirable situations where some are looked up to whilst others are despised. I was unfortunate to come across a couple of such kids who gave me really bad impressions of both themselves and their parents. It set me thinking if these people were allowed to thrive, we will eventually fail as a society. We need to use public money to help financially disadvantaged students. We do not need to award scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars (or more) to those who are already well off. We need students who are original creators, not ones who only know how to parrot information from the numerous private classes they have gone to. A wholly innovative environment this shall not create for our society to progress. And for all the discriminating rubbish, we must seriously do something about it lest all our hard-earned prosperity and peace accumulated over the past decades dissipate in a heartbeat.

This post was first published over at the Daring To Change blog on 23 November 2014. It is reproduced with permission.


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