Time that Schools Stopped Treating Kids Like Sports Pawns and Focus on Their Educational Needs

By Ronald Lee

There was a great story unearthed by The Middle Ground yesterday regarding Raffles Institution kids, most of whom were drafted into the school for their ability in sports, who totally flopped at their O Level exams and would count themselves lucky to make it to a polytechnic.

TMG reported that:

“The students we spoke to said the school’s cutoff point was 259 during the year they gained admission, but they were only required to attain a score of 200, and to clear a general aptitude test because of their facility in a sport.

At the end of Secondary Two, the 10 students, most of whom were school athletes, were asked to move to the ‘O’ level track to do a fixed combination of eight subjects.”

Now instead of focusing on whether dual-track schools such as RI are adept at preparing students for the O Levels, I’m wondering if it’s even ethical for schools to be poaching such sporting talent when they can barely make the grade.

It sounds hard to believe if you see my current paunch, but at one point I represented my JC in floorball. It was competitive, and even at that time (donkey years ago) there were sportsmen who made it in solely for their ability to whack a tiny ball well. When some of these uber-floorballers didn’t perform up to standard, I’d hear the teacher-in-charge or coach scream at them that they’d give them a bad report and get them kicked out of school. The pressure must have been immense and some of my friends put in extra hours on the court fearing those threats would be carried out. I wouldn’t be surprised if their studies suffered. Does such treatment still happens today? Possibly.

Back to the RI story – it’s clear that their sporting talents didn’t have what it takes to get into RI. They were pushed down from the Integrated Programme to the O Levels, and even then flunked real bad. Clearly, they didn’t have what it took to learn in such a fast-paced learning environment.

Would it have been better if they had attended a neighbourhood school with a learning curve that suited their pace? Perhaps. Then again, a “better” school might be able to impart sporting knowledge (such as optimal dietary habits) and offer facilities which can maximise their physical potential. A raw gem could be unearthed, or a life could be destroyed depending on which way the coin lands.

Also, are they not depriving other academically-excellent children of furthering their academic potential?

Sporting honours boost school rankings, and which parent would turn down the offer for their child to get into an elite school? I know of not many. But for that fleeting moment of glory, to throw away the future of a 13-year-old teen who’s barely had his head screwed on? That’s plain irresponsible. The MOE should consider implementing a criteria to assess whether school environments are suitable for cultivating such talented children. A cut-off difference of 59 points smells more like greed for trophies.

This article first appeared on Redwire Times. It is reproduced with permission.


Ex Teacher: Kudos to my ex-colleagues who are still believing in making a difference to the next generation.

Five Reasons Teachers are Pissed Off at MOE

Are we imparting the right values to the next generation?