Education = Stratification of Labeling?

"Everyone is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." -Albert Einstein

"When I went to school and they asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I wrote down "Happy". They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life" - John Lenon

These two quotes sum up what is really wrong with our education system.

I was talking to some parents about education recently. They expressed hopes of wanting to send their children to international schools in Singapore but could not do so because such a move isn't permitted by our government.

Unlike Hong Kong, you could choose to send your children to an international school. In fact, in order for those international schools operating in Hong Kong to enjoy preferential treatment for land lease and such from the government, they have to make sure that a certain percentage of their enrollment are local Hong Kong students.

However, the reasons given by these parents who wanted to send their children to international schools are not exactly right. They wanted to do it because they were under the impression that the curricula in an international school was more relaxed, less pressurizing etc. These may be true but still they should not constitute the core motivation behind such desires.

Our education system, or rather most Asian education systems, are designed for only two main purposes. For Singapore, it is about "identifying" the "smarter" ones and potential "scholars", that's about it. In the GCE 'O' and 'A' Level examinations, they will introduce various less than direct questions to supposedly "test" the students, this in an attempt to "differentiate" the "intelligent" ones from the mere average.

In the end, you have a system which feeds the kids lots of funny stuff which would most probably be completely IRRELEVANT to their lives in the future!

Let's face it, how many of you folks still use calculus in your adult lives? Maybe only the engineers and those in engineering-related professions, however truth is majority of us will not be associated with it in any form or manner. Even if we do require some analytical tasks at hand completed, there are many applications available out there which will supply algorithms to perform the tedious calculations for you. You just need to understand and interpret the results!

The recent Primary School questions which were shared and subsequently went viral on the internet was a fine example. What do the questions aim to achieve? To test the understanding of basic Mathematics principles or the students' IQ? Hey these are different things altogether.

International schools, especially the larger sized ones, offer a wider range of subjects to choose from at both the Secondary or equivalent JC level. They are more concerned about allowing their students to experience a wholesome, interesting education; grades and other petty academic goals come a distant second.

Of course, they do have core subjects which include Mathematics and Science but they don't intentionally warp or slant the questions to demoralize them unnecessarily.

Stratification therefore begins with frowning upon those "stupid" students who cannot solve twisted questions phrased obliquely while labeling those who could as "elite", and as time passes, it becomes inevitably natural for impressionable young minds to also "separate the wheat from the chaff" among themselves!

And yet we wonder why students from different academic tiers and schools do not socialize.

Looking west, Germany and Nordic Countries adopt a more sensible and practical approach towards education which involves grooming and cultivating individual interests of their young ones, thereby allowing them to excel on their own terms.

The element of play is important in education. Through play, you could observe the inherent interests of different students, what they really enjoy doing and will therefore give their very best. On the contrary, if you do not genuinely have the personal development of students at heart but only simply try to cram as much irrelevant knowledge into them, what you end up with is a bunch of inefficiently hardwired, brain dead zombies.

The current system in place is one which wastes a ton of resources and outright bury potential talents. Teachers coercing students to conform to one single standard, while parents are complicit in cranking up the pressures faced with endless tuition classes!

Eventually, as these students transition into adulthood, they would only to be in possession of childhood memories devoid of any meaningful and fun encounters, just those of studying and yet more studying.

Most important question is, can they claim to have ever felt truly HAPPY once before in their lives?

This post first appeared on the FaceBook wall of Mr Goh Meng Seng. You may wish to share your perspectives and afterthoughts with him on the page itself.


Not Every School is a Good School

Who is Grace Fu trying to fool?

Are we adequately preparing both current and future generation of workers for what's coming next?