Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I thought I'd do the lazy way out of my blog by reproducing here what I posted on AP.

Education always elicits a passionate response from parents whenever a thread on streaming, academic success, The Education System (which almost always gets a bashing) is started on the parents forum. Once upon a time, I would find myself among the ranks of the bashers - bitter and upset. But call me mellow or resigned - but I tend to be more reflective these days.

A system is just a system - blind, deaf and dumb. It is the students, the teachers and we the parents who define it. I just get a bit ticked when we don't recognise the part that we play in The System and in making it what it is. I also get ticked that parents don't realise that they CAN choose to NOT participate in the rat race and instead of defining their children by other yardsticks, to learn to define the kids by their own. Mind you, I don't love the system and I am not a govt mouthpiece either but I think I'd like to offer a different perspective. So this was my spontaneous, off-the-cuff response to the usual system-bashing that goes on.

I agree that children should not be seen as mere digits or products to be churned through a system as efficiently as possible. But the reality often boils down to funding (always limited) and the appropriate/ efficient/ productive use of funds, down to staffing issues, facilities etc. Like it or not, it is TRUE that laggers are resource-intensive. Sorry to be so blunt.

Inevitably and unfortunately, school is a really just a factory to churn out workers for the economy. This was how the concept of 'school' started in the first place, back in the days of the Industrial Revolution.

And Singapore being Singapore, we have to do this in the most 'productive' and 'cost-efficient' way possible. Even if that means the majority gets through and a minority gets channelled down the 'reject' conveyor belt, its 'okay' because the 'greater good' wins.

Like it or not, all education systems share the same fundamental pitfall - it cannot be tailored individually because it is for the masses - unfortunately though, every child is different. So we just have to live/work within it. Or homeschool. The Aussie Int'l School example Tracey gave - possible for them, why not for us? Simple - pay for it. These guys are paying upwards of $40,000 per year. Look at the teacher-student ratios etc. With that kind of money, its not impossible to have unique curriculum, small class sizes, different pedagogy etc.

But I have said before - stigma is in the eye of the beholder. So a kid has to do Foundation work, is that really so bad? Why is that bad? Or a kid makes it to Normal Tech - okay. After that, the ITE. And so? There is nothing wrong with the ITE. To me, it is just an alternative path for a different kind of kid. Just like poly. Or JC or Uni. Not the end of the world. Just a different world.

And while we lament the loss of self-esteem etc that these kids get tagged with, and blame it on the system, in all fairness, it is really NOT the system that perpetuates this but people - parents, relatives, teachers, peers, friends etc. My daughter got the hard brunt of it too, she had her share of name-calling and stigmatising. But looking at her today, I don't think her self-esteem suffered too much. Why? Because there were people around her who supported her and who believed in her, because she was lucky to have patient supportive teachers. I can't say the same for all the rest of her peers in NT.

If you read all the 'success stories' of kids who bucked the system - its not that they got a lucky break, or the system was kinder to them. It's because they were surrounded by people who believed in them and did not stigmatise them.

We argue for slow learners to be given time to catch up in the system, instead of being pushed up when they are not ready and perpetuating a vicious cycle of just lagging behind etc. I for one, also called for this once. But then sometimes, it is not about slower learners needing more time to learn the same things. That just presumes that everyone is created equal and everyone's ability is the same, just that some take longer.

But I disagree. I think every child has different abilities and different skills/talents. Some kids, no matter how long you give, just cannot make it through academia and perhaps they need a different path.

Not so long ago, and indeed in several parts of the world today, many kids learn tradecraft via apprenticeship at a young age. In our case, its the ITE at a not-so-young age.

Not easy for parents to accept that their kids might walk a different path. Everyone has their own idea of success and the thought that their kids might veer off this path is frustrating, disappointing, maddening. Unthinkable. So we lash out at the system. Certainly took ME a while to come to terms and work this out for myself. And even today, for all my different kids, I still struggle with MY own notion of sucess, society's idea of success and THEIR own ideas of success.

I don't know... I guess I've moved past the stage of denial, and I guess my anger at the system has pretty much been doused (for now at least). System is not perfect but I think its not easy tweaking it to please everyone. We all know our kids best and what they are capable of and with that knowledge, we just have to work within the system and do the best we can.


Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.


Anonymous said...

Well said!