Related Posts with Thumbnails

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Impoverishing Effects of Academic Excellence

"Does your child have a play day?"

This is a very simple Yes/No question. I ask this question to every parent that I have encountered. The answers are telling.

(1) Errrr... what do you mean by play day? 
(2) Errr... she sleeps at 10pm every night (infer that the child works up to 10pm every night and sleep is the only relaxation the child has)
(3) Yes... he plays from 6pm to 10pm on Sunday (infer that the child works from 9am to 6pm on Sundays too)

I used to think that I overworked Smelly Boy in Primary 4, 5 & 6. These days, I actually think I was a very humane parent. Throughout Primary 4, 5 and 6, Smelly Boy had 1.5 play days a week ALWAYS. When it came to Smelly Boy's work schedule, I managed my own kiasu spirit with an iron fist. 

Of course I wanted him to do well at his exams. Of course I worried that he was failing Chinese. Of course I feared that he would not get into a good secondary school. I faced down my own fears and upheld the 1.5 play days every week for 3 years.

I like money. I like to see money accumulate in my bank account. However, I would stop short of robbing and stealing and drug dealing to see my money grow. It is a price I refuse to pay.

I badly want to drive a baby Mercedes, and can afford it, but it is sold at a price I refuse to pay.

I badly wanted my son to do well at the PSLE and I could afford to make him work much longer hours than I did, but it was a price I refused to pay.

What Goes Around Comes Around
You see, what goes around, comes around. Lying, cheating and drug dealing to get rich would catch up with me one day. Spending money indiscriminately on fancy cars and flashy accessories places my retirement in jeopardy. Filling a child's days with a never-ending stream of worksheets in the name of academic excellence impoverishes the child in ways that parents will not realise till 10 years later. The child who has insufficient unstructured time to decide what he/she wants to do, 

(1) does not learn initiative... 

(2) learns to give every worksheet minimal effort, and develops the habit of doing sloppy work... once this happens, the child can be made to do hundreds of worksheets and compositions... but learns nothing at all...

(3) develops sloppiness into a lifelong habit

(4) develops half-attentiveness into a lifelong habit

Watch your habits for they become your character. 
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.

Zac Tan's Time Lapse Video. He was only 10 years old when he made this.

In 3 years of teaching English, I have only met ONE parent with the wisdom and self-control to allow her child unstructured play time. This child was allowed to discover his passion, and in that discovery, he produced a time lapse video in Primary 4. This child joined me with an impressive ability to focus on work. He gives quality HW. He is enthusiastic about the writing skills I teach him. He is not afraid to enjoy the program.

It is hard to make good apple pie from spoilt apples. Intelligent children whose parents have taught them through a stream of never-ending worksheets since pre-school, absorb things very slowly. It is almost as if they know that they have to practise a lot anyway, so why the hurry to learn? Such kids can do a lot of HW and still learn very little.

Please, Moms and Dads, don't even start your children on the road to this bad habit. Once the habit is learnt, it is a nightmare to un-learn. Techniques to break the habit are brutal and unkind.

It is such a waste. These intelligent kids can do their HW dutifully every week without improving a jot over 9 months. More importantly, they learn poor life habits that will see them into the workforce. They will get themselves sacked for giving sub-par work. And all that focus on worksheets and academic results will just be wiped out.

Academic excellence the Singapore way impoverishes children. 

I am so glad that my son did not score at the top of the top of the top. At the very least, I know that he loves to learn, loves to give effort, has goals and the discipline to work towards them. He taught himself Autocad. He taught himself how to etch an electronic circuit board. He taught himself html programming and some other computer language.

The little Zac Tan, who made the video above, he taught himself how to make a time lapse video. Kids like my Smelly Boy and Zac Tan will figure things out, survive and thrive when the world changes around them. What will happen to all the other zombie children who half-heartedly do what their parents tell them to do every minute of every day, when the world they grow into is not what their parents expected?

Little Zac Tan is not the top of the top of the top either. That is not important to his Mom.

This said, until MOE does something drastic to the way kids are streamed into secondary schools, I think most parents will not have the strength of character (or the sheer mule-headedness) to do what I did simply because what I did made sense... and die-die also I wasn't gonna conform to the system.

For me, even if it meant getting into Normal Stream, my son was gonna have his 1.5 days of play day. But well... I dared to make that decision because I had lined up an expensive contingency. If Smelly Boy did do poorly at PSLE, I was gonna give him an overseas education. Parents who cannot afford an overseas education, may have less leeway for mule-headedness.

No comments: