It was not easy for my parents to get me into a primary school. They had to go school hunting. The line that got me a place in Pei Chun Public School was: “I love school very much.”
The principal at that time, Mr Chen Keng Juan, said: “Since you like school that much, you are welcomed to my school.”
That came as a great relief to my parents. However, I was not too sure if…
…I looked forward to school as enthusiastically as I’d claimed. An overwhelming fear of the unknown bugged me until the day I started school.
Looking back after almost 10 years, I would now say: “School is a wonderful place to be.” It was my good fortune that I was able to develop myself intellectually, emotionally and socially in a relatively safe and conducive environment. Yet, I’d be lying if I were to tell you that was how I felt – and still feel – about school all the time.
Sometimes, I think school is not fun because of the system. There is so much homework and studying to do that I have no time for myself. I need more time for interaction, leisure and self-exploration; to sit back, relax and reflect.
If it is true that education is not about passing examinations but preparing ourselves for the future, why are we spending so much time mugging just to achieve good results?
Shouldn’t we spend more time thinking of what we want for our future and doing what is necessary to accomplish it?
Once, I asked my father: “Dad, do I have to work that hard? You do not have a university degree. Yet, you are doing fine. You have a job and are taking care of the family well.”
He grinned and said: “Things are different today. During my time, you could hold a good position with just a Senior Cambridge certificate, which is equivalent to the O levels. But today, you would have a hard time finding a decent job with that.
“For you, even a degree is not enough. You need to have more because of your condition. If all things are equal, the employer will pick a person without disability, will he not? Worse, some employers will select another person over you even if he or she has a lesser qualification.”
I hate it when he is right.
He was right again on another occasion. I told him that some children detested school because of their parents who pushed them too hard and expected them to be among the top few at all times. I said I could empathise with them.
“Jeremy,” my father said gently. “If you were a father yourself, what would you tell your school-going children? Relax? Don’t bother about doing well?”
I was stumped, before I agreed that I would do what most parents do to their children. As I would want them to be the best, I would make them study, study and study more. Is there really any other choice if you want to be a caring parent in this highly competitive environment?
Well, like many other children, I used to think that it was not the right thing to do. But I guess as children, we just cannot appreciate delayed gratification. We want things fast and we want them now. Anything that takes years to achieve does not make sense.
Going to the gaming arcade, for instance, is fun. The gratification is instant. We are immediately electrified by the thrill of shooting, killing and demolishing everything in sight. We feel in control. When we reach the next level, we become achievers.
I am beginning to realise that a lot of things that are bad for us are very attractive.
Sugar, for example, is tasty but bad for our teeth. Being a couch potato feels great but isn’t healthy.
Nevertheless, can’t we also make things that are good for us nice too? Exercises don’t have to be a torture; they can be fun too.
Similarly, school, which is good for us, can be made as fun as the game arcade.
Lessons can be taught creatively to make them enjoyable. More time can be given to students to foster stronger friendships. Going back to school during the holidays should be for them to play, not to attend more classes. And of course, no examinations immediately after the holidays!
Some of the current practices have made children dread school. Perhaps it is time to review them.
(This journal entry was published in TODAY of 25 July 2006)