updated 24 May 2011, 09:59
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Tue, Mar 15, 2011
The New Paper
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I won't go crazy, folks, it's just school
by S Murali

I WAS in the education system for about 16 years as a student.

I don't think my parents were ever asked to meet my teachers in all that time.

But the world has changed. To date, I have met the teachers of my children on more than 20 occasions. That number is likely to grow exponentially, I'm sure.

At the most recent meeting with my daughter's form teacher, I had to take notes, I kid you not.

Yes, the teacher had that many things to tell me.

For various reasons, let's not go into detail on all that was said.

But what surprised me was how closely she had been monitoring my daughter. From her academic progress to her homework submission habits to her close friends - the teacher knew it all.

And she had good advice for me on all fronts.

Once I realised that I couldn't absorb everything that was being said in that 30-minute meeting, I started to take notes.

I left the meeting amazed that a teacher could know so much about one student, considering that the average class size is about 40.

But the more sobering thought in my head was about the conversation I had to have with my daughter - to relay the relevant advice.

Again, the overriding thought in my head was how the demands on our children have changed in the past 20 years.

I am constantly frustrated that my kids have to put in such a great effort in order to just survive the system.

Tuition, supplementary classes, assessment books, practice papers - you name it, they are doing it. But that's normal, you say?

I know it is. I just don't like it.

Somehow, I have this old-fashioned notion that kids should be given more time to just grow up as kids.

To fly kites, to go play marbles, to run around the block - stuff that I did 30 years ago while breezing through school.

And not just to do those things in hour-long spurts before coming home to do more homework, adhering to some draconian time-table.

Yes, I can make an A1 decision and let my kids ease up on the studying.

But then I will have to live with meeting teachers who will look at me like some recalcitrant who cannot instil any discipline into his children.

And I will have to worry about them falling behind the pack, perhaps ending up in the wrong company, or worse, deciding that they are not that smart after all.

Despite the gloomy picture I paint, I know that all is not lost.

I console myself with the knowledge that there are so many routes to success these days compared to those available in my time. And they are available to more than just the top 10 percentile of each cohort.

The polytechnic system in Singapore is vibrant, and so are the opportunities available on the private education front.

My wife and I have decided that a degree is the minimum qualification both children should strive for, unless, of course, a professional singing or football contract comes along.

And we will do our utmost to get them to those scrolls, using all the resources we can muster.

The trick will be to arrive at that destination without having our kids remember their childhood as one big blur of books and examinations.

My favourite band The Eagles, who were in town recently, are renown for insightful lyrics.

In one of their hit songs, the chorus goes "Take it easy, take it easy. Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy."

Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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