An Education

March 11, 2012 1 Comment by Tiramisue

Last night I watched a rather interesting scene unfold before me. My hosts (both mum and dad) were sitting next to their 17-year old sun fussing over his math homework.

Which made me think of my own schooling. My mother stopped pushing me at 13, when I started secondary school (our version of high school). She thought I was old enough to take my education into my own hands. She stopped scrutinizing my homework and watching my grades like a hawk. In fact, more often than not she would nudge me to bed when it got past midnight but I’d refuse because I was still working.

I decided how much additional tuition classes I needed, for what subjects, how many times a week, and she would get a teacher.

I’ve never been particularly competitive, but somehow I did well enough to get into the top class of my cohort in upper secondary. And when everyone around you is either brilliant, furiously hardworking, or a combination of both, there is a certain amount of peer pressure that drives you to do better.

But I don’t see that in Kiwi kids at all. They all seem so… lax when it comes to studies. Then again I may be generalizing; I’ve only interacted with a handful of them.

Still what strikes me pretty hard is the standard of education here compared to Singapore. I was quite shocked that our hosts’ 12 year old son is still struggling with his three times tables. I recall acing all my times tables by the time I was 8 (possibly 7)! Their oldest son, at 17, is doing math that we did at 13 or 14.

But that shouldn’t be surprising, should it? It’s a well known fact that Singaporean students are two – three years ahead of their foreign counterparts academically.

Which started me thinking. From the minute we start formal schooling, Singaporean children are pushed to excel academically, by parents, schoolteachers, society, who will except nothing but the best.

So we’re made to start earlier, study harder, and be smarter than everyone else in the world. But how does that help us? Are we better people for it? Do we stand a better chance in life?

Certainly New Zealand children have far more fun in their childhood than we ever did. Schools here have a greater focus on outdoor education. Heck that’s a full school subject in itself! They learn kayaking, tramping, mountain biking, climbing, etc. Helen and Joe (the nine year-old children of the family we house sat for in Wellington) would have classes on the beach on good days!

Our host asked us once, “You all study so hard, when do you play?”

We shrug and laugh, “We don’t… play…”

Of course we did play at times, and we did have fun, but I don’t remember ever being as carefree as these kids are. Holidays are true holidays to them. Our holidays were full of tuition classes and holiday homework. And learning next year’s curriculum so that you get a headstart.

While it seems embarrassing to me that a 12 year old can’t recite his times tables, I suppose it’s a sign of different priorities in life. Academic excellence is probably not as important to New Zealanders as it is to Singaporeans, or Asians in general. But I would be remiss if I said the education we had in Singapore was an all-rounded one.

Having said that, if I ever had a child I don’t think I could send them to school here. I guess I’m too Asian.

I don’t know, I don’t really have a conclusion to this ramble. I just thought it was… an interesting observation, and something to think about.

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One Comment

  1. バーバリー
    2666 days ago

    I admire what you have done here. I love the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that is working for you as well. Do you have any more info on this?

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