Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Response to The Ugly Truth about Hwa Chung JC

Note: The article re-posted by TRS was posted by the original author a year ago. She has since updated that all is well, even though she was going through a rough patch at the time of her posting.

An article on therealsingapore caught my eye as I was ploughing through my facebook newsfeed over the weekend. In the post, the writer (let’s call her XL) talks about her negative experiences in HCJC. Although her writing could use a fair bit of polish, Ms XL has brought up some noteworthy issues from the perspective of an 18 year old student struggling to survive in a top school.

Disclaimer: I do not represent any school and I am not associated with HCJC in any way. I speak from the perspective of someone who has endured Singapore’s education system both as a student and a classroom teacher.


1.   Elitism

“I remember there was this week in July 2010, when I was in J1 where I cried every single day, even during school time because I just cannot accept the environment here. It was too.... elite for me to handle. I was even judged for having come from a neighbourhood school.”
“In the first place, I came here almost all alone because I had no close friends with me. It was hard to find someone that I could actually pour everything out to and relate to and it just seem like everyone was just too busy trying to run to the top of the mountain and all I wanna do is to back trek. And the point is, even if you back trek, nobody really notice because you are just 1 out of the thousand. So small, so insignificant, that I was almost invisible.”


Each of us is one in 6 billion! Talk about insignificance.

Dear XL, the real problem here is not HC’s ‘elitism’ but your unrealistic expectations. Doing well in Primary and Secondary school probably boosted your morale and self-esteem where academic grades are concerned. Before, you were a big fish in a small pond but by choosing to join one of the top JCs in Singapore, you became a tiny fish in the sea. You were probably not ready for that. The resulting emotion you experienced was due to this contrast. I see it all the time – students with high PSLE t-scores suffer some form of ‘emotional trauma’ when they fail their first test in Sec 1.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that HCJC is not “elite”. (Elitism in the Singapore top schoolsis so prevalent that the topic deserves a separate blog post in order to it justice.) The school you chose is an elite school and unfortunately the school culture seems to be a poor match for you. But hey, learning how to cope with being judged and feeling insignificant will bode well for you when you start working in a competitive country like Singapore. If you choose to work in an MNC in the future, for example, you will start off as an insignificant employee. The harsh reality is, despite what you think and have been taught in school, your opinion and voice may not always matter. You will be judged and assessed by bosses who may not even know you and colleagues who may dislike you for whatever you do or not. Such is the unfairness of life. Consider yourself fortunate to have experienced these harsh realities in school before you get a bigger shock when you enter the workplace.


2.   The Definition of Success


“The big reveal now is that I only had 1A for my A levels. I scored a grade of BBC/BA. Just a glance at it, this could well be the prelim grades for anyone from the higher-end classes in school. But this was my A level results. There wasn't a single H2 A, and the A I got in the entire cert was GP. Even my PW was a B. When I got my O level results, that moment was magical. But when I got my A level results, that moment was terrible.”

“We fear judgement, we fear expectations, we fear disappointments. These were the truly helpless moments where nobody could empathize with my feelings because everyone else around me either thought I was just kidding or they had good enough grades for them to not relate to this. There was so much uncertainty within myself yet so much expectations to live up to, it was suffocating but all I could do was to live with it and try to live up to it.”

1 A, 3 Bs, 1 C. These grades are ‘terrible’? Come on… have you compared your ‘terrible’ grades with your average counterparts who graduated from ‘neighbourhood’ JCs?

Anyone with any real working experience will tell you that scoring straight ‘A’s for examinations is highly overrated. Former-Singaporean and socio-political blogger Limpehft wrote an enlightening post on this (refer to "lesson no 3: studies are important but please keep it real"). I am not saying that academic development is unimportant. As an adult, I treasure the literacy, analytic and numeracy skills that have been accorded to me through my education. The basic education that we take for granted in Singapore is a privilege that is denied to many others, even in so-called modern societies. However, the non-academic skills you have attained in HCJC (those you have described but have marginalized IMHO), such as establishing camaraderie amongst your classmates and organizing events are as important, if not more important, when determining your success in JC.

From your post, it is apparent that academic success was very deeply ingrained in HCJC’s culture and you had difficulty conforming to become part of the ‘hwachong stereotype’ – someone with a perfect slew of ‘A’s. When I read your post in its entirety, I wondered if you recognized that you were largely responsible for making yourself miserable about ‘A’ levels because you chose to conform to the definition of success that the school had for its students in general, without putting deeper thought into how you define success for yourself.


Do you conform?
photo credit: *saxon* via photopin cc

Granted, thinking out of the box is not easy when most of your peers are in blind pursuit of the rat race. From an early age, pursuing academic excellence is probably the only benchmark of success you know. Nonetheless, take a moment to consider the following examples (all three individuals are Singaporeans in their late twenties): According to society’s definition, have they succeeded? Do you think they have achieved success in life?

Lina* was always an above average student in school. However, she failed ‘A’ level Biology in J2 and was retained for another year to re-do her ‘A’ levels. Her school also forced her to drop Biology. With sheer determination and overcoming social stigma of ‘being retained’, she worked hard and did well for her ‘A’ levels the second time. She also aced her subsequent interview and secured a coveted spot in NUS Medicine despite not offering ‘A’ level Bio. Today, she is a passionate full-time doctor who is saving lives every day (at the expense of her health, I might add. She works 36 hour shifts!), has tons of good friends and colleagues and is getting married soon.

Tony* was a GEP student who breezed through all his school life with straight ‘A’s.  Given his academic record and graduating from a ‘top’ Junior College, he secured a spot in NUS Medicine easily. However, today Tony freely admits that he is miserable as a doctor – it was what his parents wanted him to pursue because he could, not because he wanted to. At present, Tony draws a 5 figure monthly salary which he has no time to spend and feels empty at times because he has no other half to share his life with. He has thoughts of giving up his path as a doctor in pursuit of his interests, but lacks the courage to do so.

From young, Zoe* was an average student who did well enough to get by. In Junior College she was fortunate to have met her life partner, the son of a wealthy businessman. They married soon after both parties completed their university education, with Zoe’s husband taking over the family business. Today, as a full-time ‘tai-tai’ (who is educated), Zoe loves to spend time teaching her young children at home and feels completely fulfilled in her role as a mother.

*Names have been changed.


National exams – pretty much like the tree climbing test here IMHO.

If one equates happiness to success, then Tony has clearly failed. If one has to earn big bucks to be considered successful, then homemakers like Zoe will never stand a chance. Clearly, it is not so simple. There is no one-size-fits-all rubric to measure the abstract idea of success. Every individual should set their own goals and define success on their own terms, based on their own abilities. On a national level, our current minister of Education has recently acknowledged the need to “accept broader definitions of success”  for our education system to progress. The Kiasu Singaporean way of using academic grades and as a measure of success in school and achieving material wealth as a measure for success in life is myopic and flawed – we can only hope that with time, Singaporean parents and teachers can break free of this backward way of thinking and stop subjecting our youth to meaningless misery.


The path of success… not so straightforward.

3.     Expectations vs Reality vs Truth


"It feels like I was fooled into this place because I was totally bought over by their marketing campaign of presenting the image of being so fun and everything. Our open house is all so warm and homely, orientation is so fun and enjoyable but when things get real, they get seriously real, and stressful, and competitive, and everything negative, for me at least.

In my opinion, this whole "top school" thing is a partial scam. The fact behind all this glory is in selective publication. All you have to do is to tweak the way you present your results. What used to be a 80% distinction rate for H2 Geography now becomes a 80% A&B for H2 Geography."

XL, it sounds to me that you felt ‘cheated’ and angry at the school because when you were a potential student, the school only presented the good aspects. The reality as a student, however, was not as wonderful as you imagined it to be. What did you expect? Platforms like Open House and presentation of ‘A’ level results are the means by which schools attract potential students, pretty much like a job advertisement used to recruit talent. Refer back to point 1 again on unrealistic expectations. It is easy to blame the school for ‘misrepresentation of information’ and complain when one’s unrealistic expectations are not met –many parents I have met are guilty of this.

On the other hand, let me assure you from the perspective of an educator that behind the scenes, all schools are well aware of the reality (or in your words, the ugly truth) behind their marketing showcase and statistical gimmicks.  Behind the scenes (mostly unknown to parents and students), school management and teachers gather together to discuss confidential matters that are hardly ever disclosed outside the staff room, such as namelists of students who are failing despite their high entry PSLE t-scores, % retention of students for each level, % students asked to drop subjects, the reasons behind failures of programmes/initiatives/ CCAs etc. At Ministry HQ level, senior management and policymakers are well aware that some initiatives and policies that they have heralded in the past have failed to produce the desired outcomes (Teachers, do you remember Teach Less, Learn More?) as well as the bad publicity for MOE when more and more educators are involved in public sex scandals.

Such information is like ‘dirty linen’ – one does not simply wash them in public. But in reality, there is an unglamorous side of our education system that the school and ministry does not want to show the public and to their stakeholders: Yes, our system is flawed. Our programmes are not as brilliant as we claim. Our students are not all scholars like our school vision and motto implies. Our teachers are not all role models with integrity like we want you to believe.

Whether they admit or not, that’s the truth. And the truth hurts. Any school would respond to this with the most natural reaction – to cover up all the unpleasant truths with other facts worth celebrating over: the percentage of students who scored distinctions in national exams, percentage of ‘O’/’A’ level passes (never the percentage of failures – for that, you need to do your own subtraction) and number of prestigious awards and scholarships conferred to existing students and staff. These are facts that encourage and edify, that acknowledge and appreciate the efforts by the school and teachers. Not the ugly facts which may tarnish the school reputation and God-forbid, reduce the school funding.

At the end of the day, both school and stakeholders must recognize that results portraying excellence are not any lesser truths than the “ugly truths”. There are always 2 sides to the story. I have met too many parents and students alike who make facepalm statements and ask ignorant questions because of their own unrealistic expectations, absurd assumptions and unfounded beliefs based on hearsay. But that’s another story for another post…

someecards.com - There are always two sides to a story... Mine is always correct.
Do you want to hear both sides of the story or have you picked a side?


4.     The Bottom Line


For all Singaporean students feeling trapped in the rat race: the days of youth are too short to be squandered on misery and depression, especially where academic grades are concerned. Focus instead on developing social and interpersonal skills, as well as public speaking and presentation skills – and factor these aspects into your definition of success in school. Soft skills and character development will see you much, much further in your life.

Thanks for reading and do stay tuned for more education-related posts! And please leave your comments, if any :)


-A

22 comments:

  1. I feel guilty that I didn't really analyse the article posted by XL about 1 year ago. Even I was a bit scared by her description of Hwa Chong JC. I'm currently a sec 3 student in Hwa Chong High School, hoping to go to Hwa Chong JC.

    You managed to analyse it thoroughly and made me realize that I should define "success" my own way and have realistic goals. Thanks a lot for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Min Khant,

      I am really glad the advice helped!

      All too often in my experience as a teacher, Secondary school students like yourself face too many unnecessary academic struggles because of unrealistic expectations. I am always encouraged when my Sec 4s (those who don't score straight 'A's) come to terms with themselves, and graduate to JC as individuals better able to manage their parents' and their own expectations.

      Don't be defined by others or stereotypes! Lead your own life! :)

      Delete
  2. Thanks for putting all these up so that others can get a better picture! Albeit the fact that if readers are critical enough they will realize that what XL posted was but a rant of her own emotional experiences of growing up, realities of life, and not so much of the fact that she was in HC.

    The points she mentioned are precisely challenges and realities one will face everywhere be it in the workforce, school, university or simply put it, life. In reality, we are not as big or significant as we would like to think out ourselves to be. I think one major reason for her disappointment was her desire to stand out and the realities of "tiny fish in a sea". Being in a protected and small environment all the time may breed a wrong perception of reality, as well as where one stands. This may breed disappointment and self-hate, which may eventually develop into a "blame the environment" attitude. Nonetheless, being a tiny fish in a big sea has its perks too - it removes you from disillusion and if you can look at this situation in a different light, it can actually become a motivating force for higher standards and overall, a better you. In this aspect, I believe that although XL's journey was one filled with much obstacles and emotional break downs, she did emerge a stronger person who has grown from the experience. You're right, lucky to have learnt it early than to be hit hard later on in the working life. At least right now, it's still a relatively protected and sheltered environment.

    With this, I hope others would recognize that XL's post was but a personal experience of growing up and facing harsh realities of life. Elitism may be as real as it can get, but a simple difference exists in the mind which can make one a winner or a loser, and by that, a success in life or a failure. When faced with a challenge or obstacle, there are two ways to go about it. One, the passive way: Blame the environment and people, but do nothing to change yourself. Two, the active way: Reality sucks and there is little you can change. But you can change yourself. Even if it's just your mindset or mentality. With this alone, we are all in control and are capable of making ourselves a success. The latter's obviously the winner's mentality, and also one which I believe we should all adopt in order to make ourselves better people.

    And better people would make this world a better place! :)

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  3. I couldn't agree more to your response! Admittedly I was an IP boy from HC myself few years back. There is some truth in what XL say though and I think many of my peers faced similar experiences.
    At the end of the day, if she knew what she would've experienced, she might have made a different decision academically.I would have went to RJ instead of HC. I felt that I would've gained more because the environment there is more applicable to what I would want from my future. But I am thankful of what HC has given me, and I would contribute back. Some teachers in HC are really good, but some are so bad that I can teach better than them when I was in JC2 myself. Perhaps HC should review the standard of their teachers.

    People often count what they have given, but not what they have received. She may have been disappointed with her results, yet she could possibly have fared worse if she had less competition, less pressure, less academic aid if she had went to a less 'elite' school. Eventually, she may have enjoyed her time better in a less elite school, but HC has boosted her in terms of not just academia, but also other opportunities such as dance which she participated in.(if she seeks, there are many other opportunities she could've participated in). She may have felt the price she paid was too high, but honestly, its not. It is just the way you look at it.

    To her, she may have been contented with a less competitive school/environment. But seriously? Not every straight A students are geniuses, most of us study intensively, and the way she says she studied, she is just waiting for a 'miracle' to happen like what happened for her O levels.

    The problem isn't HC. The 'problem' is the education system. It is not just the education system, but for the working society as well. The change cannot happen this generation or the next. It is embedded in our culture to compete. We aren't alone, look at China. We can't do anything about it but to adapt to it. The one that adapts the best is the winner. And sadly, to adapt is to compete.


    HC may have tweaked the academia numbers shown to the public. But honestly, I doubt HC is the only school which do that. 1 of 4 students in HC typically got straight distinctions, or near perfect distinctions. That is pretty remarkable by itself excluding all the non-scholastic achievements in sports, clubs, uniformed groups like Scouts.

    How can she expect her peers to expect her to do well if she looked down on herself, constantly does poorly and doesn't make sufficient effort to improve herself? That's whining. I'm not a perfect student myself. The school provided opportunities and I grabbed hold of it like what everyone else did, perhaps more with my involvement in two CCAs and other SL projects. I neglected my studies and did as poorly as she did. Many of my peers are alike in this. When the meaner ones look down on you, you can sulk, you can ignore them and do nothing, or you can improve. We don't whine. We do our best and we reaped what we sow. Some are just smarter than others. But most of the time, the one that does better is the not the diligent one, but the one that studies in an efficient way.

    No matter where you go, most agree the working society is worse than education. An 'elite' education aided me to adapting to it much earlier in my life. We didn't sacrifice any childhood or time we could've spent playing and enjoying. We just played harder when its time to play, work harder and efficiently when its time to work. For some people like XL, they may not have preferred this system. But they shouldn't fault it.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this post. I believe you have made several logical points and I agree with most of your assertions.

    However, I do empathise with XL. From a practical pov, she did have unrealistic expectations and had taken a rather pessimistic outlook towards her time in the school. But ultimately you can't blame her for having such negative thoughts. Try putting yourself in her shoes for a change, and you may gain a new perspective into the plight that she had experienced. I think that it's normal to feel disillusioned when the school of your dreams turns up to be less ideal than expected, likewise where grades are concerned. In particular, while your example on Lina has highlighted the importance of resilience, it has also inevitably reinforced the notion that grades do matter in the long-run - medical school typically requires students to attain mostly As.

    I agree that reality is harsh, and as someone who has been through the system, I do agree that XL has gained much more than she has given credit for. It's easy to say this objectively from a 3rd person perspective, but as someone who has undergone a similar situation as XL, I would like to urge you to be more empathetic towards her, especially with your background as an educator.

    Nonetheless, thanks for sharing your opinions on this matter. It has shed some light into the harsh realities of life.

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    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. Actually, XL has received plenty of sympathy and empathy from her friends and other like-minded Singaporeans, if you read the responses to her original post. Before I started on my article to respond to her, I felt that what she needed is not more empathy. Empathy and sympathy does not really move her and others in her circumstance towards resolution. I had hoped to provide the alternative perspective as a teacher to guide her towards longer-term resolution of these issues.

      Coincidentally I am going to discuss in more detail about sympathy and empathy in my coming posts on character education. Stay tuned!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts anyway!
      -A

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  5. Thanks for your input! Really appreciate a balanced view on how the situation currently is!

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  6. My sympathy with XL (if any) is extremely limited. I studied at HCI and HCJC two years ago and i'll go as far as admitting that it is a high stress environment which is very demanding but i'll stop short of calling it flawed. every now and then it is necessary to stop and understand that nowhere in this world does there exist a utopia and if we should attempt to compare it to our projected ideals, then everything will fall short and appear flawed.

    If there is one really important thing i learnt from my HC experience, it is that being able to adapt to your environment is extremely important for your success. evidently, it appears that the real problem lies not in the misrepresentation of data, or incompetent teachers or whatnot. These are not problems exclusive to her but they are not problems which affect everybody. The reason for that lies in our perception of a problem and our capacity to reconfigure ourselves in order to overcome these perceived problems. Clearly, XL lacks the skills required to operate in a demanding environment and should not even be in HC.

    XL makes vague and shady assertions about how she was tricked into joining HC. I find this wholly ridiculous and comical. If she wasn't satisfied, she could have left. Was she expecting a complete change to take place just for her? God knows what was going through her head.

    I was in a CCA that trained 4 times a week, i headed a CIP project, i took up a H3 subject in J2, and i got 3 gold medals, straight As for A levels, including my H3 subject, PW and GP. This July, i'll be beginning my term at oxford where i'll be studying law. So i would urge anyone quick to sympathise or empathise with XL to take a step back and understand that problems are not problems unless you make them to be problems and refuse to budge and expect the whole world to change to suit you.

    Nobody denies that elitism exists. but i am eternally grateful for this education as it has provided me with so much more beyond the mountains of readings and projects. An elite education is not for everyone. Not everyone can handle it, and not everyone deserves it. You reap what you sow, and if you're lazy and immature and intend to work inconsistently, don't be too surprised with an ABBBC. if you want to be recognised and want to prove yourself, better damn well work for it and stop whining because NOBODY CARES.

    ReplyDelete
  7. ^
    "My sympathy with XL (if any) is extremely limited. I studied at HCI and HCJC two years ago and i'll go as far as admitting that it is a high stress environment which is very demanding but i'll stop short of calling it flawed. every now and then it is necessary to stop and understand that nowhere in this world does there exist a utopia and if we should attempt to compare it to our projected ideals, then everything will fall short and appear flawed."

    First off: What do you consider a utopia. Your own version of a utopia may not coincide with hers, or even conflict with her.
    From what I have read, XL's post is about waking up from her own disillusioned self, and being stronger in that aspect. I never seen her say ranting about how she hated HCJC for all the experience that it has given her.

    "If there is one really important thing i learnt from my HC experience, it is that being able to adapt to your environment is extremely important for your success. evidently, it appears that the real problem lies not in the misrepresentation of data, or incompetent teachers or whatnot. These are not problems exclusive to her but they are not problems which affect everybody. The reason for that lies in our perception of a problem and our capacity to reconfigure ourselves in order to overcome these perceived problems. Clearly, XL lacks the skills required to operate in a demanding environment and should not even be in HC."

    Oh please. What she bring up is her own experience a posteriori. Yes both of you acknowledge that the problem exist. And while I do agree with you that adapting to your environment is crucial to attaining success, there is a thing called aptitude. Not everyone is so "mightly high" as you. If I read correctly, her strengths are in Chinese Dance. Supposing I put you in a Chinese Dance School with her, would you have done as well as her? While I do agree that she could be a misfit to your oh so "high mightly" HC culture, it does not mean that she just sat back and let the environment conditions take over her thoughts, in which I will elaborate on the next paragraph. She did try to learn the skills to adapt to JC life, albeit unsuccessful. And to say that she should not be in HC. She earned the f****** right to go to HC and learn there.

    "XL makes vague and shady assertions about how she was tricked into joining HC. I find this wholly ridiculous and comical. If she wasn't satisfied, she could have left. Was she expecting a complete change to take place just for her? God knows what was going through her head."

    This is when I have to take a tough stand against your ridiculous statement. Have you read through her whole post? From the bloody original site. She tried her upmost best to adapt to the saturation. If not she could have given up and became a playgirl. And leaving JC is not as easy as snapping your finger. Please think about it. Potential disruption to your current life should be minimized. Hence staying in HCJC and doing your best there should be a better option.
    She should be given credit for trying hard, especially before her exams. Her consultations to the teachers, her all nighters. Her sweat and tears are not for nothing, as she grows up a more mature woman. SHE DOES NOT CERTAINLY WAIT FOR A COMPLETE CHANGE, as you have asserted.
    AND GOD FORBID YOU TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING IN THROUGH HER HEAD, YOU STUPID, and yes I do mean it in a literal way.

    Part 1

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  8. "I was in a CCA that trained 4 times a week, i headed a CIP project, i took up a H3 subject in J2, and i got 3 gold medals, straight As for A levels, including my H3 subject, PW and GP. This July, i'll be beginning my term at oxford where i'll be studying law. So i would urge anyone quick to sympathise or empathise with XL to take a step back and understand that problems are not problems unless you make them to be problems and refuse to budge and expect the whole world to change to suit you."

    While I am amazed at how much you have done, realize that you are committing a fallacy, soon to be lawyer. I am not going to appeal to your flawed logic. How does your achievements got to do with XL? So take your egoism and your own achievements elsewhere and lets concentrate on the main issue.
    So what is your definition of problem? It is a situation in which needs to be overcome. So you are proposing to ignore the consequences of global warming cause you do not want to recognise it as a problem? I will put you in the level of climate deniers (together with science deniers) if u do agree.
    A problem is not created intrinsically by you. IT IS AN EXTRINSTIC ISSUE. An issue in which XL recognize and try to solve it within her own means. And your last sentence in that paragraph does not makes sense.
    And while I do not have any sympathy or empathy with XL, she gains my respect because she is head front in dealing with her own problems and that she is willing to share with your experience.

    "Nobody denies that elitism exists. but i am eternally grateful for this education as it has provided me with so much more beyond the mountains of readings and projects. An elite education is not for everyone. Not everyone can handle it, and not everyone deserves it. You reap what you sow, and if you're lazy and immature and intend to work inconsistently, don't be too surprised with an ABBBC. if you want to be recognised and want to prove yourself, better damn well work for it and stop whining because NOBODY CARES."

    And this is to the author of this post and you. So tell me, soon to be lawyer, could your young self describe to me how does the Boltzmann distribution comes about, including the full derivation of the mathematical equation. Or the derivation of the Gibbs Equation, both of which is sadly not taught or used in A levels chemistry. Bloody hell. So grades are your knowledge or aptitude about your subject huh? Let me pour cold water to your elitist head, cause knowing discrete knowledge does not mean full understanding and appreciation of the subject content itself. I think you should quickly go to oxford and learn the error of your ways, like what you have implied in your last sentence. Elite education? FUCK YOU. I see Singapore education as a flawed pedagogy as a whole. Elite education will be good education if it teaches children how to truly learn, not cram for exams or as such.

    I rest my case.

    Part 2

    An concerned member of the public.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi "An (sic) concerned member of the public",

      It was a bit of dilemma (as many things in life are) whether to allow your post to remain.

      "And this is to the author of this post and you.

      **snip**

      FUCK YOU. I see Singapore education as a flawed pedagogy as a whole. Elite education will be good education if it teaches children how to truly learn, not cram for exams or as such."

      I hope you are not scolding A hor. Limpeh wong you first!

      - S

      Delete
  9. I think we should remain polite in our comments, no matter how agitated other's comments make us.

    I can empathize with the emotional turmoil the HC girl went through.

    She has brought up a very real concern of whether our education system emphasizes too much on grades, and how students are affected by it.

    I have also learnt a lot about mental strength and resilience, both from the girl and the author of this page. I believe life is never smooth for anyone, and who we are, what we become, depends on how we handle things. The girl said she's looked backed and realized she's learnt a lot from her experiences. That's how I feel sometimes too, when I look back at mine. I hope everyone will be mentally strong through each of our own lives :)

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  10. elitism is a reluctant product of competitive academic environment, i guess. Being in HC myself, i witness how hard some of my schoolmates are working to earn their sterling (or even just decently average) grades - 4 hours of sleep, 5 different tuition classes a week, consultations at 7am are not unusual in HC. Until today, i still can't quite comprehend what really drives them so hard. Some of them cocky, undeniably, but i guess this cockiness can be partially explained by the fact they are already hardened or desensitised by their life (or the lack thereof). I would say they are also, in a sense, victims of the whole education. On another note, i certainly don't think HC people idolise the smarties and trample on the mediocre ones (my definition of elitism). At least from what i observe, you'd earn a fair share of respect among peers if you show unrivaled level of diligence (which is hard, given many HC people are workaholics)regardless of your results. Here's a tip: ally yourself with classmates who aren't making the grades and feel likewise left out (i do that!)and form a DISCIPLINED study group. If you can't get the warmth you want from the school, well, try to radiate some of it yourself. I'm sure you'd feel much more appreciated and be able to see a kinder side to the "real world". By the way, seniors are generally kind and are willing to give some sound advice anytime. Go to them if you genuinely need one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, i am a student currently studying in a local neighbourhood junior college in Singapore. I was actually browsing through blogs about junior colleges in Singapore as over the past 8( well, 7) months , i personally felt my life in junior college was pretty much horrible and would love to hear your comments and tips if any.
    I graduated from a neighbourhood secondary school with a pretty decent score ( For a normal academic student anyway >.<" ). Given the opportunity, i chose to go to the JC and till now, have not adapted fully to the tight curriculum and learning styles of a JC and obviously, failed my Mid Years with a score of USE/D (maybe its kinda normal since im from Normal Acad ?)for a subject combination of MCE/P respectively. Currently, I feel extremely stressed up about the upcoming promos and cca which is takes up 3 out of the 5 days in school.
    I would appreciate it if you could post something about how to do well in JC and how to deal with the stress. Thank you <:

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anon,

      Sounds like you could use a breather! Do take some time during the coming National Day long weekend to de-stress!

      Thanks for suggesting for me to do a post on 'how to do well in JC' and 'how to deal with the stress'. I will consider your suggestion and see how I can write something meaningful for you as well as all the stressed out school kids like yourself.

      Hang in there!
      - A

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    2. hi thanks for the reply . may i also suggest something for you to write about secondary school as well?
      as you know, there are 3 streams in secondary school and especially in the "better" neighbourhood schools, discrimination against the "weaker" streams (both imaginary and real) really affect students.
      Being from the NA course myself, if you choose to write something along this line, i would love to help out. :)

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  12. Hi! I am a J1 student currently studying in one of the top JCs in Singapore, and I can say, the experience was what I anticipated it to be.

    Coming from a neighbourhood secondary school, I was like what you have said. I was a big fish in a small pond. However, as I progressed and managed to rise above my expectations in secondary school, I felt the stress and tension promptly after I stepped into my JC, even before actual lessons even commenced. I am now struggling to understand the topics being fed to me, let alone catch up with my increasing workload. I guess I would have to change my current expectations of having to achieve "perfection" all the time.

    Thank you for your creative insights!

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  13. Everyone is successful, just not in the same things. Albert Einstein was a successful scientist but not a successful peace advocate. Fandi Ahmad is a successful sportsman but not a successful businessman. Bill Clinton is a successful politician, but not a successful family man (his affair). Success is not defined by a particular field alone. If everyone understood this fact, then a lot of what has been posted here will be void.

    Many people in today's society are against elitism and competition. I agree that elitism should be discouraged. Elitism is essentially the mindset of people that they have done well and deserve this and that, and that all those who are not as successful as them are not hardworking. Firstly, as mentioned, success can't be determined by one person only. So if one feels that another is not successful, they have to first analyse the field in which they determine success. Additionally, no one deserves anything because they have succeeded. You only deserve things that have been brought about by your own success. If you have succeeded in the education system, that doesn't mean you deserve a high-flying job, but that you deserve a degree/diploma in what you have studied.

    Some people here are against the Singapore education system, about the cramming and all that. As mentioned, all systems are successful, it just depends on which basis are you comparing them. Cramming per se has benefits, so the extremely rude commentator of 21 may 2013 is wrong there. It depends on what kind of education you want. The owners of this blog have complained about how their parents put them through a lot of stress. However, if all that didn't happened, would they have met at the same jc and be together in the first place. Thus, all education systems have their pros and cons.

    Truth is there are roughly three main group of people. The first group are people like Ms XL, who didn't succeed like others. However, if they strive at what they are good at, then can they be successful. The second group are the elitists. They feel that they have done well, so they deserve anything. I would consider them people who are generally millionaires or those who have inherited a lot in the working place, and in the education system as those who score well and scorn those who have not.They are foolish, since in actual fact they are not as successful as the next group. The third group are those who have really succeeded, by a large margin. The self-made billionaires, john d rockefeller, academics, nobel prize winners, olympians and the likes. How often do you see them being elitist. These are the people who have really succeeded, yet do they look down on those that have not. I don't think so. As the chinese saying goes, 一山还有一山高. Thus, elitism is generally plain ignorance with another mask.

    part 1

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  14. On the other hand, competition is beneficial. It puzzles me how one can find competition bad. It might be stressful, but if you succeed in what you are best in, wouldn't that make the competition worth it. For all of its detriments, competition's benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Like Andrew Carnegie said, "While The Law Of Competition May Be Sometimes Hard For The Individual, It Is Best For The Race, Because It Insures The Survival Of The Fittest In Every Department. We Accept And Welcome, Therefore, As Conditions To Which We Must Accommodate Ourselves, Great Inequality Of Environment, The Concentration Of Business, Industrial And Commercial, In The Hands Of The Few, And The Law Of Competition Between These, As Being Not Only Beneficial, but Essential For The Future Progress Of The Race." Competition is ultimately beneficial.

    However, I respect that each of you are entitled to your own views and therefore won't so that they are either right or wrong. But I hope that my comments will let you see reality from a different pair of eyes. FYI, I am a Hwa Chong Sec 2 student, so my views are somewhat credible.

    Part 2

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  15. i totally emphatise with XL. as a jc student currently going through the rat race, i felt XL was just sharing her tue feelings and experiences. there is no need to blast her for her views. a stated in her post, these are but her personal views and you guys have no right to judge and critique her pain and suffering. to the guy above tht says his sympathy is limited... do you have a heart?

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  16. What an insightful post! As a student, I was not particularly talented in academic studies or other activities. In Primary school, in terms of academic ranking, I started from rock bottom and slowly worked my way up. I got decent results for PSLE and entered an above-average secondary school. Same story there. I was so academically driven to excel, so eager to be come out tops that I dismissed other elements of my education as a whole as unimportant. Closer to the O levels, I tried to 'pon' CCA by coming up with all sorts of nonsense and sometimes disrespected the teacher by not paying attention to him as I scribbled notes onto my TYS that I kept under the desks.
    Maybe it was due to my academic progress or the group of friends whom I hung out with, who are mostly scholars from foreign countries. No matter, I was always motivated to compete. Hell, I have a friend who won GOLD at the commonwealth essay competition. There was always enough competition to go around, especially when I was in the so-called 'Best' class.
    In the midst of this 'high-stakes' rat race that I had participated, I realised that I have shown particular distaste towards 'unproductive' events such as Homecoming and Class parties, which I really should be looking forward to. Instead, I got so disillusioned with the quest for perfect As that I was withdrawn from the class and developed this unhealthy habit of keeping my own tips and exam secrets for myself, while milking more of it out of my friends at the same time.
    Following the broader definition of success in your books, I have failed... tremendously. I admit that my 'soft skills' are not that good, and I would definitely try to strive for a more well-balanced education in the next phase of my education. I want to make the best out of my time as a youth and not be stuck with few friends and a small social circle. I want to see myself 5 years in the future, with a good grasp of interpersonal communication skills, and a balanced academic result, and not the other way round.

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  17. What a fantastic post. I am a HCI student and I sometimes wonder whether our school is pushing the academic front a little too much. I am a above-average student who won't win awards but do quite well for my studies. However, right from secondary 1, I feel that the school is cramming down the 'Kiasu Singaporean' attitude down our throat as if they were scared we will all fail. HCI has always emphasised a holistic approach to education; I wonder whether that has really been taught to our students as they seem to be contradicting themselves here. There seems to be a stark contrast between management and the ground level, where no real difference has been made to the students.

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