Archives for October 2013

Singapore Parents and the Education System : A Parable (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of the Post here.

Let’s say that you were locked in a prison cell, sound asleep, then your Saviour unlocks your prison cell, as well as the cell of others. You wake up and are told by a guard that you are now free to go. You still, remain waiting there, behind the bars, inside your prison cell. You see other prisoners walking about leaving the prison cell, despite being told you are now free. You wait.

Are you still going to wait when you realize that you have new-found freedom that have released you from these chains, that have held you bondage for so long to the cruel task-master?

Think about this : In that journey that tens of thousands of Israelites took in the wilderness after they took the step to leave Egypt, it took them 40 years to get to the Promised land of ‘Milk and Honey’ Canaan. Many died in the wilderness.

As for those who went on to take the land of Canaan, it was all very promising when they saw the vast resources and food that were in Canaan. Many were focused on the Giants that resided in the land and were stumbled by that fear of facing the Giants. Only some saw the hope and went on to conquered their fear and went on to Canaan. While there were also others who died in the wilderness and failed to reach the Promise Land.

You must be thinking, “What a way to continue the post, after telling people to take the step to leave ‘Egypt!”

If you were focused on the ones that failed to get to the Promised Land, then you will be likely focused on your negative thoughts, be paralyzed by the current situation, and will be unable to make any step of change.

How about the ones that finally conquered the Promised Land?

Promiseland1Illustration from here

For those who conquered Canaan, the Promised Land. It was not a typical war of conquest, like what we read throughout human history, of violent warfare and pillage. All the Israelites have to do was to follow God’s instructions, and it did all go well in the end.

So did I tell you to fight against the system? Obviously not. All I did in the last post was to encourage you to change your mindset and think differently.

And if you are a fellow Christian, have you started to reflect on the world’s ways of telling you how to raise your children, is truly in line with God’s ways?

Do the Exodus

Some parents did the ‘Exodus’ by homeschooling. However, this is not the panacea for all. I am for one, who will not be able to take the home-schooling option and will be putting my child through a regular government school.

So how have I taken the first step to leave ‘Egypt’?

First, I made a choice to go with a ‘regular’ school vs a top choice in the neighborhood, which incidentally, hb was an alumni of the latter. If you were to compare the popular choice, i,e, a top chinese school located in Marine Parade with what I have decided to go with, the final choice will be perceived as an inferior selection. There were even places leftover that were not taken up from this school at the last day of phase 2C, so go figure.

It must be a lousy school then.

I like to see it as ordinary, not lousy, as there are still plenty of benefits of being ordinary in this situation.

As for tuition, I am not sure how long I can’t keep that away from my child. So if a need arises for additional coaching, so be it.

I will still encourage my child to put in his best effort to learn from school. If he encounters failure, it will be a good opportunity to learn from his failure and to build his resilience. There will be no burning of books or homework at the end of major exams. As it is just school and exams, there isn’t a necessity to make such a big deal out of it. And if relatives at family gatherings ask me about his results. All they are going to hear from me, will be “Okay lor…”

The Journey into the Wilderness

I have just started traipsing through the wilderness and will likely be getting to the thick of things from mid of next year.

I like to think that with this mindset change, I am taking a chance for a better life for my child and for myself, as a parent. My eyes are wide open to the false comforts and security of what the society thinks is best for my child. The picture painted for all may seem very promising, but I have stared ugliness of the world’s ways and standards in the face, and seen how she has been a harsh task-master for many children and parents.

Just like it was in the story of the Exodus, there will be some time spent in the Wilderness.

But it takes too long! You say. I would be lying if I were to tell you that you can get ‘Your Best Life Now.’. Good things will come to those who wait patiently, and persevere.

Screen Shot 2013 10 22 at 1 20 00 PM

Nobody ever said that it was easy to leave conventional mindsets and adopt a differing mindset.

It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering around the desert before they reached Promised land of Canaan. In ancient days, the trip from Egypt to Canaan would have taken them 11 days at the most, considering that they had so many people, triple that and make it 33 days.

The journey took them so long simply because they refuse to be in tune with God plans for them. They were a stubborn, disobedient, rebellious, stiff-necked people who complained incessantly and were constantly ungrateful for the good things that God did for them. In fact, one generation failed to get into the Promised Land, simply because of idolatry.

So after hearing all of this. Is it better to die with the chains around your ankles in slavery or take the step into the wilderness and believe that there is a Promised Land that can be conquered? It is a choice that each of us have to decide for ourselves and our children.

What kind of mindset are you living with today?

Is your mindset going to make you feel trapped and powerless under the bondage of not accepting failure from your child? Or are you just concerned about what people, relatives, friends think about you and your children?

When you eventually decide to take that step out of ‘Egypt’, will you have an attitude that will get you to the Promised Land in DAYS or in YEARS?

The step that will carry you into the Promised Land is that very same step that moves you out of Egypt. Are you able to take that leap to change your mind?


A note for fellow Christians :

Your feet may get weary when you are walking away from ‘Egypt’ and pressing towards the Promised land. If you are battling doubt, fear, hopelessness, insecurities, whatever it may be that will take your mind captive. Remember, just like what God has promised the Israelites through the wilderness. God will carry you safely in His arms, shower manna from the heaven and supply water for you to quench your thirst from the rock. Most of all, He has promised your freedom from that captivity.

When His son, Jesus, died on the cross, you were set free. All you need to do is to claim your freedom.

Screen Shot 2013 10 22 at 4 00 39 PMIllustration from here


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Singapore Parents and the Education System : A Parable (Part 1)

If you are familiar with the bible, I am sure you will know about the story of The Exodus. The story of how the Israelites left the oppression and slavery in Egypt led by Moses, into Canaan, a land promised by God for them that was ‘flowing with milk and honey’.

The story of Exodus isn’t just some bedtime bible story that I read to my child, or just something that happened in the old testament of the bible. This story is also symbolic to the journey that each of us have to go through our lives. How is it symbolic? Let me bring you through how the story of Exodus can be applied like a parable of sorts, to this topic that most parents are concerned about for their children in this country; their school-going children and their future through the Singapore Educational System.

The exodusIllustration from this site

Just this past weekend, my friend and fellow mom blogger, Sarah blogged about what she felt was wrong with Singapore’s Educational System. Coming from ex-teacher who used to be in the system, she brought up relevant issues about the flaws of a ranking system of teachers and schools and the concerns of ‘the seemingly depressed state of students and people we have in Singapore, in spite of us having life good here’.

Sarah shared very disconcerting figures of a ‘study of over 600 children aged between 6-12 in Singapore, researchers found that 22% indicated that they harboured intentions to commit suicide or held suicidal tendencies…PSLE week alone this year, I heard of two separate cases of attempted suicide by tweens. I believe the depressed state and unhappiness in our children is a reflection of the adults in the society too. The failure to meet standards set by a system seems to drive people – children and adults- to despair of themselves.’

I will be using these very points to illustrate how these rather depressing state of things with our education system that many have experienced in real life, that can be related to Exodus story from 1441BC.

The Taskmaster

Egypt is a picture of the land of slavery.

Screen Shot 2013 10 22 at 10 23 26 AM

How is that related to the ‘system’? The education in Singapore doesn’t quite liberate people, or so we like to think that it does. In fact, it has proven to have cause depression in many of the children through their stringent standards, in some teachers in the system, even parents encouraging angsty behavior in their kids which they believe will be cathartic in their relief of stress.

Many parents feel powerless over the system and are pressured by the demands of the system. Most cannot help but to weigh their children down with the additional burdens of tuition classes just to keep up with the standards of the system, especially when their kids fail to catch up. There is this other side of the coin, where we have parents who take pride in their children’s academic achievements, and will ensure that tuition will help them get one step ahead of their classmates in class, ace the system and qualify for the GEP scheme.

Many parents are focused on ensuring that their children do well in the system, until they ignore the burdens that they have placed on them, which will eventually wear their spirits down. Eventually, some children get depressed, some start to detest going to school, and lose their motivation towards learning.

Why will parents burden their children with expectations of over-achievements at a young age? All just to conform to the societal expectations.

I see the irony of all ironies through this; education has always been a key factor to empower people in a society and improve lives. And it provides plenty of social benefits for individuals in a society at large; so that people will have the ability to take care of themselves and consequently create a better society to live in.

How did something so positive for a society turn into a cruel task-master? A cruel task-master will only be able to fulfill its role, when it has willing slaves. After all it takes two to tango.

I am sounding like a disillusioned parent? Well, I took the idealistic and hopeful stance the last time. But being a realist most other times, I know this present state of things will not be able to address these current plagues / problems.

Some parents think that it will all get better in the next decade, since there have been much discussions about creating a holistic education. Call me a cynic, but I don’t see added responsibilities and KPIs on the teachers as an improvement. I think this system is  in a dire need for an overhaul and reform, and it will take too much effort for changes to be implemented in the short term.

Leaving Egypt

‘Mindsets need to be changed in this partnership of educating children’, this was what Mr Heng Sweet Keat (Minister of Education) urged some parents to do during the last round-table discussion.

Here are some ways I think mindsets can be changed, and how change will help parents depart ‘Egypt’ and break the chains of control from this cruel task-master. This can only happen f you have the courage to consider a new paradigm.

As long as you stay with the task-master and are too afraid to make the change in your mindset, you will always feel powerless, and your children will continue to be slaves to the system that are weigh down by burdens that are hard to bear.

If we want to break the power ‘task-master’ have over us, we need to start cutting off what it feeds on. Don’t just follow the crowd and be ‘kiasu’ that your child will lose out.

So what are the consequences of these burdens, and what is feeding the taskmaster?

Parental Attitudes

1. Pride in Achievements and Success – it makes us feel good. Who doesn’t want a child that is in a good school, who has good results. Even better if he/she is smarter than the neighbors, a child that tops his/her class, and you wouldn’t feel embarrass sharing his/her academic achievements with the relatives during Chinese New Year gathering.

Will we ever come to a point where we will be able to forgo our pride, and stop worrying about what people think about us or our children?

Maybe. Only when it gets bad and our kids becomes victims, then we will stop feeding our pride.

2. Fear of Failure – From a society that has anti-failure bias, failure is like the worse thing that can happen to a person. When a child fails, a parent feels responsible for that failure. So we will do whatever it takes in order to avoid failure, even when the standards set are no more realistic.

Besides, achieving good results as a positive outcome from education, have always opened the path to a promise of a better life. A life where we are likely have a better chance at making more money, own bigger houses and cars and take more family vacations. Isn’t that what most of us in this country hope to achieve?

Children have to learn Failure

Whatever happened to the concept of school years being a good time to allow failure to happen? Children in school are suppose to have people who can support the child to help them figure out how it happened and how they can learn to do differently. If school is not helping with that, then parents need to step up to take the responsibility to help their children along with it, and not give add on to the burden of high achievements and their refusal to accept any form of failure.

If we don’t allow our children to fail in a safe environment, we are not giving them the tools to be independent and they will never learn to be self-sufficient. Our goal as parents is to help our children to a point where they are responsible for themselves, learn the consequences of their actions and decisions, as much as possible.

Are you going to wait for the ‘plagues’ like depression, a fear of school, rebellion against parental direction or attempted suicide to happen, before you are convinced that it is time change your mindset to do the Exodus and leave ‘Egypt’?

Screen Shot 2013 10 21 at 4 57 03 PMIllustration from here

How can you tell if you have a slave mentality? When you are ruled by societal standards telling you what’s good or bad for your child.

Do you think we will get any help if the burdens of the system gets too much for our children and child becomes a victim of the hard task-master of the education system?

By then, we will be left to our own devices to try to pick up the pieces.


An additional note for fellow Christians :

The first step in leaving ‘Egypt’ (slavery mindset) is to get your thinking in line with God’s. In black and white below, the word says that we have to take every thought, every reasoning of doubt, unbelief, thinking and worrying excessively, all captive and turn it around to match His word.

Screen Shot 2013 10 21 at 6 25 55 PMIllustration from here

Step out in faith and believe that God truly has a ‘Promised land’ for you and your children. Most of us are not trained to think this way, to go in a different direction against the tide. However when making the change, you might discover that this could turn out quite different from what the world tells you what you must do for your children.

Will you still follow the world’s ways when you realize that the world’s ways truly are NOT God’s ways and you have been called to head a different direction?

Part II of the post tomorrow….on how I have started to leave ‘Egypt’. And NO, it has nothing to do with Home-Schooling.

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Book Burning – Justified or Senseless?


Screen Shot 2013 10 09 at 12 03 29 PMArticle from here

One word – Angst.

I feel their angst too. To burn books after PSLE, must be an accumulation of frustration over time, a fair bit of anger and could possibly communicate a hidden message to the education ministry that they are sick of the oppressive educational standards?


Could the psyche behind this book burning action is a way of expressing hatred so profound that the offensive material must be removed from existence. By reducing the offensive stuff to ashes, it will be removed from the parents’ or children memory entirely.

Probably not.

I still tend to think that these Singaporeans did not think so much when they burnt those books. Mother or father is frustrated that the entire year is ruined by the stress of preparation of PSLE that they are unable to lead a normal life, and kid has been so stressed by this exam. That they decided one day after exam, “We have to take revenge. Take revenge on the torture that have been inflicted by these books the past 9 months, by burning them. Plus daughter / son is going to feel quite happy and satisfied once they see the books burnt. Yes, it will be no more. No more torture from these books.”

After all, exam is done, kid has already regurgitated what is read in those books at the exams, they have no more need for the books.

Book burning in history is symbolic of an oppressive regime which sought to silence an aspect of a nation’s culture, generally motivated by moral, religious or political objections to the material. Who has done book burning before? Oppressive regimes from Hitler, religious and communistic regimes through history. All in their efforts to suppress heretical or dissenting views that are perceived as posing a threat to the prevailing order (Wikipedia)

Book burning. What used to be an act carried out in extreme situations by extremists group. And NOT a function of developed or democratic government n these modern times, have evolved into a senseless expression of angst and frustration of some of my country’s citizens towards how they choose to manage societal pressures.

So mother and father do not realize the message that they are relaying to the kids through that action of book burning? That it is ok to be extreme. It is ok to display your angst by burning things. It is ok to display your hatred of something and burn them, as long it make you feel better about yourself. Today book burning, tomorrow arsonists?

Humans have always and will still be a confused bunch, methinks.

I wonder what will run through these kids’ minds when they finally become adults and have somewhat negative feelings towards their jobs or their bosses?

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