Are we too structured for our own good?

Recently a good friend of mine did a blog on Social mobility via education.

Like him, my family has benefitted from the good education we received. We have all moved up the social ladder to own our homes and also having good jobs. When I was primary 6 at a typical neighbourhood school (in the footsteps of my sisters), Stamford Primary, being in 6A, my form teacher asked me to choose Raffles Girls’. However, I did not take her advice. My choice was quite straight forward – My mum has told me that she is quite tired of fundraising – my sisters and brothers all being in aided mission schools, so I decided to just find an all girls school nearby and put in my choice – Crescent Girls. Unlike today, where we do DSA, primary school info talks for parents, none were present during my time.

I spent a happy 4 years there where I had lotsa free time to pursue my interest – reading and sleeping in the afternoon. I joined many CCAs (ECA then) and was my team table tennis captain, where I organised the matches for the interclass games. It was a fun and carefree secondary school. I did my ten years series in maths for fun as I enjoyed solving the problems and no teacher ever told us we have to finish our ten year series. We were staying in a cramped one room HDB flat and I had to shut out external TV noise to study.

I went to Hwa Chong not because I knew it was a good college but because my brother studied there. He told me many stories about the school and it sounded like fun to me. I joined a total of 6 ECAs – table tennis, squash, social service, library, Chinese Orchestra (cos my bro is in it) and badminton.

My friends and I did well enough to further our studies.

In Hwa Chong, I was immersed in Chinese culture and a spirit of excellence – as each assembly we saw many many students coming up to receive prizes for their achievements. In Crescent, I was given space to read and learn at my own pace.

In his article, JJ wrote about the finnish education where “A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject.” and “Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high. The educational system’s success in Finland seems to be part cultural. Pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.”

I believe we can learn two things from the Finnish Education system – one, is that there is a recognition that teaching is prestigious career and not a case of, “those who can’t teach” and secondly, that pupils study in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.”

Too much scaffolding and structure stifles. A child that is spoon fed all his life cannot survive in the world by himself, he needs constant help from everyone to succeed.

During a casual conversation with a Prof one day he shared that 99% of entrepreneurs in university (those who took a grant for starting the companies whilst in uni) failed!

I recently met up with an ex-student, a brilliant student leader who started her own company. She is pushed into the limelight to extol the virtues of young entrepreneurs. She appeared in the press frequently. Whilst I do think she has good calibre, too much endorsement and help from government bodies may not be good for her own growth. She needs to realise the real cost of doing business…not in terms of grants after grants …but more in how to cleverly develop strategies to save costs and be profitable. So while I applaud our dear government in wanting to help young entrepreneurs, I am also worried about this “helping” mentality. If used in excess, we raise a whole generation who may develop a dependent mentality!!

While doing consultancy for schools, I came across two very good “neighbhourhood” schools who are headed by very dynamic principals. I saw first hand how the staff and students benefit from their leadership.

Fridays at Christ Church secondary were used for CCAs and it was a hive of activity when I visited the school to see their vibrant outdoor education. The Principal is a dynamic lady who hopes that through this channel, all academic staff can also see the value of CCA education and how it helps mould her students.
Jing Shan Primary school Principal introduced the breakfast programme for students in FAS scheme for a year and the following year, MOE introduced the scheme so now, breakfasts are also provided for pupils who fall out of MOE FAS scheme by a narrow margin(NB:@Jing Shan, funds come from SAC fund)

There exists good schools besides the regularly named ones. The people in these “neighbour schools” are raising the bar for education with their passion and dedication. Please take time to discover these gems.

Useful links:
Jing Shan Primary School
Christ Church Secondary School

2 replies to “Are we too structured for our own good?

  1. Thanks for mentioning my blog, Pin Lay.

    Hey, I have visited Christ Church. It’s the centre of excellence for Outdoor Education in the zone or cluster, if I am not mistaken. Yeap, a hive of activities when I visited them last year.

    Gone are the days we study in relaxing environments. I took 5 CCAs in college (more if you count informal activities), enjoyed each of them, was active socially and went through A levels. Did likewise in university with multiple activities in hostel for 4 years. Didn’t think much about competing with others. School was fun, hence I am still contributing back to my Alma Mater now.

    Life is a lot different now.

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