Of tuition, dreams and other fluffy things

The words “readiness” and “developmentally appropriate” should be important words to parents of young children. Yet nowadays, words like “early start,” “competitive edge,” and “academic advantage” have usurped them. When it comes to academics, impatience is the order of the day.”   – Homepreschool & Beyond

A familiar feeling of disgruntledness is in the air. The topic of tuition is once again all the rage in Singapore. Ask me about it and on some days I will appear apathetic. Not because I really don’t care but because I am disturbed enough by it, disturbed enough to keep quiet and mull over it.

My kids are aged four and two. I work part-time and on my non-work days I like to bring them out for picnics, sandy playgrounds or beaches, walks in the park, and the occasional playdate. I also try not to think about that fateful day when they will enter primary school.

Primary education has transformed from running around, being cheeky, forgetting to bring textbooks and notebooks IN MY DAYS, to an experience akin to navigating a field of explosive potatoes today. Forget something – KABOOM. No tuition – KABOOM.

My hubby will be quick to chide me and remind me that today is very different from THOSE DAYS of relative kiddy peace and freedom.

These days, schoolers face so much stress and anxiety. So much rushing around to the next thing on their schedule, so little time to dream…

As a young, idealistic Singaporean parent brought up in those GOOD OL’ DAYS, I dream…

I dream of a day when “tuition” and “enrichment” will no longer have a compulsory place in the everyday experience of a school-going kid.

I dream of a day when children will desire to learn not for the sake of scoring, but for the sake of achieving personal goals, and acquiring critical thinking and analytical skills.

I dream of a day when parents and educators will work hand-in-hand, to teach and train our children about life and skills that go beyond pure academics. That they will remember that the building blocks of character are not ABCs, but values, virtues, healthy self-esteem, a love for others, and wisdom.

I dream of a day when teachers will be able to focus on teaching, and teach in a way so that children will love learning.

I dream of a day when children will enjoy helping one another, not climbing over the other on the academic ladder.

I dream of a day when my children will enjoy going to school, work hard and learn to be considerate to others, and after the bell rings, race home or to the playground and let their imagination take them to places never before envisioned by an adult mind.

I dream of a day when the family will be reinstated as the core where foundation learning begins.

I dream of a day when children will not be encumbered by their parents’ own personal ambitions, but will be given their own space to dream their own dreams, and define their own  ambitions.

I dream of a day when “success” and “achievement” will have a broader definition than grades on a paper or the number of zeros in your salary.

I dream…

Call me idealistic, but I don’t think any parent deep down wants to deprive their children of the freedom that we ourselves enjoyed as children.

I’m not calling tuition inherently evil either. It still has a rightful place in society, to cater to real learning needs of different children with different struggles. But a blind subscription to the entire “if-I-don’t-do-this-my-child-will-lose-out” mentality may cause your child to be bound in a mindset of dependency for much of his growing years or even adult life.

We all know that when you figure out something on your own, you are less likely to forget it than if someone else just told you the answer. Just like solving math problems, we learn more and understand more by figuring it out on our own. If someone gives us the answer, we become dependent on them to solve future problems for us. But if we are required to figure out the problem on our own, we are beter equipped to figure out other problems, drawing from the personal knowledge gained to apply what we have learned to other problems as well. – Don’t Make Me Count To Three

(Read also: what my friends have to say about The Tuition Crutch and the Tuition Dilemma)

I dream. I dream… But tell me, what are your dreams for children or education in Singapore?

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  1. Ruth says

    This is an apt post on Children’s Day (it used to be 1 Oct).

    I dream of a day when children will run to the classrooms like they run to the playgrounds.

  2. says

    As a primary school teacher, I have great dreams for our education system.

    I dream of classes of students who have time to explore their interests, instead of having to rush through the syllabus simply because “exams are coming!”
    I dream of less “sit still and stay in your seat time” time and longer recess-time for the children to play and run around.
    I dream of children who learn because they are interested to, not because “this will come out in your test, so you’d better understand it!”

    And many more…

    I’ll be back to teach in about a year. It’s also my dream that these dreams of mine will not remain just as dreams. But it seems very likely, they will.
    Ing recently posted..Messy Play with Ice and Food ColouringMy Profile

  3. says

    This resonates a lot with me! And with that last para, you totally read my mind. I guess as parents, it is also up to us to set the tone for our kids about what learning is really about. Btw, thanks for the link! 🙂
    Mummybean recently posted..On the Cusp of 5My Profile

  4. Wang says

    I agree but are we willing to put our execution in our words where tuition is only in the event the child is weak in that particular subject, where our child is praised despite not achieving the top 10 positions in class as long as they have done their best.

    For me and my household yes we have done so, so hope that you and your readers are willing to be the change which we want to see.

    Would recommend Petunia Lee’s blog which captures such intrinsic motivation well.

    To the children , may their lives be filled with joy and wonder and the spirit of adventure

    • mamawearpapashirt says

      Totally agree, Wang. We need to be the change first, and not wait for other parts of the system to change. Parents have the power to set the tone for their own families and children.

      Thanks for leaving a note!

  5. says

    This posts resonates so much as me as Sophie is entering primary school in 2 years time. For me, I struggled academically and it really affected my self esteem as a student. So what I dream is for schools to recognise that while academics are important, it is not the be all and end all of a student life in school. They should be encouraged to develop their interests and be recognised for their non-academic strengths too. I dream that students have more time to explore and learn outside the classroom instead of mugging to pass exams and ace the class. I dream that Sophie will enjoy school and tells me that she looks forward to go to school and I hope that I,myself don’t conform with the rest of the KS parents in pushing Sophie down the path that I rather she not take.
    Susan recently posted..Parenting lessons – Being intentional parentsMy Profile

  6. Carol says

    I dream of the day when our children will no longer be overschooled, but under-educated; when they discover the joy and wonder of learning for learning’s sake.

  7. says

    Interestingly, K’s primary school keeps emphasising to parents (at the P1 talk, in comms materials to all lower primary school kids) NOT to hurry down with their books or homework if they have forgotten it, even if they call home from a public phone.

    Their point is that all this is a child’s responsibility and they hope to work with the child to reinforce it as such. Was refreshing to hear!
    lyn lee recently posted..La RistrettosMy Profile

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