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?

Does tuition have a place in childhood?

Childhood is precious. What do you remember about yours?

I remember playing marbles, hopscotch, running about with the neighbourhood kids, and getting up to all sorts of mischief with my brother.

Kids today seem to be growing up to a different beat, a more competitive one. The ages of kids attending tuition classes are getting younger. The number of enrichment courses and tuition classes continue to climb, with some programmes even catering to infants as young as six months old.

I spoke to some of my peers and one of them made an insightful remark. She thinks that only a handful of parents in Singapore are truly and deeply “kiasu” (fear losing out); the rest of us are pressured to follow suit because we see everyone else do the same, and we start to worry that our kids will not be able to keep up.

At the end of the day, we just want what is best for our kids. But is tuition and enrichment really the best way to go?

Join me at World Moms Blog today as we ask the question: How do we say yes to the best, and no to the rest?


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