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Denise Phua’s 6 Criticisms about the Educational Climate in Singapore

What do you do with kids who score only A2s? Slap them Ah Low-style lah! You got to beat the sh*t out of those little brats until they can get all A1s. If they can’t do that by 16, they’re doomed to be failures in life.


Maybe we’re being too extreme. Let’s see what bones MP for Jalan Besar GRC Denise Phua has picked with the local education system in parliament last week:

(1) The “Parentocracy” Phenomena

Parentocracy – when parents force their kids to receive the kind of education they want, in accordance with their wealth, rather than based on the abilities of the kid.

If your parents have ever slap you Ah Low-style lah, beat the sh*t out of you until you got all A1s because die die you must go to NUS Medicine, force-fed you with tuition until you puked X+Y=4444, then sent you overseas to study Medicine because you couldn’t qualify for NUS Med School, congrats you’re a “parentocracy” survivor.

The problem with this, says Ms Phua, is that it deepens inequality in society.

“As the stakes of academic scores become higher, parentocracy will restrict social mobility and can unfairly deprive those with lesser resources and networks, undermining the development of their potential.”

In other words, poor kids with super musical talents can’t get the training they need to become the next Elton John, but the kids of rich prats get to learn the piano till Grade 9 until they become older and still unwilling Beethovens.

(2) Direct Schools Admission Exercise

Which brings us to this thing called the Direct Schools Admission Exercise where uber-talented kids (not kids who are good at driving pirate taxis lah!)  get a leg-up into good schools because of their talent in sports, music, art, and whatever else so they can represent the school and win or die trying.

No prizes for guessing which economic strata of parents can afford to pump their kids full of steroids nurture their kids from the young age of -4.

(3) Segregation

Another practice that causes inequality because of something called networking. Rich kids hang out with rich kids and form BMW racing clubs as adults, while poor kids become poor adults who hang out with their BMXs at Woodlands. Technically-speaking.

How so? By streaming kids into top schools and lousy schools (yeah, no more school rankings, but we all know where Raffles stands compared to Sengkang Secondary, right?)

Segregation also makes it difficult to form closer community bonds.

Said Ms Phua:

“One of the most effective ways of keeping our country safe, secure and empathic is to forge relationships of acceptance and trust amongst citizens of different abilities, faiths, and socio-economic status; during one’s growing up years, in natural settings. Trust and empathy cannot be built deeply when Singaporeans are physically segregated from young.”

(4) Streaming at Too Young an Age

PSLE. MATI. Differently-spelled words that essentially mean the same thing to a 12-year-old. Ms Phua says it’s possibly impossible for a kid that young to know the consequences of major exams. Rather, it’s better to adopt a 10-year through train school model in place of PSLE, such as the system used in American schools.

Why? Looking back now, how smart do you think you were when you were 12?

(5) Obsession with Grades

“When the curiosity and love for learning is snuffed out when one is young, it will be hard to re-ignite it after one’s formal school years when he leaves the school gate.”

Yes, Ms Phua, we know. It’s all gone now.

Working hard to get the grades isn’t the issue here. Instead, it’s the parental obsession with getting perfect scores so Mom can tell her sister during Chinese New Year, “So ah, I heard your daughter only got 298 for PSLE. My ah boy got 299 ok…”

And that finally leads to

(6) Tuition Nation

Or in Ms Phua’s words, “Parents putting in top dollar to ensure their children’s academic success”

Which means kids don’t see daylight – wake up at 6am to go to school, and tuition after school until 10pm then go and sleep. Then wake up and repeat. Weekends? Got such a thing ah?

And that gives a whole new meaning to MOE’s “Teach Less, Learn More” motto – teach less so our kids can learn more on their own from super specialised private tutors who are better than the ones coaching mom’s sister’s daughter!


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. voodooChild

    February 2, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    She is funny, but your article is funnier.

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