Behind Singapore’s success in the IB: More tuition?

Today, I read this — “Behind Singapore’s success in the IB (International Baccalaureate: More Tuition?” and I was unnerved. I was unnerved by how practical or placid Singaporeans have become with the way the scions of Singapore are receiving their education.

International Baccalaureate, or IB in short is a non-profit educational foundation that offers four educational programmes that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world. The programmes taught in Singapore (I presume it would the Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Programme) are curated where it touts to provide a challenging framework that encourages students and the real world, and develop them who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge to flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically.

It does sound promising — after all who’d disagree that rote learning is not exactly the way to comprehend the world?

Yet it worries me that the “kiasu” or competitive parents are getting the wrong end of the stick, assuming by studying the IB programme is as good as having an ace up their sleeves. Delving a little deeper, perhaps, the cake may not be worth the candle. In a bid of pursuing an ace in their studies, the students spend a large proportion of their time attending tuition (because in Singapore, tuition is the way to ace a test) to help them to cope with the demands of the curriculum or for some, to stay ahead of their peers! Because of the parents’ fear of losing out, the children are indoctrinated with knowledge by top-notch teachers at a very tender age. They may well be intellectual, but would they be equally morally upright?

I don’t know about your sentiments, but for me, acing in studies is not the only metric to define success.

Parents’ eagerness to swim with the education tide exacerbates a whole set of problems that the Singapore’s education system has created: fostering elitism and establishing a curriculum that students have difficulties coping.

As many parents clamoured to stay ahead of competition, they inevitably raised the bars for students to enter into premium schools, leaving increasingly more students out as they race to the top.

How many of them would be able to keep up with the intensive workload without any leg-up? The intensive workload is compounded by their sports, arts and personal commitments; triggering a vicious cycle leading to a downward spiral of academic results, sports and personal commitments. With nothing to fall back on, they eventually lose more time relearning and rebuilding their foundation.

Of course, with dedication and determination, I am sure there are many who are able to excel as well as those whose family are financially capable to provide them with additional resources. But we have to question ourselves if our education is only tailored for the intellectually gifted? Are we giving enough opportunities for those who are not academically-inclined to excel in areas that they are good at? Will we be inculcating a culture where only the high flyers are accepted and the rest are shunned away? I don’t really know. I am not an economics expert; perhaps, I could explore the social ills of elitism in my next article.

I grew up as a problematic child — made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of painful lessons before becoming who I am today. I wouldn’t say I am perfect but I won’t discount my own morals and principles that I learned along the way and I want to inculcate the same values in my children in the future. I don’t want them to go through the same painful lesson to learn to become a better man. I want them to learn that “Hey these are the things that you can’t do because of the following reasons. No matter what benefits you gain in return, nothing of it is meaningful if you can’t live up to your own conscience.” To be able to develop this conscience is my metric of success. I don’t want them to spend countless hours of time on studying with the sole intention of excelling or competing with their peers. I hope they learn to love the joys of being ordinary — to be able to experience joy and happiness from the love of family and friends, rather than love the joys and happiness from the fawning of cronies and lickspittles.

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