The primary school system here has been a point of much debate among educators and parents for a long time. |
As a product of the system in the '80s and now a father of two children in lower primary, I fear that the system has become one of irrelevant, unrealistic standards.
And I come from the perspective of someone who excelled within the old system, yet always questioned the relevance of the education content to real-world settings. Sadly, the situation has gotten worse.
Take primary school mathematics as an example: Why are pupils being asked to solve questions of higher level logic at such a young age? Does it make them more creative in problem solving?
Does it help them when they are faced with heuristic problems that even adults do not have to deal with in the workplace? No, it only leads to more rote learning of, ironically, heuristic methods.
The vast selection of assessment books and tuition centres that teach heuristics is testimony to this.
Another observation is that teachers sometimes do not have the opportunity to reinforce the basics of simple arithmetic and are forced to make their pupils do sums that are more useful in sifting for maths geniuses than genuinely imparting knowledge. Within the crammed periods of each school day, it is impossible for teachers to cover all the bases in today's punishing curriculum.
It is no longer a matter of excelling in class; to simply pass maths today, it is mandatory to have tuition to fill the gaps that teachers sometimes struggle to fill.
If so many pupils require tuition, it means our education system has failed in its basic goal of imparting the correct skill sets.
My wife, a university honours graduate, quit her job to coach the children at home, but is herself exasperated at the standards required of pupils today.
I have yet to observe any beneficial effects of pushing children so hard in primary school, apart from high stress levels and sapping of intellectual curiosity.
Besides removing the joy in learning, another side effect of today's education system is that my children hardly have time to enjoy childhood.
They have less time to play outdoors, to read their favourite books (which is a great way to improve one's English), to explore new hobbies or to learn about the world around them - all because of so much homework.
The scenarios are the same with other subjects. The schools are not teaching less, nor are the pupils learning more.
The writer's children are in Primary 1 and 3.