Studies aren’t everything

In Singapore’s society where education and good grades are viewed as of utmost importance, it seems almost naive to say that studies aren’t everything. A person who lags behind in terms of grades may be despised by others and possibly lose out on valuable opportunities in future. That’s the harsh reality of the world we live in today.

Yet, I can’t help but feel sorry – for the education system today as well as ourselves, the victims of this obsession. I can’t help but feel that the purpose of education was somehow lost in our pursuit for improvement. Education was intended to broaden our minds, to teach us, to help us understand our world better. Yet why is it that today, we study just for the sake of achieving good grades and get depressed when we fail to do so? I find it even more absurd that some parents, who of all people should understand their child best, are the very ones who pressurise them.

A couple of days ago, news broke that a Primary 5 boy committed suicide as a result of not being able to meet his mother’s expectations. He fell short of the grades he was to achieve. Out of 100 marks, he scored 50, 20.5, 53.8 and 12 marks for English, Mathematics, Chinese and Higher Chinese respectively. And I quote, ‘the mother would cane the boy’s palm lightly, for every mark he fell short of the stipulated standard of 70 per cent’. I’ll leave you to work out the horrifying number of canes the boy was to face, which was exactly why he chose not to.

Something that hit me real hard was that even till the day the unfortunate incident happened, the boy’s mother stuck to her view. Kneeling in front of her child, she said: “I only asked for 70 marks, I don’t expect you to get 80 marks.” I am filled with shock at the absurdity of the entire situation, especially at her response. No doubt she feels great sorrow over her child’s death, yet it strikes me that even after he died, his results remained one of the most important things on her mind.

Honestly speaking, I myself can take it pretty hard when I don’t fare as well as I wanted myself to. We all have and will find ourselves in that situation at some point in time. At those times, I think it’s essential to cry if need be and allow ourselves to feel upset for a while. However, after doing so we should pick ourselves back up on our feet and remember that it’s not the end of the world.

As for parents and tutors, I urge you to come to your senses – the sooner the better. You’re here to understand your children, provide a listening ear and support them, especially in the face of setbacks. Of course, not every parent has high expectations of their child. That’s a great a relief to me as it is to your child. Realise that studies are important and cannot be done without but at the same time, know that your child isn’t going to work any better with merciless, unreasonable demands.

This is a reminder and a lesson learnt. Bear in mind that you’re not defined by your grades. Even if you fail, you’re not a failure.



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