A Holistic Singaporean Education

April 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

photo by chrissuderman

Some thoughts on my education in Singapore by looking at myself and the children I encounter. How can we cultivate the inner-being of a Singaporean child?

Singaporean children find it hard to appreciate education. Because beyond education, they’ve never really experienced anything else before. As a recipient of Singaporean education, I found it hard to connect my education with the larger society too.

If you give children in Nepal or Vietnam a chance of studying in a school, they find it to be nothing less than the pot at the end of the rainbow. Most of these children in developing countries crave an education because they’ve had all kinds of experiences. Except having a school to study in, books to read, pencils and paper to write on. They’ve helped out on the farm, peddled candy on the streets, and worked the graveyard shift at backpacker hostels. All for survival and a shot at having the chance to study.

Criticisms and voices that the children in developed nations are spoilt and pampered to not appreciate the value of an education are all-too-common. They only hint at the These one-sentence summaries are nothing more than mental biases that lack intellectual effort needed to think through these issues.

A fuller education includes learning the key to appreciation and gratitude. This you can only get by having a multitude of experiences. Give your children a sense of appreciation of what he/she has by exposing her to as many various situations as possible. Let her know that not everyone in the world lives the way she does.

Build emotional resilience in her by pointing out what’s the more important things in life, and quickly drop the disappointments.

A recent Reddit comment in response to this video sums up the perspective of a parent wanting to build emotional resilience in a child:

“I’m saying that as a parent with a young child. I’ve taught my child to just shake stuff off. Bash your elbow on the playground? What’s more important? Crying or playing and having fun? Your friend said something mean? What’s more important? Enjoying your day or worrying about something stupid your fellow four year old said?

As a result, she’s a total bad ass. She’s the first up after a collision on the playground, she’s emotionally robust, and nothing can really get her down.

Her best friend on the other hand. Jesus Christ. You’d think her parents read the “How To Raise an Emotionally Crippled Emosaurus” manual when they found out they were having a baby. “

Travel is one of the best ways to do this. Visit local villages, bring them to local schools to take a look and understand that education means different things to people in different places.

At home, put children to suitable work as early as possible. Help out around the house with simple chores. Get them to start their own little businesses, be it lemonade stands, online e-stores, or their own little rent-a-book libraries. Work at retail to learn the true laws of demand and supply. What do customers want? What kind of shit isn’t tolerated by them? Valuable experience to be carried into young adulthood.

The children are going to hear “You’re not qualified to be a teacher, you haven’t had much experience, you’re too young, you’re not smart enough.” It might come from us adults though. Don’t depend on Singaporean education to give you opportunities for experience. People and institutions in Singapore put too many barriers.

When it comes to education, we seem to be perfectionists. Its not about being qualified, or trying to give our children “world-class education”, whatever that means. Getting a holistic education means receiving AND giving. Start getting children to do stuff if you want them to understand whats going on dammit.

Only one way to get “qualifications”: start doing and stop giving excuses.

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