Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reminisces: Thank God that's over

I hated school.

All the way from Standard 1 to Form 5, I hated school. It was not a place of learning to me; it was a place where you were stifled, questions were not welcome, you were to give only the expected answers, and teachers only cared about their students getting As. I wanted the As to make my dad happy, but at the same time I disdained them as trophies of intelligence, because it was clear to me that you didn't need to be smart to get an A; you just needed to have a great memory. So I didn't work hard for them, because I didn't think they were worth it. Not that I didn't work at all; I did enough to be consistently placed within the top 20 or so in the form, and in the end passed SPM with 4As out of 10 subjects. Heh.

It wasn't that I was reluctant to attend school; I never played truant and didn't make excuses to skip classes (although I might have if I'd been sure it would work with my parents!). I attended classes faithfully, and did my homework for the most part. But I felt trapped, and the lessons didn't engage me. No doubt I did have some good teachers, but very few of them were inspiring. In fact, I can hardly recall any of their names now.

I never thought to tell my parents that I hated school. Perhaps I didn't think it would accomplish anything, or I accepted school as something you simply had to do: one of those things that are a fact of life, that can't be fought. But the moment I had a chance, I left. I was glad to get out of the system, so relieved to be able to escape to private college after Form 5. I chose a programme with a system that was the complete antithesis of what I had been through: the Canadian Matriculation Programme, 70% coursework with the last 30% riding on the final exam. And I loved it. I loved the projects with practical applications of theory, the more informal class atmosphere, the discussions where we were encouraged to speak up and contribute ideas. It was fantastic.

Many people have warm memories of their school years and the time spent with friends and classmates, even if they did not enjoy the educational aspect of it. But as a child I was very introverted, bookwormish and a little awkward around people. I did have friends, but we didn't interact a lot outside the classroom. No sleepovers or outings and stuff. I don't have memories of doing anything particularly exciting or interesting: most of the time I was escaping into the pages of a book. (I told you, bookwormish!) Which meant that there was not much to redeem the tedium of being stuck in a system I couldn't stand. I was always being caught for surreptitiously reading novels while the teacher was teaching!

I'm now 34, having graduated from university 12 years ago (goodness, has it been that long?!). Strangely, my dad still harps about the fact that I could have done better in school, had I worked harder. What he doesn't understand is that I didn't see the point of working harder. And you know what? I don't regret it. I can't imagine how my life could possibly have been better had I scored 10A1s. I have pursued my dreams and done what I wanted to do. I have a job I enjoy, that gives me enough money to have a comfortable life. I am, to all intents and purposes, probably considered successful by most. Apparently not by my dad, though. All because I did not get straight As 17 years ago.
This post was partly inspired by this article. The article reminded me of my loathing for our education system. Yes, I am the product of a national school... a former mission school, but for all intents and purposes a national school, nonetheless.


Caedmon said...


(The shaming attitudes coming toward you, not your responses or post, that is!!!)


siehjin said...


if you think it's a good idea, i suggest you email this - or a version of this - to dad. i think he's open enough to read and understand.