Nov 1, 2010
School can wait, childhood cannot
Gen Y parents should relax a bit and not push to make kids top achievers
IT IS easy when you are not a parent to write off worries that run along the lines of, what if my child does badly in school? Or what if she does not have the interview skills to get a good job? Or what if he lacks an appreciation of the arts?
Me, I worry instead that Singapore's novice parents - my peers - seem to be pushing too hard when it comes to childraising.
Rattled by the Ministry of Education's announcement that examinations at the Primary One level would be scrapped by 2013, many parents rushed to buy endangered exam papers of top primary schools from unauthorised vendors.
Let's not even talk about private tuition. Last month, The Straits Times reported that children as young as four are being sent for extra classes to prepare them for primary school. And, oh, to the Toastmasters Club to hone their speech and presentation skills.
At this rate, the average Singaporean six-year-old will soon have: a Grade Eight certificate in piano and violin, flawless public speaking skills, the ability to multiply and divide four-digit numbers and a vocabulary to bamboozle college professors.
Early childhood educators have advised caution. If a child enjoys his or her classes, then there is something to be gained from them. But children should not be dragged there kicking and screaming.
While parental concerns about a child's future are legitimate, I wonder if the greater slice of Gen Y, achievement- oriented and exposed to a surfeit of education options, measures success only in terms of grades and trophies.
Or do they, as time-starved young professionals, equate enrolling their children in enrichment courses with a greater contribution to their development?
I believe that an unwilling child is likely to learn nothing, regardless of his hours in class. And isn't it a happy childhood that matters in the end, since it's something that cannot be reclaimed?
From age four to six, I frequented the playground and not tuition centres. The piano was a foreign instrument that produced noise when I attacked its keys.
At six, I played an angel in a kindergarten Nativity play. My knees shook and I forgot some lines. And maths? What was maths?
I still passed A-level mathematics, went to university, got a job and can knock out some tunes on the piano.
In a blog devoted to her cancer-stricken four-year-old daughter - now cancer- free after chemotherapy - a former teacher of mine summed it up best: 'One thing I know for sure, I'm going to let my little girl enjoy her childhood and forget about angsting about her being monolingual or being unable to spell anything other than words like princess, love, castle and once upon a time.
'School can wait. Jobs can wait. Childhood cannot. Life cannot.'