There is so much discussion on the Singapore education scene, how children are stressed, have tuition to get ahead, etc. I share how I get to where I am today.
I started primary school in early 1960s in order to place this piece of writing in context. My father was born in China and came to Singapore to find work before the Japanese Occupation. Both my mother and father had no formal education and I partly relied on my siblings to cope with my studies. Most time, it was self-reliance. Back then, tuition was unheard of, except for some wealthy families who can afford to engage private tutors.
I went to a primary school that was just nearby my home. We never thought of branded schools as we knew no better. I studied hard in primary school and relied on school teachers to achieve good grades throughout the years, except for my poor grasp of English Language. The family environment was not conducive for me to be fluent in the language.
After the release of PSLE results, came the time to pick a secondary school. I remember looking at Raffles Institution as a possibility but opted for middle ranking secondary school, Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, so as not to waste my first choice in case I was not good enough for RI. Frankly, it was also a fear of coping in a top ranking institution.
I remember that during my formal education years, the Ministry of Education was always changing educational policies in my cohort. But we took it in our stride despite the changes.
After GCE “O” Level, my choices open up. I chose National Junior College and tried a JC route of education. Back then NJC and Hwa Chong Junior College were the only two JCs in Singapore. I recall struggling with Physics and Economics. My classmates were coping so well that I felt inadequate.
My GCE “A” Level results were good enough to get me through Accountancy degree in National University of Singapore. I switched focus from science-based education to business-related qualification. I did not dogmatically stick to my original educational trajectory and we could have choices to make back then. I realised that one can achieve his dream by studying diligently.
I consider myself to be a late starter. I went on to do my Master’s from NTU and came up top in my particular specialisation. My years of work life provided me a chance to excel. Both IQ and Emotional Quotient (EQ) played an important impetus in my educational journey.
There was no tuition and there was no parental pressure on me. I consider moral values instilled in me by my parents and siblings as more important than the grades in my educational qualifications. Some important values include:
1. Be honest, which includes achieving fairly fruits of own labour.
2. Be kind to others and not to cause harms to others.
3. Be humble even as we are doing better than others.
4. Be generous and offer assistance.
5. Be thrifty and living within one’s means.
6. Be hardworking and focused on task in hand.
These attributes see me through life and I am passing them on to my daughter. Academic results follow when one put in effort. It is not an end itself. Education serves to strengthen our virtues and put us on the right path of right living. Our teachers are there to guide their charges and together with parents they put us through what we are today.