Thursday, 7 January 2010

Second chance

My friend EE read a letter sent in by a parent to the newspaper and asked for my point of view. The letter "My son deserves a second chance" is about a teenager who got kicked out of junior college because of his poor results.

According to his father Mr Vincent Tan, the son is a smart chap who had simply lost the motivation to study. Naturally, after the letter was published, people rushed in to comment. While some were sympathetic, there were others who are downright cruel.

I, for one, do not like to comment unless I know the scenario very well. Obviously what we have seen is a letter from a parent pleading for a second chance. We do not know what problems the son had encountered or even caused in school. Logically, he would have been counselled by the teachers and is made aware of the severity of the situation before the expulsion.

Yet as a parent of two teenage boys, I can't help but sympathise with Mr Tan and his son. While most people are quick to criticise the boy's immaturity and attitude, I'm trying to recall what first year of junior college was like for me. At 17, I was like a lost sheep.

While my friends and I were by no means stupid, we couldn't quite figure out what the lecturers were teaching. We struggled all year but thankfully the schools weren't so merciless then. Only the troublemakers got expelled from school. The rest of us made it through JC and many went on to the university.

One thing I know for sure is teenage years can be very tumultous for some. Things that seem trivia may bother them alot until they have reached a level of maturity to deal with different situations. Having supportive parents and teachers around will make the transition easier.

Having said that, every child develops at his own pace. That explains why there are leaders and late-bloomers. We need all kinds to fill the society.

Like it or not, the Singapore education system is very result driven. The top schools will settle for nothing but the best, they have no room for slackers. It's a cold-hard reality. I already knew that the day my kids entered kindergarten. I also know my children's capability and personality, so I have learned to manage my expectations. I also tend to look on the bright side.

Over time, Mr Tan will come to terms with the school's decision. Though it may be the end of JC life, it's not the end of the world. Like what many people have commented, there are many other options. In fact, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Who knows?


petunialee said...

I teach in a university that accepts adult learners who in the past could not make it into either of the 2 existing universities.

I realized after some time that there are absolute geniuses in the student cohort that were somehow handicapped in the development by family circumstances beyond their control.

Some had abusive parents. Others had parents who gambled. Others had to work to supplement the family income. My university gives these people a chance to fulfill their latent potential.

Talent is too precious to throw away. To do well in an elite JC, the child has to have a stellar environment - happy parents, supportive family, enough study resources, enough time... Many very bright people don't have these basic requirements to get ahead.

As a result people reject and judge them poorly. It's like throwing away diamonds in the rough.

Nick Phillips said...

It's not just the schools that are result drive these days. Parents can be slave drivers too when it comes to education. Sometimes I think they push the kids too hard.

auntielucia said...

Like it or not, the Singapore education system is very result driven.: alas Blur, everything in life (and not only in Singapore!) is results driven. That's why we have KPIs, formal and informal. Otherwise, without measurement and judgement, we won't know whether the candle is worth the game!

Amelia Listiani said...

I find that in the internet world, it's so easy to comment about so many things and write so negatively about anything.

You're right about how people learn different ways at different paces. My brother would be also categorized as a late bloomer compared to me (I mean in the education world), but he's doing so well now. I'm SO proud of him! :-D