Monday, August 12, 2019

All to get good grades – but is it worth it?

The family had a “big weekend” with the National Day celebration and Hari Raya Haji that just passed. I was actually looking forward to enjoying the rest of the last day of PH where I attended a play with Dumpling in the morning. After the play, I went for lunch with a buddy and her family. The kiddo then was with my buddy’s children and spouse when she suddenly got very upset and showed me her classmate's status update which basically read as such:

“I’m dying”
“I feel depressed”
“I’m not joking. I’m serious”

The girl then proceeded to share that it is because she has to "do 3 exam papers every day” and she has not even a day to rest. (Just to add, the exam papers are not given by the school.) Then it was followed by:

“I do wanna get good grades but I’m dying”
“I wanna cry but I can’t”

And then to our horror, she added on to say 

“She says that XX does more work than me. She’s probably right but still … too much”
“And XX doesn’t have a choice either”
“All to get good grades… it’s not worth it… I just wanna have a day when I can rest… but I can’t”
“I wanna die”

There were more in between and she ended with:
“I’m stuck here… crying”

*XX being Dumpling's name

Firstly, I do not know how it is humanly possible to expect our kids to do 3 sets of practice papers daily. Clearly, the author’s mum’s motto is “more is more”.

Secondly, my kid does not do more work than her kid. My kid does not even smell, let alone touch practice papers monthly. Heck, I will be laughing my way sending her to school if she even remembers to complete her school homework on time.

Thirdly, why is there a need to use my child or any child for that matter a yardstick for comparison? More than that, why is my child being used as an "excuse" to normalize the "3 exam papers daily"? And to dispel any myth, my kiddo is not a top student in her class. That child, however, possibly is one of the top and at the rate she is going, is well on-route to be a scholar.

I am sharing this openly not as an attempt to shame anyone but because as a parent, I am concerned.

Is this the method which we use to get our children to excel – the non-stop practice papers and the pressure by saying that another child is doing more work than yours? Why is there such a need for these comparisons and the need to be so overly focused on just grades? When your child is pushed to a corner where she used her whats app status to share these, does it not say something? When she talks about dying not once, not twice but thrice, does it once again not say something? 

I am sharing this openly also because my child, after seeing the status update was very upset and broke down outside, witnessed by my buddy. In short my child feels that she does not want to do well in school if it means that her friend bears that brunt of it. She also could not understand why she was dragged into it, where "she" (in the status updates) had the impression that my kiddo does exam papers like a machine and my kiddo also did not understand why there is a need for such comparison. Mostly, Dumpling was upset that she will end up not having a friend due to all these competition.

I am sharing this openly because I truly wonder, when have grades become more important than mental health and other things such as values – honesty, perseverance, integrity and responsibility? Why are grades, the only definition of “success”?

I am sharing this because I am worried about the kind of world our children are raised in. Though there are changes to the education landscape where exams are removed, it is very clear here that it would take loads more before such competitions and the the over emphasis of “grades” are lessened in our society. It is sad because in a warp way, what we have done is like what we see in a B-grade movie: we created this grade culture and monster and think that we have it under our control, instead laughably, it has infiltrated our system, "become" the system, gotten into our DNA and it now owns us. Our children end up being drilled endlessly, disliking school and unfortunately, experience first hand how "Kiasuism" and the pursuit of grades drive a wedge in their love for learning and in forging genuine and healthy friendships. 

So, the question aptly asked above resonates deep and true: “all to get good grades – but is it worth it?”

Is your child’s sanity worth it?  


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