#1 post of Toxic Tuesdays! Toxic Tuesday will now be a day when I address an issue which has been bothering me, and my blog & my instagram will serve as platforms for me to voice out my own opinions and hopefully introduce a change for it in the near future, with your support.
today’s topic is:
SINGAPORE & ITS CENTRAL FOCUS ON PERFORMING WELL ACADEMICALLY.
Hello, hello, it’s mid-May of 2017 and we are still stressing over doing well in the academics. We still find ourselves cramming our brains with quotes from a literary text, memorising the order of a model answer to score full marks, burning the midnight oil just to do more practise questions. Oh, have I mention the results? Lack of sleep, motivation, purpose. And yes, by results, I meant consequences of doing the above, not results, as in the red numbers they mark on your paper…but since you are concerned over that….at that point of getting back our numerical results, it will often be a scenario of tears, angst over not getting that one mark, not being a rank above your peers. Hello, hello, welcome to a student’s life in Singapore.
I must confess, that I’ve never really thought deeply about this topic. Perhaps because I have, like any other student here, been trapped in this cycle of ‘studying hard for a good future’ since I was 7 years old, and was never really given that freedom to think of alternatives. I am rarely reminded of the purposes of studying, or learning, for the sole sake of acquiring more knowledge, but rather, to get into a good university – to get a good job – to earn good money – and at the end of the day, that’s supposed to make us ‘happy’ – wait, does that even matter here? After all, we are ranked 26th in the World Happiness Report.
What triggered me to think of this issue was my continuous phases of stress and breakdowns in my preparations for exams. I switch to self-reflection mode, often wondering to myself, ‘Why? What’s the point? Why do I feel an overbearing pressure on myself to do well? Why isn’t learning to broaden my knowledge and to be able to apply it in daily life more important than getting good grades? What has happened?’.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but finally got on to doing it today, after another trigger point – it being this article. The title reads ‘More Sota students go on to pursue non-arts related fields’ , with quotes like ‘the percentage of graduates pursuing non-arts related university courses has increased from 60 per cent in 2012 to 83 per cent in 2015’. This article has received mixed comments from the public, voicing out how it is disappointing to see us, SOTA students, not pursuing the arts after given such a great opportunity to practise it in school, and ‘wasting spaces that could have gone to people more deserving’.
For myself, I felt such netizens whom have bravely voiced out their own opinions, without having much context of the school’s curriculum and rigour, do have a point, and I somewhat agree with them. Yes, it is quite disheartening to see us train in our arts but not practise it after school. I guess they’re probably questioning what we even do in school, and it seems that our efforts have gone down the drain. But what do you know?
Firstly, to pursue the arts professionally is tough work. We are all faced with that harsh reality once we enter SOTA. You need a great deal of passion and dedication to step into the real world of the arts. And perhaps, the some of us who don’t feel we are capable of that, should be able to make our own choices on how else we can contribute to society and make a living, and we are ok with that. In a specialised school, you can never guarantee a turn-out that will all leave the school with what they came in for. SOTA has allowed me to grow and experiment, letting me have the freedom to try out what works best for me. With that said, it does not mean that we entirely abandon our arts. For the past 3 1/2 years in that school, I have learnt so much from the arts – discipline, integration & collaboration, importance of different interpretations, the list goes on. Hence, what matters is that all of us have gained so much, in terms of values, from the arts, so why don’t we focus on the process, and not the end result?
Secondly, the reason why the numbers pursuing non-arts related fields have increased could be a result of more stress on the academics in SOTA. In my opinion, the school has been putting more emphasis on the importance of doing well in the academics and not striking the balance between it and the arts. This is seen through changes in assessments, as well as the changes SOTA has made in marketing itself. I have discussed this with a few of my classmates before, and have all shared the same opinions as I carry. I feel that such changes the school has implemented was a result of wanting to appeal to the general public, and the standard way of life here in Singapore. The emphasis on how ‘yes, don’t worry, we still study normal academic subjects here!’ still exists because our nation has yet to change. At the recent Singapore Art Book Fair, I got my hands on a copy of the (beautiful) The Ideology, a type of magazine which covers issues related to politics, philosophy and art. An article by Loh Sze Ming, titled ‘On Education and the Learned Individual’, stood out to me. Here’s a few lines, or paragraphs:
‘In order to ensure more students get better qualifications and ranks, we play the game of credentialism. We develop an education system that focuses on grades…so they are more likely to be employed, and branding – for prestigious schools will land you a bigger pay cheque’
‘When was the last time someone touted their CCA as something that looked good on a resume? There is a lot of subjectivity and a lot more lets’-get-these-kids-into-the-workforce. With standardised testing and world rankings, we’ve got ourselves an education system lacking personal development for personal development’s sake and one says ‘don’t question, just do the question’.
‘When we celebrate education as the solution, did we mean the system of education or the state of being educated?’
‘Educators need to stop thinking of themselves as encyclopaedias, and think of themselves as facilitators. Take us (the kids) further! Get us to question and evaluate the data and sources, teach us why these sources are powerful…Don’t ask me to memorise these facts; teach me how to understand them and when they are relevant. Don’t shut me down when I ask questions…don’t kill that spark‘
I felt that article really carried a lot of my own thoughts and feelings, and Loh Sze Ming really helped to put them in neat, coherent sentences which I couldn’t have done haha. I really hope this has at least let you to think more of why you are going to school tomorrow, completing your homework, memorising that reaction. I am not preaching ‘school is bad! stop studying!’. I want people to think about why, and how we can make school less of a drag where getting good grades is not our only concern, and think of the knowledge we can gain instead. Perhaps, and I’m truly praying, that someday, we can make a change in how we learn here, and create a better learning environment which focuses on processes and values we can learn, rather than the ‘Excellent’ grade to strive for at the end of the day. If you’ve read till here, thank you. Thank you for letting me share, and please think about it and share it with others if you feel the same. Let’s be the generation of change-makers, because collectively, we can do it.