I have to be shooting myself in the foot or in the mouth, by being judgey to say I will prefer not to let my daughter go to an elite school and go through an elite system. To explain myself clearly, an elite school in Singapore refers to top and mostly private schools that parents will buy a property so that they are within a certain radius of the school’s location in order to qualify admission or they will take leave from work to volunteer in the school’s activities or just donate piles and piles of money at the school.
I used to want the very best for my child (before I got pregnant) and thought that by enrolling her to an elite school, I am setting her foot on the right path. After all, an elite school in Singapore have a different set of curriculum. Their extra curriculum activities include golfing and tennis while a government school only provides football, basketball and if we’re lucky, swimming. When an elite school goes on a school trip, they travel to America and Europe. When a government school goes on the same trip, the furthermost you go is Malacca or Thailand.
An elite school aim to grow an all rounded student by advocating innovation and creativity while in the government school, all we had is rote learning (I heard they are trying to change that). Perhaps the greatest benefit being in an elite school is the shoulders you will rub with. The network you created when you are young, are students whose parents are elites themselves, perhaps high-flyers, the wealthy and the famous. The young ones are destined to take over their parent’s businesses, if not, expected to follow their footsteps in law, medicine..etc. the treasured friendships carefully groomed over the school years will prove its worth once you reach your prime years in the working society where you’ll tap into your rich network and pull in favours from recommendations to investments. Heck, just like Hollywood, you’ll be seen hanging out with the right people – the elite crowd.
You don’t get that kind of networking connection by going to a government school. Most of the young ones will end up being a worker bee, forever employed under someone’s thumb. Of course, there are always some that made it big in life but with odds stack against them. So why would I not want to send my daughter to an elite school then? Simple. Elites are expected to perform, exceed and excel in studies, in sports, in life. While it is a positive thing, the flip side of the coin is that they take failure very hard. They are not used to failure and take it very personally. Not all of them are like that I’m sure. The elites I have met in life are very similar, when they fall, it took them a lot more effort and time to pull themselves up because they are not used to failure. It has been ingrained in them that they should succeed because they have been given the best in the system, they can’t fail, they should not fail and if they do, something is wrong with them, not the situation is wrong but they themselves are wrong.
I came from a government school. I get into fights with boys. I get blood on my school uniform (the boys’, not mine) when I was 9. I learned to stand up to bullies at school on my own (you don’t let teachers meddle in social situations. You do that, you don’t earn respect from your peers.) My mother gave up buying new school uniforms for me because the sleeves get torn too many times by boys trying to catch hold of me. At the age of 15, I came home with a badly bruised arm and a starry eyed grin. It was my birthday presents – punches from the boys in my class. My mother was horrified but I wore the bruises as badges of pride because other female classmates of mine get drenched in plastic bags filled with dirty toilet water (homemade water bombs) or throw bags of flour with spoiled rotten eggs when they turned 15. But I, a girl, get punches like the boys in my class when they turned 15. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
I learned a different kind of social skill set. I learned to stand up for myself. I learned that only you and you alone can turn the situation around in your favour. I learned that to beat the boys, be one of them. I fell many times, I always got up myself and brushed off the dirt. I failed many times too, like a fall, I brushed off the embarrassment and bruised ego, and try again. I saw my friends glue sniffed. I saw my friends shoplifted. I saw my friends dropped out of school. I saw my friends got pregnant and unwed. I learned to trust my own instincts, made my own decisions and fought extremely hard against peer pressure. You know when you are a teenager, your whole world is about acceptance from your peers, I fought hard against that when I don’t see the reasoning behind their actions. I rather be an outcast.
And I am.. an outcast. Not throughout my school life but sometimes. Especially when I don’t fit in the crowd. I learned that it is okay not to have friends (particularly when they are bad). I learned that it okay to mix around with other types of cliches – the nerds, the popular, the weirdos. I learned to love and accept myself the way I am. No exception.
I admit no school will teach my daughter that. But if I am to enrol her in an elite school, am I giving her the softest cushion on a silver platter surrounded by roses or am I giving her the greatest head start in life? And if she goes to a government school, is she doomed for life or is she given the chance to walk with the bad, the ugly and the street smarts?
As a mother, I can only trust my instincts and make the best decision for my child. But there is no denying that the best education is the one she learns on her own, on the streets and not within pages.
Join MiddleMe at Twitter (MiddleMe_net), FaceBook (MiddleMe.net) and WeChat! Best things in life are meant to be shared, start spreading MiddleMe around, after all, sharing is caring.