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.

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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.

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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.


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38 replies on “Elite Schools: A Nay For Me

  1. As a mom of four i can say. .you are right…right by saying no particular could ever teach our childre life skills which would need them to survive.

    My girls are all enrolled in an elite school here..is it bad? No..is the best? No..but i believe as a mom i have nurtured and taught them lessons and values in life that will make them the best versions of themselves..currently i am.happy with how my girls are behaving …and i continue to pray and continue to teach them everyday lessons that would make them strong and independent adults..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are a very wise mommy. I have a lot to learn from you. I can’t even juggle one, let alone 4! OMG! Someone told me that we as parents can only give our best shot and hope for the best, that they grow up with values and morals that will carry them for life when we are long gone.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elite schools in Malaysia do not have such requirement as to own premises around the school area. Is international school considered elite school? I attended a government school and experienced all that you went through. I took Taekwondo in school to deal with bullies and got my black belt at age 16. My instructor even brought us for competitions but I wasn’t cut out for it and have no regrets. The good ones can even represent the district, state or join the national team. National team train in Bukit Jalil sports school. I learn swimming there for very affordable fees. Recently, Malaysia’s female diver Cheong Jun Hoong won a gold medal at World Championship held in Budapest. Most of my relatives went to Chung Hwa Independent School and attended university studies in Taiwan. I made several friends in government school who are awarded scholarships by the Singapore government to study medicine or science in NUS. In conclusion, government school students can excel in life too. It depends on how one measures success πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, in Singapore. There are the international schools and then there are the elite schools like Raffles, CHIJ, Anglo Chinese School. Those are not international schools although they do take in foreign students.

      I’m not sure about Malaysia but I did hear about the distinction between Chinese and Malay Schools from my local friends. Elite schools debate is very much the same in Singapore, only stronger. Parents will sell away their homes and move nearer to their desired elite school in order to secure a place for their child, they will queue overnight for application and it is not unheard of to donate huge sums or volunteer many hours in the school.

      Love your conclusion and I agree with that too. Government students do and can excel in life. The way I measure success is when my child achieve the success that she wants and hopefully she measures her success in the way we measure our happiness, good health and blessings, not in material and social status.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply. Now I know the definition of elite schools. Don’t laugh but I attended so called “elite schools” in Malaysia for Form 6. I wasn’t an exceptional student nor do I have rich parents. In fact, I stay in one of the poorest and crime prone areas in Kuala Lumpur. However, at that time, not many Chinese wanted to pursue Form 6. On the other hand, the Malays have easier options to gain admission into local universities through matriculation system. Elite schools in Malaysia are Victoria Institution, St Mary’s, St John’s, Sam Tet, Penang Free School, Chung Ling High School, Catholic High School PJ and etc… Parents in Malaysia do not need to pay an arm and a leg to send their children to these schools. These schools are famous because many ministers and even Prime ministers were ex-alumni. Anyhow, ministers are not that respectable here in Malaysia as they do in Singapore due to nepotism, cronyism and corruption.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nah, I never laugh at others, only at myself. I heard about the Malays and their special admission into local U, life is sometimes unfair.. Well, corruption happens everywhere and yes, even in the safe clean Singapore. It is reported every now and then. There must be a long queue for these elite schools in Malaysia. In Singapore, we even have elite kindergartens. Shocking! But what is more shocking, my friend who is barely pregnant has already registered for her unborn child on the waiting list.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Don’t worry! It’s okay to laugh. I’m just joking πŸ™‚ The matriculation system opted by the Malays has it’s pros and cons. It might look good on paper as every 3-4 months they’ll sit for exam and assignments taken into consideration for grading but whether or not they built strong foundation is a different story. STPM (Malaysia’s equivalent of A-level) might be tough but what mattered more was we took up the challenge and gave our best shot. Don’t need to play dirty because at the end of the day, like karma, it comes back to kick us in the butt. Recently, Geely acquired Proton, our national pride. I’m pretty sure Proton will undergo the worst restructuring in history. I’m not sure whether there will be a long queue for elite schools in Malaysia these days as recession predicted to last until 2019. It helps to visit schools for enquiries. I received a letter by the Ministry of Education to attend my sixth form there. There are many options in Malaysia even if a student doesn’t get to attend local universities. Monash University, Nottingham University, University of Reading, Xiamen University and etc had established their overseas campuses here. Wow! Elite kindergartens too!!! I’ve only heard of Montessori in Malaysia. What mattered more to me is that kids enjoy the process of learning. Sometimes, too much planning and pushing the kid too hard might backfire. There were several cases where Singaporean graduate students attempted murder in Ivy League by poisoning to eliminate competition. I believe in taking the middle path πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Talking about Proton – a sad case, good intention but bad execution and management. I always love it when a country tries to build their own stuff rather than to rely on imports. Like you said, a national pride. Singapore is way too dependant on imports but that’s a different story for another day. I’m not sure about the queue in elite schools in Malaysia but I heard the queue in International School in KL is gone, together with their expatriate parents – again like you pointed out – recession.

            Yes, it is crazy to think that Singapore has elite kindergartens, not the Montessori ones but schools like Nanyang Kindergarten (where the Lee family went to), St James, Etonhouse etc. Do you know Etonhouse’s monthly school fees is RM14,500!

            And I know top Singaporean graduates who commit suicide because they couldn’t face failures in life, whether in relationships or at work. To me, I rather let my kid rumble and tumble in the mud while under my care than to put her in a bubble wrap. πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Maybe the queue in elite schools in Malaysia will most likely be longer during recession if the fee remained the same as before. I’m unsure about the current fee structure, but when I did F6 there, it was heavily subsidized by the government. I remembered paying less than RM200 a year for school administrative fee. It’s best to check for yourself because you might hit the jackpot. Who knows? Also, I completed my entire 3 years of bachelor degree in a local university for less than RM15,000 tuition fee. Although not glamorous like NUS, but some lecturers graduated with PhD from Tokyo University, ANU, Imperial College and etc. We were so poor while staying in dormitory that some girls could only afford boiled rice vermicelli with soy sauce. The girls can’t get study loan and their parents can’t help so can only save money working as part-timers during F5 and F6 breaks. It was a miracle that we all manage to graduate.
            Wow! RM14,500 is the price of a return flight from KL-Mongolia-Moscow-Munich-Iceland-Lima-KL route. Some Montessori cost RM1000+ a month. To me, Montessori is already a luxury.
            You are right! If you love them enough you will care to discipline them for their own sake. The consequences of Malay government, that overprotect their own kind to gain easy vote during election produces ministers who care

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Haiz… that’s the sad truth. But Malaysia has a lot of good points, some better than Singapore. I’ve been living in KL for 2 years and I can tell you I love the people here. More heartwarming and kind. Not that Singaporeans are not all that but we became so stressed and pressured by society, we turned into walking zombies with our heads bow down to our gadgets. Definitely not something I want my daughter to learn from. Every schools produce white and black sheeps, like you pointed out, it is home discipline and background that influence our children the most. One thing good being here, I can choose to be a work-from-home mom, lucky to be able to teach my own child, instill strong foundation and bonding from birth. If I’m back in Singapore, she probably will be placed in childcare at 4 months old or with a maid and won’t see both her parents except during weekends.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. One can learn the best lessons in life by him/herself. No parent, teacher or any school in the world can taught you what we learn on our own. And this learning is definitely the most helpful for us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Hammad. To think about it, when she grows up, she will be reading the part articles and comments of MiddleMe. Hopefully, she will be able to read yours and find it profound. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess it might be down to the right fit for each child. Many parents have advised me it is not the school or the education that matters but the teacher who guides and nurture the child. I’m only a 6 months old parent. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, it is the teacher that matters. Also, the curriculum in a private school is rich and not test-driven. Keep open mind mind, and let your child’s interests, etc. lead the way in decision making. Best to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kally, being a boy I probably would not have punched you around but instead fall in love with you until eternity. I agree, one has to learn life while falling and getting up again. You will perhaps remember me – I am the kid with the always bruised knees and broken glasses. I do however think that the children at private schools are not perse pampered and that there could be a lot of strain on their small shoulders, for they have to succeed, no matter (or money) what.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awww.. Peter, you are sweet to say that! First sentence and completely melt my heart. I do remember when I was at school, I had a lot of male friends. The jocks, the bullies and the kids with bruised knees and broken glasses were all my best buddies. I wasn’t the kind of girl who will pour over fashion magazines and only talk about the latest heartthrob. I don’t fit in the girly cliques but I find comfort in the boys’ teams. I do agree with the strain on the child’s shoulder to succeed, therefore, I rather my child please no one but herself. For a start, I am doing everything I can to nurture her confidence level.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is what I am afraid of. My little diva has shown strong personality and character. I don’t want anyone, including myself to suppress her true self. If she shown leadership qualities, great! Let’s groom her in that. If she prefers to be working behind the scene, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Far be it for me to dispense advice, but having had the privilege of experiencing both environments growing up here in America, I would honestly advise against allowing a child demonstrating those special qualities to attend public schools.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think education is always important, however, it is not everything in life. We also have these schools in Scotland, we call them private schools. Only rich kids go to these posh schools πŸ™‚ I think kids should have more of a balance between fun and academics.

    Great article!

    Dave πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes they become straight A students with all this extra help, support and one to one tuition.
        However, one of my friends was thrown out because of lack of discipline. His dad was raging!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Not necessarily,
            I’m sure your daughter will be a good student whatever school she goes to. It’s not always what education you have, it’s what you do with it that matters.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Spoken like a true coach! Certification is not important in my eyes, I rather she been happy and healthy, and be a good person than some top notch corporate somebody who only has money in her eyes.

            Liked by 1 person

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