I had a rather deep discussion with Erica last night. She was just thinking how useless it is being a first class degree holder when it comes to career prospect. In fact, nine out of ten high flyers in their careers or businesses nowadays used to be classed as “hopeless” by their teachers back in school. I really couldn’t agree more because I’ve come across a lot of examples like that.
I began to wonder what has gone wrong with the education system. Suffice to say we can’t really blame the system too much because the parents bear a huge responsibility. This is particularly true for Asian parents, or Chinese parents to be more precise. I’m not being racially biased here because I’m just speaking from my own perspective after mixing with so many Chinese students and their parents. There are a few fallacies advocated by these parents which often destroy their children’s talent one way or another.
1. My son scores straight A, he’s definitely on the road to success!
Based on my experience, lots of exams are not really designed to test your understanding of a subject matter. They are designed to test how well you can memorise formulas or facts. In fact, if you are creative, you are bound to fail in exam because your answer is out of context.
Even if you understand all the subjects, they are pretty much irrelevant in real life. The only exception is if you are having a career in scientific research, engineering or something along that line. Does solving exam questions give you the problem solving skills needed in your career? Hell no! That’s because exam questions usually have so many theories and assumptions which are not applicable in real life. More often than not, you get your answer from past year question anyway.
2. Exam score is the most important thing.
Just speak to some primary school teachers to have a good laugh. Some parents are ridiculous enough to harass them just for a few extra marks on the report card. It’s akin to patients who try to alter their health report to feel healthier.
Parents should make sure their children understand the subject and enjoy learning it. It would be even better if they can help their kids relate that to some aspects in real life. Alas, we have kiasu parents forcing their kids to go tuition and squeeze whatever mark they can from the teachers. For what? oh ya I know, so that they feel proud comparing scores with other parents. When they are bored of comparing their house, cars and jewelries, they compare their kids.
3. Co-curricular activities are distracting my kids from their study. I shall stop them!
I used to have a classmate who are exempted from co-curricular activities because her parents requested for that via official letters and connections. How fucking ridiculous was that. Co-curricular activities are the perfect opportunities for kids to develop their character. They learn how to interact with each other, organise activities, hone their leadership, solve real life problems and most important of all buff up their confidence.
I was lucky enough to attend an international school and it was a real eye opener. High school students were given the task to raise fund for their societies by organising event and selling tickets. They were not afraid to even approach corporate sponsors for our yearbook advertorials. There were lots of sports competitions, house singing, drama competition, talent shows, debates, forums etc. These are the perfect avenues to train the students’ creativity, team spirit, leadership and they all do it in a fun way. When you do something fun, the impact is 10x greater.
4. With good grades, my son sure can get good job and get rich. Pity those at the bottom of the class!
This is what I observed in the past. Some students stayed away from co-curricular activities because they want to focus on their study (mommy said cannot waste time!). In the end, they become a social outcast who scored many As in exam, but that’s all. Now picture this.
Career is all about human interaction (some call it politics) and adding real value to the company. When you sit for interview, people don’t just focus on academics but they want to see real competencies.
Let’s say your son get s a good job but what is a good job then? Just to make it easy, I equal it to high paying job. Uncle aunty, a good job doesn’t make your son rich. People get rich by starting a business and making good investments, not by working on a good job! You could easily have scored tens of As in the past but still remain as little minions in the company for years.
On the other hand, I saw some students who are really active in co-curricular activities. Some of them can’t even fit into the kiasu system because they are not designed to memorise stuff and do well in exam. Some are highly creative and entrepreneurial while some are good in music or art. These are the people who are bound to fail in exam. Guess what, they are the super high flyers in real life and I call this success. Just do some googling and you can find tonnes of tycoons who were school dropouts.
The idea here is not to say exam is evil. In fact, parents’ misconceptions are evil, not exams. To me, character building should be the No.1 priority while academic achievement is the secondary aspect. Sometimes I would imagine what would I do when I have my own kids one day. I would want them to participate in many co-curricular activities (okla, except those drug parties or dorm orgies etc) and develop a strong character. At the same time, I want them to read a lot, travel and learn new things. I will drill lots of wisdom into their head, which is more important than academic knowledge.
When they are old enough, I will just say, “Dear son/daughter, in real life nobody gives a fuck about how many A you scored in exam!”