I was shocked to hear A/P Jamus Lim belittle the hard work and dedication of teachers in Parliament. He attributed the success of our students to the ‘supplementary education’ (tuition) they received and implied that our teachers and education system has failed our students.
I say this from experience. My daughter did well in her PSLE exam to qualify for a place in an integrated programme.
However, in secondary school, she began to lag behind in her studies due to various reasons. One reason was her deep involvement in a heavy CCA where she took it upon herself to do more than was required for her.
On top of her CCA, she developed an interest in cycling, swimming and running. Running became a passion that she pursued outside of school curriculum with a self-imposed discipline, training herself for marathons.
She ran 5 marathons (3 half and 2 full marathons) in 3 years. Studies took a back seat. She barely made the grade from Year 4 to Year 5.
At the end of year 5, she was struggling so far behind that she asked if she could repeat the year. She didn’t think she would be ready to take the A levels at the end of the next year.
I could see and feel her anxiety. So I readily agreed to her request and we went to school together to meet with her form teacher, level head, vice-principal and school counsellor.
When we met together, the school had already talked with her individual subject teachers and their assessment was that she need not repeat the year. They had confidence that she would clear the A levels.
They told us most of the A level curriculum had already been covered and the major part of year 6 would be revising what had already been taught.
In any case, they said, worse come to worse, if she didn’t do well for her A level, she could then retake her A level instead of repeating year 5.
After careful consideration, and taking into account all that the school had shared with us, my daughter agreed to give it a try and move on to year 6 instead of repeating year 5.
Her struggles continued in year 6. She had many consultations with the various subject teachers after-school hours to clarify all her doubts.
Believe me. Most teachers are caring people and they work very hard for their students. They have many students under their care. Each has needs different from the other. No matter how busy, teachers make time to meet with their students to help them with their studies, on a one-to-one basis if necessary. I’m thankful to my daughters’ teachers who did not give up on her when she almost gave up on herself.
The A levels came and went and my daughter took her exams. I really did not know how she would fare. In fact, the night before she received her A level results, as an anxious mother who feared my daughter would do something silly if she didn’t do well or if she failed, I told her that if her results were not good, it was not the end of the world. She could always retake the exams.
My daughter got her results. She outdid herself and surprised her teachers beyond their expectations of her, scoring several As. She had 82.5 out of 90 ranking points.
Through it all, she did not have any tuition. I did bring up tuition as an option to help her catch up but her response was that she had no time for tuition. She preferred to chart her own revision and make appointments to meet with her subject teachers for help in areas of need.
The school was very supportive and sensitive to her mental stress and anxiety. They were flexible in their approach to help her which included allowing her to spend whole schooldays in the school library to revise on her own, a request we made because she felt stressed seeing her schoolmates ‘revising’ while she was still ‘catching up’.
Let us encourage our teachers, acknowledge their dedication and sacrifices instead of making light of their contribution and attributing our students’ sterling results to a ‘shadow education system’ directly provided by parents.