Both my boys aren’t the kind who would sit down and do colouring
I remember as a child, colouring was one of my favourite activity
It was my way of adding colour to my imagination, giving it life
I would sit down and meticulously fill up a picture with colours
It never occurred to me that that would require immense patience
I only realised that after watching my boys do colouring
I realised that when one is doing something one enjoys, hours feels like seconds
If one is doing something one dreads, a minute feels like a lifetime
Unfortunately, I only realised this after I became a mother
I learned to play the organ when I was young
Every week, I would diligently practise the song that I was supposed to learn and play
I remember dreading going for lesson because playing in front of the teacher made me really really nervous
I really enjoyed playing the organ, however, it didn’t occur to me that way then
My learning experience was more about fear than enjoyment
I did well for my tests though and even topped a couple of them but I eventually stopped the lessons after 6 years
I didn’t excel nor did I pursue my interest in music
I realised that fear could kill the joy of learning and testing did very little in cultivating one’s interest
In school, I really enjoyed art classes and dancing
I did fairly well in both and was the lead dancer for most of the dance performances
But I had never considered choosing the arts
In those days, only students with less than desirable results did arts and I was always in a science class
I grew up believing that my interest was in the Sciences and Maths
I continued to work as an engineer after I graduated from the University because during then, engineering jobs in MNCs were highly sought after
The top students secured lucrative and highly sought after jobs with MNCs even before they graduated
I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life, so I went with what everyone was vying for
I was a typical Singaporean, caught in the rat race the day I started school, a product of the system
If our education system’s objective had been to churn out workers to support the nation’s economy, then it has done really well
It had moved the country from 3rd world to 1st within a generation and in 2012, it was ranked among the top 5 best education system in the world with Finland and South Korea
If our education system’s objective is to teach me what they want me to learn so that I can pass exams, then it has been very successful
I scored well in my exams but I don’t remember half the things that were taught to me
Is it the education system’s job to help me find my passion ?
Perhaps not, because that wouldn’t guarantee that they would achieve their objective of generating non thinking workers to support the economy
Is our education system perfect ?
Obviously not, neither was it broken
I am grateful for what we have
Knowing that people will risk life to have just a fraction of what we have
Knowing that I am writing this post in spite of the less than perfect education system
Knowing that I came to to be self-aware and thinking now
Knowing that as a parent, I can compensate for the imperfections of the schools
Knowing that I can make a difference today by doing what I do, beginning with how I bring up my own children
Life is not so much about being given the best, but about making the best out of what we were given
Often it is through adversity that one builds resilience
And while we struggle with whether there is a need to reform our current education system, perhaps we should think about what is real education
And I shall leave you with a quote from David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech in Kenyan College in 2005, This Is Water
The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it.
This I submit, is freedom of real education, of learning how to be well adjusted.
You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.
That is real freedom.
That is being educated and understanding how to think.
The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant annoying sense of having had, and lost some infinite things …
The capital-T True is about life before death.
It is about the real value, of a real education, which has (almost) nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness.
Awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight, all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves…over and over…this is water…this is water’