Tuition Dilemma, A Prisoner’s Dilemma

I found myself bewildered by the impasse
An entire generation of parents was expressing their frustration over the education system

They were demanding that MOE act to stop the tuition disease, to stomp it out like a cancer
Yet the Minister had proclaimed that the education system was designed so that no student required tuition
Then how does one explain that 97% of Singapore primary school students have after school tuition?

Speaking to some teachers and parents, it seems to me that both sides were well meaning
MOE didn’t intend for parents to send their  kids to tuition as a norm
And the parents didn’t intend to spend thousands of dollars on tuition but they felt they had no choice

And I believe them both

So who is to blame for robbing these children of their childhood?
Can it be possible that this impasse was due to nobody’s fault?

After some reflection, I thought we are perhaps caught in the Prisoner’s Dilemma which explains why 2 individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in the best interests to do so

The cause was as much structural as it was cultural.

For the sake of our discussion, let’s assume there are only two parents.

Parent A doesn’t know if Parent B is going to send his kid to tuition.  Assuming tuition gives children an advantage in school, parent A will act in his self interest and send his kid for tuition, because that is the dominant strategy when there is lack of information. Parent B will do the same.

Thus, with a lack of communication and trust between parents A and B, the tendency is that both parents will send their kids for tuition.

Multiply now the number of parents. The communication and trust problem worsen.  Parents will end up sending their kids for tuition, because otherwise, their kids will lose out.  They are compelled to do so.  They feel that “they have no choice”

And we ended up with frustrated parents and a whole generation of burnt out kids

Unintended impasse by well meaning parents and schools.

So the question now is, how do we break the impasse?

Based on the prisoner’s dilemma, we may consciously choose to break from the natural order of things by collaborating, in our case, boycotting the tuition centres.

This way, we level the playing field, save the money that would otherwise be spent on tuition and most importantly, give back our children their childhood but in reality, which parents would take the risk of pulling their kids out from tuition centres which they have grown so dependent upon.

If what Education Minister said is indeed true

‘ amount of changes in the education system can alter the reality of each of us chasing after material and positional goods. We cannot have broader definitions of success in education without our society accepting broader definitions of success in life. In many respects, the education system reflects societal norms and expectations’

Perhaps a more lasting solution for breaking the impasse will require us to look into the fundamental, to redefine success and the way we measure it which will then invalidate the prisoner’s dilemma

This will require us to rethink what is education and probably a whole generation of re-education.


What We Learned From Rudolph

So I have always been hesistant to read my kids fairy tales and you can read about why here
Very often, I don’t know what to say to my kids after reading the stories
Maybe I am a poor story teller, or maybe I fail so miserably in deciphering the moral of the stories
These stories often leave me baffled and puzzled

Imagine the gory and gruesome scene of the big bad wolf eating up Red Riding Hood’s grandma
I don’t fancy having to explain to my kids why Little Red Riding Hood’s father cut up the big bad wolf even if it really has been bad
Do I teach my kids, an eye for any eye ? evil begets evil ? and how the war never ends ?

Recently at a garage sales, I brought home another old fairytale
It’s an old Christmas book about Rudolph
My preschooler liked the book and why not ?

It is a harmless book about a reindeer with a bright shiny nose who used to be a victim of bullying until he got selected to be the lead reindeer to pull Santa’s sleigh.
But Rudolph has never seems to be able to overcome the bullying problem
Then Santa turns up, likes the shiny nose, and then suddenly all the reindeers stop bullying him, and Rudolph becomes a hero, a legend.

So what is the moral of the story?

1. If you get bullied, find a powerful patron and the bullying will stop

2. When you have a powerful patron, everyone will start to be your friend

So what happens when the patron disappears ?

3. You are back to square one, a victim, because you have done nothing for yourself to overcome the bullying
You are neither smarter, stronger, nor wiser for the experience

Or maybe I should be a little kinder, perhaps the moral of the story should be

Everyone is different and everyone is beautiful
Love yourself the way you are
BUT you probably be unhappy and miserable till someone starts seeing how special and beautiful you are


So, what have we learned from Rudolph ?
Reindeer nepotism and nothing less


P/s: This post is inspired by CatchFortyWinks Rachel’s recent post
Unless the school teachers are really good story tellers, I don’t think we should start teaching fairytales in Primary schools



F is for Food, The Things Mothers Do

If you don’t know me by now, I cook everyday

On a normal day, I cook 3 meals a day
On a slightly more ambitious day, which is like almost every other day these days
I try to squeeze in a snack for tea, usually something home baked
(which explains my expanding wasitline despite an effort to jog 3 times a week)

And if you don’t know me by now, I am a survival cook, which means I cook because there are mouths to be fed
which is very different from those kind who cook with a passion, fueled by inspiration
which also explains why this space can never be a food blog

Luncheons are welcome at my place but not on weekends because they are my off days and kitchen is closed

And comment like this usually doesn’t go down very well with me
‘oh, you must enjoy cooking to cook everyday / to cook 3 meals a day / to bake so much yummy snacks for your kids’

On a good day, you will get a meek smile
On a bad day, you might get your head chewed off, ok I am exaggerating, but you get the idea

It is the same reason why a mother would wake up 10 times in the night to soothe her crying baby despite being badly sleep deprived

It’s the kind of things mothers do

Sometimes not because they Love-To
Or because they Want-To
But because they Have-To

And it took me a while to come to this



I figured out that since it is a Have-To

Why not make it Fun ?!

*Chirp Chirp*


I am still trying

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