Before I had children, I would frown upon kiasu parents who vied for top schools for their children. I was confident (too confident) that I would take the road less traveled and not conform. Several years later, now a mom to an 8-year-old school-going daughter and a 20-month-old tot, I found my own beliefs challenged recently. And it was a sobering experience because I was forced to re-evaluate my family’s values system.
My daughter goes to an all-girls school but not one of the top in Singapore. When she got her end-of-the-year results recently, she did well enough to be placed in the top class of her cohort for Primary 3 next year. I learned that one of her classmates applied for a transfer to a top girls’ school. So, the thought of doing the same for my daughter crossed my mind. And the whole saga began……
I started to ask my friends whose children are in that school, I checked out the school and called the admin staff to ask about the procedure. I was elated to learn that though the application had closed, the school was willing to let us submit our application within the same day. Ah… that was when I started to dream (fantasize, actually) of how well my daughter would do academically like sweeping prize awards every year, being the top student in school and better still, clinching a scholarship that will pay for her university education!
I was more than happy to remain in that fantasy until my dear husband posed me a few questions and knocked some good sense into me. He said to me: “Don’t just ask which school the child needs to be in to excel. We also need to mull over whether the school she’s in needs her.” For a few seconds, I looked at him and thought to myself, “What kind of question is that?” Then he went on to explain that some mission schools, like the one our daughter attends, take in students of a wide range of academic abilities, while others accept only the top band of students. The former find it hard to retain their brighter students because the environment in the school is “less stimulating” than that of the latter. But if the brightest and the best think only of what’s best for themselves and leave for academically stronger schools, then the schools that take in average students will struggle to find student leaders of sufficient caliber to lead and inspire their peers. Being in a top school does not necessarily elevate her confidence in life. That was a revelation and paradigm shift for me.
My husband himself was from a mission boys’ school that was (and is) not academically the top in Singapore. He did very well in his studies and CCAs but opted to go to the Junior College (JC) affiliated with his secondary school out of a sense of loyalty and a desire for continuity. Very few people understood his decision, including his parents. They thought he was throwing away his chances for success at the ‘A’ levels, but things turned out otherwise.
Their proudest moment was when he emerged as top student in his JC and he clinched a government scholarship to study at a top UK University. Ironically, when he went there, he confessed that his self-confidence took a great knock as he found himself feeling small even stupid in comparison to those around him who, in his words, “had brains the size of planets”!
Hence, his words carry more weight and I, the “not-so-wise” other half, must take heed! So, I have abandoned the idea of submitting the application to that top school (for now ;-)).