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Mind Is Not a Vessel to Be Filled, but a Fire to Be Kindled Essay

“Education” may be an ordinary word to most people, but very few actually understand the deep meaning beneath it. In this dynamic world, we need to be equipped with the necessary skills and hard work to survive. Understanding the education system is integral to allow students to understand the purpose of studying, the purpose of going to school everyday. Is education in Singapore really “holistic”? Are there flaws? What is education? By definition, it would be something along the line of “ transferring knowledge”.

I beg to differ. In my opinion, education consists of more than just knowledge. From Kindergarden to University, students are put through the daily routine of waking up early in the morning, going to a place where teachers teach “the same old stuff”. By that, I am referring to knowledge. Knowledge is power, you might say. Indeed, being knowledgeable helps you stand out among the rest during the tests and examinations. But is that all about education ? Acing the tests and getting a degree? I’m afraid no.

Years after years, Singapore universities and institutions are well-known on the global front for being able to produce students with top grades. These results just keep getting better and better. Foreigners come to Singapore for education. Most people might therefore think education in Singapore is perfect. I also acknowledge that these are true, but only to a certain extent. On the other spectrum ( which is usually not shown), there are students who are not performing as well as their peers, students who are doing well but facing a lot of unnecessary stress.

This is prevalent as well. The obsessive reliance of tuition to produce grades, online forums to discuss ways to “headstart my child in education”. I find no meaning in these. This is passive learning. Similarly, there are exceptional cases which bring out the ugly truth about education in Singapore. Students faking degrees to earn scholarships, jobs , graduates saying vulgarities during graduation ceremony to ‘rejoice’ over the achievements, even local scholar prosecuted overseas for doing unethical things such as watching child pornography.

If education in Singapore is so perfect, why would such disgraceful incidents occur? Let us look at some possible reasons. Memorizing dictionaries, memorizing textbooks, doing thousands of assessment books, attending endless tuitions and supplementary classes… These are some things most pupils in Singapore are going through. They have my sympathy. Everything I have described until now is about passive learning, which revolves around results and lacking in true meaning of education. Now, let us zoom into another aspect.

Imagine this : a child who does his work consistently, revises on daily basis, reads newspapers everyday. Everything without being told. Seems like a utopian child? No. It is possible. The only thing he has compared to other students is the passion. The burning passion inside him to learn, to absorb knowledge. This drive pushes him to do everything on his own. There is no tuition, no supplementary classes, reasonable number of assessment books. Yet, this child is scoring ‘A’s for his subjects.

In Singapore schools, Ministry of Education is encouraging a whole new approach towards “holistic” education. Co-curricular activities, Community Involvement Program, Civics & Morals Education… these are programmes put in place after much effortful planning of the education ministries. There are even more recent policies such as not revealing top students for national examinations such as Primary School Leaving Examinations. I respect them for that. However, there are rooms for improvement. CCA, short for co-curricular activities, is a word that is often hung in the pupils’ mouth.

Whether they say it out of pride in a good way or bad way, I do not know. This brings me to the point of CCA mismatch. Students who feel they are “not good enough” for a CCA only after a few years in that CCA, students who feel indignant as they feel they could have gotten into “better CCA”. What are the consequences of this? Students not attending CCAs regularly, students complaining about how ‘ sien ‘ ( boring and uninteresting) their CCA is. This leads to stereotyping about CCAs and split between different CCAs, especially Sports vs Non-Sports.

While you might say it is good that CCAs are bonded together as a team, the purpose of bonding is wrong. They are making fun of other people and things they do. In the long run, this will not work. Another thing is when pupils do not attend CCAs, the school has no choice but to use deterrence methods such as demerit points. To tackle this whole situation, there is Direct- School- Admission put in place to reduce scenarios like this however the success is limited. After talking about limitations of the current education system put in place, I have some suggestions.

What I will say is also something simple : passion. Again, a simple word yet deep meaning behind it. If a student is an active learner, problems such as late/no submission of work, lack of focus during lessons, loss of notes, game/social networking addiction etc will all be eliminated at once. Students will not complain ‘ Life is Tough’ or ‘ There is too much work yet too little time’ etc. Teachers no longer have to chase after the students for work, give students boring supplementary classes.

Teachers no longer have to scold students, which deviates their focus on teaching that will result in drop in productivity. This will lead to more supplementary/remedial classes which make students get tired of learning. Ultimately, they lose passion in learning. This evil cycle of mad chase, forced homework, drilled practice will keep on going until the students change their attitude. If the students take charge of their own learning, they will automatically focus during lessons and give constructive feedback that can engage the whole class in a positive manner.

This will accelerate learning so much that the teachers will be more willing to teach and even plan fun activities for pupils to play and learn at the same time. At the same time, the students will strive to do their best in everything including daily worksheet, assignments. Ultimately, success ( which is good grades people chase after) will follow them. Therefore, I strongly feel that passion is much more important than knowledge. To put this passion in them, I think teachers, parents and students themselves all play a crucial role to ‘kindle the fire’ within them.

They can help create encouraging environment to allow pupils to share their opinions on certain topics and letting them think ‘out of the box’. They can reduce things such elitism stereotyping to encourage the pupils to exchange feedback healthily and letting them learn from one another. Occasionally, having useful motivation courses in schools by professionals also might help. Once this fire is lit, the action will follow. Students will start finding joy in learning and unknowingly, they will get good grades without even getting stressed or tired.


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