Head to Head, or Hand in Hand with the System

It's Anne's fourth day in Primary school, and she cried before bed last night. It was a culmination of small reasons, and it was a little heartbreaking to see my little girl have to deal with so much change. Faith and I understand that it is a necessary part of growing up, but it is also shocking how quickly one can turn from teacher advocate ("parents, please give the teachers space to do their job!") to demanding parent ("of course I know my child better than her teacher!").
To see her tears flow down her cheeks as she sobbed, recounting in mortal fear how the Primary One level manager told the kids that they had to learn the National Anthem at home or they wouldn't be allowed to join in the flag lowering ceremony at the end of the school day, or how the same manager threatened the children with detention after school if they didn't keep quiet, opened old wounds for me.
Like many of my very closest peers, the Singapore education system was a bad fit for me. I spent years — a whole decade, now when I come to think of it — dreading school. There were only a half a handful of teachers who understood that I never did homework not because I was lazy, but because handwriting was painful and extremely tedious for me. The production of homework into written form seriously impeded the speed of my learning.
Anne, at the young age of 6, has had to face so many new mental constructs the past few days. Where at home Faith and I try our best to ensure she is given real reasons behind our decisions, it is unlikely she'll have that luxury in an education system designed for mass-production of compliant students. For example, at a very young age, Anne was given a lollipop. She came to us asking for permission to eat it. We gave her our permission but told her that lollipops weren't very good for the body. Much as she wanted it, she walked over to the trash-bin and threw it away.
Now in school, she will be told to do many things, without reasons explicitly communicated because it is not expedient to do so when catering to hundreds at a time. She will be told to obey, "because it is the way it is", or "because I said so", and I secretly hope she won't until she gets a good reason. We will need to teach her how to derive good reasons through observation, and not expect it to always be spoon-fed to her. There is so much we will need to teach her as parents, but we also need to keep an eye on the school system and what it teaches, and whether those things build her up, or tear her down.

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