Sunday, February 15, 2009

The value of education

There are days when I wonder ... am I where I should be? Am I doing what I should be doing and will I look back and regret about things I should have or shouldn't have done, or people I should have got to know better and all that. I have been a teacher for over 15 years, out of which over 12 years have been in SA. I look back and I think I have not done too bad a job. I might not have been the best teacher, or the best staff. But I think I have done what I am supposed to do (not as required by the boss / ministry) but what I am truly supposed to do.
Having experienced teaching in a rural setting and in such an urban school as SA, I can compare. In a rural school, my most important duty was to motivate my students to strive for a better future. This they had to do by working extra hard to achieve better exam results, and by learning to take responsibility over their future. It was a tough job motivating them because they often did not see beyond their little town, and their Form 5 years. To them, the value of education is only to pass their SPM. Perhaps that would give them a chance to work in a better place with better pay. Nothing more. Not many of them had high ambitions. Most just wanted to quickly finish their Form 5 and start earning money. Some of the parents were also of the same opinion, get the schooling years over and start earning money to support the family. Did I fault them for that? NO. I couldn't blame them for thinking like that. Situation was such for them that they just couldn't wait to earn money to support their families. In fact some were already working as they were in school. And so, when some of my former students there made it to college and university, or NOT, but still made it into the workforce, I was proud of them. I was proud of those who have gone into areas that not many have chosen and succeeded in their chosen fields. They might not have got a string of As for SPM, but they have truly succeeded. Not to undermine the worth of an excellent result in SPM, I am also proud of those who made it into uni and college and have since come out and work in various fields. I still keep in touch with many of them. They still call me "Miss Chan".
In comparison, SA is almost a total opposite of that first school I was in. Motivation to excel is NOT a problem. And yet, SA posed a different challenge to me. My girls are needy in different ways. Getting a string of As is not that big a deal anymore and most aim to score straight As. So my challenge is to maintain that kind of performance. Some might think this is an easy thing to do, but NO. It is not. Not when everyone else thinks that we are an elite school that gets to choose our students. Meaning we can pick only those with 5As in UPSR and get rid of those who are below par. Unfortunately, that is a wrong assumption. But maybe not unfortunately. I have had MANY students who did not do too well in their UPSR but have bloomed under the guidance and care of the SA staff. And I have a number of students who thought they were VERY smart and had fallen flat on their faces the moment they sat for their first exam in SA. And so, the value of education to my SA students, I think, is not so much the number of As that they are going to get. (They will still score well) It is in character building. I realise that one of the most important tasks I have in SA is in building the characters of my students. It is not as easy a job as some may think. In striving to build positive character traits in them, I too, have to show those traits. In trying to get them to not pick up undesirable traits, I have to make sure I do not display them. On top of that, I have to concentrate more on the people work, rather than the paper work. (Not too much of a paper work person anyway)
It makes me sad to think that some people on focus on the string of As. Unfortunately, our ed system is such that those said As are given a lot of attention. And because of that, the school itself, and parents too, look upon the success of the kids (and the school) measured by the As they get. If only they .... we .... can all learn to reemphasize the importance of strength in character instead of paper chase.
Where O thou, is the value of education in this day and age? Will we ever go back to basics and look at its value further than what is stated in the exam certificate?

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