Sunday, January 30, 2022

Do you trust our education system?


This is something I want to write about recently. My wife went to a meeting between parents and teachers and was really shocked at how vicious and unreasonable parents can get when they handle their teachers. 

Two specific events show that things may have gotten too far in favour of parents :

  • An old math teacher was attacked because she wrongly marked her scripts, this is bad but, in her defence, she marks her script until close to midnight. 
  • A Higher Chinese teacher was attacked because her Chinese was too 'cheem'. At least this teacher fought back, if you can't hack Higher Chinese go back to Lower Chinese. Also, because this teacher was PRC, I suspect some amount of xenophobia played into this.
In both cases, this would not have happened in my era.

I'm not going to defend the parents, but I explained that complaints will continue authorities will put a stop to this to protect the sanity of their public servants. 

If more VPs and Principals grow a pair of balls, we will not lose our best teachers to the private sector.

That being said, I do think my generation has reasons to be like this :

a) Complaining works in Singapore

The first reason is that Singapore is probably the rare country where complaining works. Our bureaucracy has a tendency to overcompensate when things go wrong so complaining is highly profitable. 

It's not surprising that Singaporeans grow up thinking that complaining is a great solution. Sadly complaining often fails or backfires in other countries ( like in Malaysia )

b) Some Gen X do not trust their educators

The second reason is that Gen X does not trust their educators. We were taught to be industrial drones while the economy transitioned into an information economy. There are still regrets of rote learning and memorization even though schoolkids do less of that these days.

I have my own tales of woe :
  • In secondary school, I had a Physics teacher who set an MCQ question and got 10 out of 50 answers wrong in a paper she set herself! I went to the library, got an A level text, got another physics teacher as referee and argued my case in the principal's office until the teacher relented. After that incident, there were rumours that the paper was copied from Nanyang Girls and the answer key was taken from her own daughter's answers. I suspect my legal training started then. I traumatised the teacher so badly my class had no physics teacher for 2 months and it was an O level year. Staff who remember the incident still ask after me today.
  • My secondary school refused to start a triple-science class because the principal believed that we were not good enough to become doctors to take a triple science workload. I don't understand why an entire generation of students must suffer to be underestimated this way.
  • Polytechnics sent lecturers to speak to us to tell us half of us will not qualify for university if don't get single-digit O level grades. I asked my RI pals whether they got the same delegation and apparently, they did not.
My own bitterness against my teachers only faded after I arrived in JC, then I was more accustomed to teachers who knew what they were talking about. Sadly that lasted only 2 years.

c) Parents also get slammed by their bosses and customers at work

I think the final reason is that parents are also human and underperform at the workplace so they get picked on as part of their work, so when they see teachers making mistakes, they get to pounce on it.

When I was working with that government agency, my supervisor, the same lady who asked an Indian contractor whether he was participating in the Little India Riots, once bragged to me how she and a bunch of parents nailed an underperforming teacher in NJC. She used to get so stressed at work from her boss who was known as the Invertebrate of the office.  

Most of the unhappiness is just what was being passed around.

I think the Ministry needs to put some brakes on all this abuse of teachers. Some of them are being abused for things done by seniors decades ago. If 500+ lawyers can just walk away from the legal profession, I fail to see why teachers cannot reinvent themselves as tuition teachers to get a semblance of sanity back. 

Let's see whether The Great Resignation will affect the teaching profession next.

If you are a burnt-out teacher, why not google the "FIRE movement" and learn how to rebel the smart way.






2 comments:

  1. I have 2 relatives, one of whom started teaching in the 1960s and the other in the 2010s.

    In terms of inflation-adjusted pay, work-life balance, privileges etc, no contest --- the current generation is like heaven.

    Besides the pay issue, old birds faced institutionalised culture like no MCs, no no-pay leave or sabbaticals, no child-care mentality (the grandparents better be able to bring the grandkids for medical checkups etc) --- and maternity leave was a strict 28-days; get your ass back to class after less then 1 month after giving birth.

    The only good thing about the old days is that there is no BS work e.g. coming up with initiatives & projects, annual work plans, leading project teams in order to get promotions, writing tons of papers, presentations, in-principle-approvals, etc, etc.

    The golden period for teaching was during the late-1980s and 1990s, when teachers' salaries & working conditions were being consciously improved by the govt, but the BS hadn't been embedded too deeply yet.

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