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The MALINDO DEFENCE Daily

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The race to the top begins at kindergarten

commentary:  My sister told me about her eldest daughter enrolling to a Chinese nursery/kindergarten in Damansara Perdana... after a couple of months, her daughter was complaining that she had too much homework... at first, my sister think that it was probably because her eldest was giving excuses of not wanting to do her homework but later did she found out that it is true....

She went to see her daughter's teacher and said that actually other parents came to see her not because too much homework, it was the other way around... and my niece was actually 4 years old at that time ! apparently, this goes on in most Chinese medium education centre, all over the world !!!....where education is grilled into their children mind like robot....what such nonsense these people do to their children... i mean, I lived all over the world, I have never met or knew other then this type of people ie Chinese that are so KIASU... i mean, don't you guys appreciate life ? work and education is important but... having a life is also too....

 
by Anita Anandarajah 
is a stay-at-home-mum 
who lives in Hong Kong. 
She longs for the grassy 
playgrounds of her childhood.

FEB 28 – Education kills. Someone should put that warning on the back of a school enrolment pack.
To be more precise, I am referring to the pursuit of education. So great is the pressure to perform that the race to enter the best school sometimes ends tragically.
Earlier this month, a mother threw her four-year-old girl from the seventh floor of a shopping mall before jumping off herself because the girl had not qualified for a place in the school of choice.
The little girl survived the ordeal when the safety net broke her fall but the mother fell through, and died.
Newspapers reported that the child’s parents had been arguing about her education before the incident.
The girl is a student in an English Schools Foundation kindergarten but had failed to win a place at an ESF primary school. A student at an ESF kindergarten is only ensured of an interview but not a slot in primary school.
As a result, the mother, a clerk, wanted to enrol her daughter in an international school but the father, a mechanic, said he could not afford the fees.
They had already forked out $51,000 a year for the ESF kindergarten fees. There are three years of kindergarten in total.
In response, the mother replied that since her child had no future, she might as well end her life there and then.
Parents put themselves through enormous pressure to ensure their children enter the right schools. Local schools set rigorous assessments to gain entrance and the intensively competitive environment.
International schools offer a tempting alternative with a wider curriculum and less high-pressured learning environment. Parents see the former as better equipping their children for university studies abroad. However the fees are prohibitively expensive for the average family.
The third type of school, the ESF school, is therefore an attractive alternative as it is subsidised by the government.
It was set up to provide education for English-speaking children who cannot access the local system but has become very popular with locals who want western-style education for their children. However, places are limited.
As a parent of a toddler who has just taken his first tiny steps into this treacherous field, I am already suffering the sweats.
I am beginning to understand the madness, the stress that seizes a parent whose life mission is now to provide the best education on a finite budget.
You see, I missed the deadline to enrol Ishan into what should be his first year of kindergarten beginning this August in a nearby school.
Incidentally, this school is popular as the medium of instruction is equally divided into English and Mandarin unlike local schools which are fully Cantonese.
And we all know that Putonghua is this generation’s passport to world domination.
The word around town is that there is a waiting list of up to eight months at said school so parents tend to register their child a year ahead.
One parent I chatted with raised an eyebrow when I expressed surprise at the “kiasu-ness” of this strategy.
So now I worry that he will be completely lost with the Mandarin half of the syllabus if and when he enters that school several terms later.
School aside, there are the extra-curricular activities that parents invest in to ensure their child’s school portfolio is nicely padded. Some of Ishan’s playmates have signed up for swimming lessons, ballet, piano and soccer.
I have also heard of children who attend two schools simultaneously, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Ishan just turned two. He has “playroom and/or playground at 4.30pm” and play group twice a week on his list. Am I being paranoid about him falling back?
I want to be able to lean back and watch my son enjoy his childhood and develop to the best of his natural ability. Yet I can’t help but feel I should push him a lot harder.
My husband tells me that we will take it all one step at a time. We are not sure how we will cope with the highly competitive environment but we will. This is, after all, part of the experience of living in Hong Kong.
For now, I will take a tip from The Karate Kid (1984) sensei Mr Miyagi: “Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important.”
Wax on, wax off, people.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.



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