Parent pays nearly $6,000 a month in tuition fees
Maureen Koh | The New Paper | Tue Mar 6 2012
Her son is a straight A student in a top boys' school here yet this mother spends $5,800 a month on his tuition.
Her son, who is in Secondary 3, attends classes for English and mathematics at a premier tuition centre in Thomson once a week - two hours per session.
He also takes a 2 1/2-hour weekly Chinese class in a popular language school.
And he gets one-on-one tuition - each for about two hours - for physics, chemistry and biology with a private tutor.
All these classes are on top of the regular supplementary lessons that his school gives.
...To top it off, she pays people to do her son's homework when he can't cope with the combination of school and tuition assignments.
She pays $200 per hour if they have to swing by before midnight and $250 an hour when its later.
The article goes on to describe other parents who spend enormous sums on tuition for their children. A certain Mrs Pauline Soh, spends $4,000 a month on her daughters who are in Primary 4 and Secondary 2. Meanwhile, Mr Franck Chan, spends $2,000 each on his twin sons who are in Primary 6.
It gets more insane. A certain Madam Cathy Ho, spends about $1,200 a month each on her children who are 5 and 6 years old respectively. The reason for spending so much money even before they have entered primary school? According to Madam Ho herself, "When my children make it to a better school and do well, I'll be the one having the last, and best, laugh."
Many children nowadays now work harder than investment bankers or corporate lawyers. They wake up early in the morning at 6.30am to get to school and go to bed around midnight. In addition to their normal school workload, they are sent to 'elite' tuition centers where they receive tuition in every conceivable subject matter. And then after tuition they slog away at piles and piles of homework, which they often don't even have enough time to finish.
Something has gone seriously wrong with Singaporean society. Singaporean parents now look to the academic success of their children as status symbols. The education process is no longer about identifying the talents of children and helping them achieve their potential; it is now an exercise in getting them to acquire as many A's as possible and getting them into branded institutions.
Status anxiety used to be about getting that mercedes benz or that bigger bungalow or that flashier rolex or that hermes handbag. But now it's about which school your kids are going to and how many A's they got in school - and parents will gladly pay nosebleed sums of money and deprive their children of their childhood in order to satiate their pride. Indeed, a multi-million (billion?) dollar tuition industry has been built to help compensate for Singaporean parents' insecurities.
Unfortunately, what these parents do not realise is that getting straight A's does not necessarily correlate with "success" in life. No less than Tharman Shanmugaratnam himself admitted that Singapore is an "exam meritocracy" rather than a "talent meritocracy". While Singaporean students tend to come out tops in terms of academic tests, they significantly underperform when it comes to skills like creativity and innovation, things that are critical to succeed in modern society. The truth of the matter is, in the workplace, nobody gives a damn how many A's you scored in school or which university you went to. The moment i finished my interview, my managers completely forgot which school i went to - all they cared about was the skills and experience i had as it was relevant to my performance on the job.
Nor does getting straight A's deliver that social recognition and peer respect that these parents crave so much. Who really cares about which school your child goes to and how many A's he's scoring anyway? If there are indeed other parents who envy your child's academic "success", that only reflects their own insecurities. And if you're childish enough to want others to envy you so that you can "get the last laugh", well guess what, I bet I can find 100's of other students who did as well or better than your kid or who are going to more "prestigious" schools. When will this rat race ever end?
For goodness sake, Singapore, let's put an end to this madness. Let's love our children for who they are rather than turning them into A-grade machines. Let education be about trying to identify our childrens' unique talents and helping them be the best that they can be. This way, I'm sure we'll have much happier families and our children will grow up to live much more fulfilling lives.