‘Bishan gay’ molesting boy in J8 toilet

From ‘Man gets 12 months for molesting boy in toilet at Bishan Junction 8, appealing’, 8 May 2015, article by Elena Chong, ST

A part-time tutor who sometimes refers to himself as “the Bishan gay” was sentenced to 12 months’ jail on Friday for molesting a 12-year-old boy in a mall toilet. Cheng Hoe Huat was found guilty after a two-day trial of touching the student’s private parts in the male toilet of Bishan Junction 8 shopping centre on Nov 13, 2013.

The 52-year-old, who was unrepresented, is appealing. Bail of $30,000 was allowed. During the trial, the prosecution called 13 witnesses, including the victim, his four friends, a child psychologist and teacher.

Cheng had approached a group of boys, including the victim, to “conduct a survey on sex education“. The victim accompanied him to the toilet as he thought Cheng, who was using a walking stick, needed help.

…The maximum penalty for molesting any person under 14 years old is five years’ jail, fine and caning.

Daniel Cheng, or known to wary schoolboys as ‘the creepy Bishan uncle’ or ‘Bishan gay’, was actually interviewed by the ST in 2008, when he was found snapping photos and stealing looks at boys in fast food joints and flashing them his ‘signature smile’. He claimed that RI was his ‘alma mater’ then, and his activities were out of ‘love’ for his Bishan hometown and that he felt ‘responsible’ for the well-being of the kids.

Then regarded as nothing more than a middle-aged, otherwise harmless weirdo and something of an ‘urban legend’ in the area,  the RI deputy headmaster called for students to refrain from ‘calling him names‘, so it’s unlikely that Cheng would “refer to himself as ‘The Bishan Gay'” as the ST reported. It’s like admitting to the police that you’re the Serangoon Slasher or the Punggol Peeping Tom.

For years Cheng has been ridiculed and villainised on social media as a potential sex fiend, like a resident village ogre that townsfolk hurl stones at to keep him away from their livestock. No self-respecting teenager from RI, Catholic High or SJI could step into Coffee Bean in J8 or take bus 156 without looking out for some leery-eyed uncle snapping photos of him as a personal keepsake, or giving him a ‘scary, gay’ smile that sends chills down the spine. Parents may even have taken advantage of the situation, telling their boys to come home by 9pm, otherwise they may get kidnapped and made to be some basement sex slave by the ‘boo-gay-man’ of Bishan.

Some kids tempt fate by getting up close and personal with the icon himself. The photo below would be just as creepy if you replaced Cheng with the silhouette of a ghost. Note that he was facing THE BACK of the bus.

Others, like this ‘thegreenyellow’ blogger, chatted with the man out of curiosity in 2007, and discovered that he was actually a ‘nice dude’ who speaks ‘good English’.

Just last year, a man was caught on Stomp ‘ruffling’ boys’ hair in McDonald’s at J8. Speculations were rife that this was THE Bishan Gay taking his antics a step further, or perhaps this was just a ‘Phase 1 experiment’ of his ‘sex education survey’. It appears that Cheng exhibits more of paedophiliac tendencies rather than scientific inquisitiveness,  so calling a stalker obsessed with schoolboys as a ‘Gay’ may be considered derogatory by the LGBT community. You can say a shirt ‘looks gay’ or a song ‘sounds gay’ without offending most homosexuals, but not if you use it in reference to a child predator. The correct term should be ‘Bishan Paedophile’. Unfortunately, ‘Bishan Paedo’ just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Bishan Gay’ does.

Now that he’s facing jail time and all is peaceful in Bishan once more, maybe it is indeed time for some sex education for our schoolboys, so that any uncle who happens to be lounging around swimming pools staring at boys in tight trunks isn’t automatically labelled as a dangerous, creepy ‘gay’.

Amos Yee getting a tight slap in the face

From ‘Amos Yee assaulted on way to court, now in remand’, 30 April 2015, article by Eileen Poh, CNA

There was drama at the courtroom as blogger Amos Yee was struck in the face as he walked to the State Courts for a pre-trial conference on Thursday (Apr 30). As Yee walked to the court house, a middle-aged man in a red shirt, ran up to him and hit him, while shouting. The man then ran off. The teenager’s left eye looked slightly bruised after the attack.

…Yee was remanded after the pre-trial conference, as he refused to set his blog posts to private. He had earlier flouted bail conditions by publishing two posts on his blog. His lawyer Alfred Dodwell said the teen feels very strongly that he has not done anything wrong with his posts.

It was a slap that was heard all around the internet. The assault was vicious, but awkward at the same time, and it appears that both Amos and his assailant both need psychiatric assessment in IMH, one for oppositional defiant disorder and the other for psychosis. Maybe the boy should have defended himself with a half-eaten banana, and give the attacker the slip. Or you could say the attacker was preparing Amos for the hard life to come behind bars if he persists in disobeying the law, hence doing him an actual favour.

Contrast the treatment of Amos outside the courts to how others flocked to support and shield a certain millionaire pastor some years back, protecting the man from anyone wanting to strike him in the face for unleashing ‘China Wine’ into the world. Amos had nobody to stave off random attacks. Not his compassionate bailor, not his pro-bono lawyers, not the reporters blissfully recording the entire scene on their phones, not even his own parents. Random slapper, have you no shame? Are you the kind of guy who goes around flashing and massaging your genitals in front of women and then scurry away? If you go up and kick a Mediacorp reporter in the butt, will he turn around and film the entire ordeal in place while you skip away giggling?

Law Minister Shanmugam has clarified that the charge of making disparaging remarks against the late LKY were to be ‘stood down’, meaning that Amos will be judged firstly for his Christianity rant and obscene posting of LKY and Margaret Thatcher in a cartoon tryst. If the boy were to write an autobiography, it would probably be called ‘Breaking Bail’, and I have no doubt that it would be a bestseller, either by his closet fans, or extremist Christians who’ll purchase them in bulk just so that can burn it. Amos, try penning your thoughts in a draft for a future book rather by publishing them on a blog for a change. It’ll probably work better than begging kind hearted strangers for money through ‘crowdfunding’. People are bound to feel cheated if they had donated to your legal funds only for you to screw things up, so no surprise if someone vents his frustration on you in the most bizarre way possible.

Slapping the face isn’t going to wake Amos up, that’s for sure, even if many commentators felt it was ‘long overdue’. Others condemn it as child violence. You can’t take either side without sounding like a hypocrite though; for example, one may cringe in horror at the child-beating scene in Ilo Ilo, but get a Schadenfreude orgasm just watching a stranger smack the shit out of the foul-mouthed, Jesus-mocking twerp that is Amos Yee Pang Sang. Or you could be the sort who would call the police if your kid’s teacher physically drags him out of class, yet cry foul when Amos is beaten around like a ragdoll. Imagine how LKY would feel witnessing this media circus from above, shaking his head at how Singaporeans are fixated with the antics of a very naughty boy, rather than going to the National Museum to stare at his red box.

Let’s hope the slapper gets hauled in nonetheless. If you can get charged for spitting at people, I’m sure you’re not getting away with random slapping. Let this also serve as a warning to anyone looking to infiltrate the state courts grounds with a pair of garden shears. Yes, I’m talking to you, Cookie Tan. (Ironically a police report has been filed against Cookie for threatening to emasculate Amos…a now Famous Amos).

UPDATE 1May 2015: Amos’ attacker was arrested on May Day. At 49, the guy is almost as old as Singapore #SG50.

Education is like buying equipment from a mall

From ‘Education just like a retail transaction now?’18 April 2015, ST Forum

(Grace Yong Fui Han): THURSDAY’S report fills me with disappointment (“Former RGS student claims she was bullied, sues school”). I was a Raffles Girls’ School student, from the class of 1979. Somewhere between then and now, we lost something, not just for the school, but also for Singapore. The report highlights the symptom of a serious malaise in our society, if left unchecked.

One might argue that in taking out a lawsuit against her alma mater, Ms Cheryl Tan is exercising her right to be compensated for the suffering she allegedly endured. However, gratitude for what the school and teachers have done, and respect and deference for the office of the educators seem to have gone out the window.

In their place is a sense of entitlement. Going to school is no different from going to the mall to buy a piece of equipment: “I paid a price (worked hard to get the right grades) to get into my school of choice, so it must meet my expectations. If it does not deliver, like the item I bought at the mall, I will sue the school in the same way I sue the manufacturer.”

Is there a mindset now that relationships are valued by what one can get out of them, rather than what one can contribute? If the alleged bullying is true, then, were compassion and empathy absent, in that the students were unable to put themselves in Ms Tan’s shoes to see how she might have felt as a result of their actions?

If education were a product, it would be a defective one from the start, judging by the existence of a billion-dollar tuition industry. Frivolous suits have been filed in the past, though not by students themselves. A teacher once tried to sue MOE for FALSE IMPRISONMENT after she got locked out of school and injured herself during escape. A divorcee sued both a principal and MOE when he found out that his son wasn’t using his surname during primary school registration. Come to think of it, when my Chinese teacher threw my pencil box out of the window because I was playing with it, destroying it in the process, I could have easily sued her for damage to personal property.

Cheryl Tan is demanding $220 K to continue her studies at Wells Cathedral School in England, in addition to the ‘pain and suffering’ including an outbreak of eczema when she was involved in some CCA Chinese Orchestra kerfuffle. My guess is Cheryl is also a rabid Harry Potter fan, because her current school looks like goddamn Hogwarts. If her suit turns out unsuccessful (most likely to be the case), perhaps she can come back from Wells in a sorcerer’s robe and cast a hex on RGS resulting in them dropping a few notches down the schools ranking. Being a cathedral doesn’t mean she won’t get into trouble there either. If bullied by twats again she could jolly well sue not just Wells, but the Archibishop and Queen of England if she wants to.

The first 2 words that come to mind is ‘spoilt brat’, and you don’t find them just in elite schools. Parents have filed police reports for alleged abuse of their precious ones, whether teachers are giving their kids horrible haircuts or verbal lashings. Cheryl’s case may well set an ugly precedent for overprotective parents with the money to take their case from the police post to the lawyer’s office. Bullying is no laughing matter of course, but being disliked, back-stabbed and ganged up in school also serves as a precursor for what you’ll get in the workplace. Unlike school, you can’t just run crying to your teacher, principal or mummy and daddy when a jealous colleague shreds your documents in the printer room before you get a chance to retrieve them. As stressed out as Cheryl may be, it didn’t torment her as much as actual studies did for others. Students have committed suicide by jumping from buildings in the past. Cheryl jumped ship, and landed herself on a luxury liner.

Well if that’s the kind of parenting that Cheryl’s parents subscribe to, encouraging the mentality that it’s everybody else’s fault that you are unpopular in school and you deserve to be compensated for every little insult to your ego, then so be it at their own ruin. You could send your daughter to a centuries old prestigious castle but she’ll come out a chronic damsel in distress rather than a jouster armed and ready to tackle life’s challenges. Even if the bullying were seriously damaging to your academic prospects and you are the religiously litigious type who doesn’t want to engage school counselors or professional help, there’s something called the Harassment Act, which you can file against the offender directly rather than try to embarrass a bedrock institution known for producing some of the greatest minds the country has ever known. One less rotten apple to mar its reputation then.

ACS Barker using pressure tactics to sell carnival tickets

From ‘Carnival tickets: Students feel sales pressure’, 11 April 2015, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A letter by the principal of Anglo-Chinese School (Barker) appears to pressure students to sell tickets for a fund-raising carnival, saying the school would know how many tickets each boy had sold. A 44-year-old mother, whose two sons attend the secondary school in Barker Road, was so upset she sent the letter to citizen journalism website Stomp on Wednesday.

In his letter, e-mailed to all parents and uploaded on the school website, principal Peter Tan said: “As I told the boys, their effort in selling coupons reflects on their attitude. It is less an issue of ‘rich’ friends or relatives, but their willingness to step out of their comfort zone.”

…In the letter, Mr Tan wrote: “A student I spoke with this morning said he did not try to contact or speak to any of his relatives, though knowing that even if they are unable to attend, the coupons will be donated to needy families… I wonder if your son/ward is like him?

“My concern is that this lack of drive becomes a habit that will not do him any good.”

…On ACS (Primary)’s parent support group website, it said the carnival aims to raise $600,000, “which will be channelled towards enriching the education of ACS boys”. The school also started an initiative for students to donate coupons to needy families nearby.

In the letter, Mr Tan also recommended that each boy buy $50 worth of tickets for themselves to use at the carnival, which will have food, drinks and games stalls. He called on parents to help out at the carnival. “Extra pairs of hands ready and willing to help that day would be great! For instance, we have a parent who has offered to drive in his Ferrari and Maserati to add to the carnival atmosphere,” he wrote.

Each boy was given 20 tickets to sell, with each costing $10. One ticket is made up of five $2 coupons, which cannot be sold individually.

If you’re the kind of ACS boy who’s too proud or shy to beg friends or relatives for money, you can post your carnival tickets online for strangers, like what this guy did on Carousell. He may not be graded high on ‘getting out of comfort zone’ but will probably get an A for creativity.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 8.07.19 AM

Of course if you’re passionate about your school or want to score points with your teachers and principal, it’s your prerogative if you want to go balls-out to squeeze money out of other people’s pockets. Your customers may see you as a pushy syncophant, but your principal will think nothing less of you than an inspiration for all ACS boys, especially if your dad has volunteered to grace the carnival with a Ferrari, which you can showcase to the needy folks invited to the event telling them: ‘Too bad you don’t have the money to send your kid to our school because THIS is what they’ll drive when they’re older’. If you’re an introvert with no business going around asking people for money and you just want to spend your career in a lab than be a travelling salesman, then you’re viewed as a weak link, and may be arrowed to be the guy who gets dunked in a tub of water repeatedly in a carnival game since you didn’t contribute monetary-wise.

There are other ways to prove your ACSian mettle, of course, other than going around bugging people to attend a funfair, but principal Peter Tan seems to be using carnival fund-raising as the litmus test of the ACS spirit, that you’ll be judged for your lack of ambition, or even character, if you don’t meet the challenge. If your parents happen to be elites with a bunch of loaded contacts, you don’t need to do much to satisfy the criteria. If they, however, are working round the clock in a food stall keeping you in ACS thanks to good ol’ meritocracy, then you’ll probably have your fill of humble pie, while your rich ass friend has the luxury of preparing for the test next week because his folks are doing all the collecting on his behalf. I doubt the school monitors how you actually went about raising the money, whether it’s out of your own savings, or if you had to service a 65 year old pedophile in a toilet cubicle to get $300 in one night.

In 1987, Victoria School ran a fund-raising campaign with a less demanding target of $25 per student. Naturally someone complained that they were coerced into buying tickets, that success in this project was testament to one’s ‘desire to achieve’. I’m sure there are other meaningful, creative ways to both give back to society and prevent the school building from collapsing at the same time, without having to distinguish your students by how many coupons they managed to sell, like running a charity car-wash or recycling project outside of school grounds, something that better represents the collective spirit of your students, without boys having to compete with each other to see who makes a better contestant on ‘The Apprentice’.

Hey, ACS, here’s an idea. How about chartering a private MRT ride for all the needy families to your carnival then?

Teachers taking national exams together with students

From ‘Make teachers take national exams’, 28 feb 2015, ST Forum

(Maria Loh Mun Foong): THE trend of private tutors sitting national exams to better gauge their mastery of the subjects they teach appears to be increasing (“Maths tutor sits exams to understand students better”, Wednesday).

Maths tutor Ong Ai Ling said that though she aced both maths papers she sat, “it was not an easy task”. I also know of a General Paper tutor who has sat the paper for at least the past few years, and concedes the difficulties of acing it.

I did not come across any school teachers who sat the national exams during my teaching stint in a secondary school. Perhaps, the Ministry of Education could consider making teachers who teach graduating classes sit the national exams. This may lead to improved outcomes for our educational system.

It would help ensure that teachers, many of whom would have sat their exams many years ago, are adequately equipped to prepare students for the recent changes in the exam format (“Memorising answers won’t score you the As”, Wednesday).

If teachers can prove that they can ace the same exams their students are sitting, it may help instil greater confidence in the teachers’ efficacy in teaching the subject, which may result in fewer students relying on tuition. Teachers who get grades below a benchmark could be required to take corrective action.

Maths tutor Ong Ai Ling from ‘Winners Education‘ did in fact score A1s for both elementary and additional Maths as a working adult, but only after intensive preparation over a 2 month period involving the mugging of past years’ papers. No mean feat of course, considering that I have trouble with even Primary school Maths. Even if I could take a sabbatical to re-take my O Levels again, I doubt I could beat a Sec 4 student, who has been moulded by the system to conquer exam questions based on technique, application and mostly rote memorisation. I doubt I could even beat a Sec 1 student forced to do O Level Maths, or make it past the second round of ‘Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader’?

Having no teaching experience myself, I’m not sure how the competency of teachers in their specialty subject are evaluated in schools, or how they would keep up with their continual education given all the administrative duties they’re burdened with, like dealing with complaining parents, or cutting pupils’ hair. In my time, we assumed our teachers were experts in the field, and though we may occasionally make them uneasy with questions out of the syllabus, we never in our wildest dreams imagined going to battle with them in the examination hall. It’s OK if you’re a chess prodigy beating your mentor in international competition, or Jackie Chan giving his kungfu drunken master the thrashing of his lifetime, but if you’re a better-than-average student scoring higher than your TEACHER in a national exam, he or she may be spending more time directing traffic at parent-teacher functions the following semester, as part of what the writer suggested as ‘corrective action’.

When a high school in Jiangsu Province China asked teachers above the age of 40 to sit exams together with students, most protested by submitting blank sheets of paper and walked away, some afraid that their results may get leaked and compared against students’ scores. The management called it ‘business training’ to test the proficiency of its staff, while teachers viewed it as an insult and humiliation, knowing full well that teaching and scoring exams are two different things altogether. As a teacher, I would expect you to at least know the basic structure of the paper and an idea of how to answer them, not so much how many marks you’ll get given the circumstances (I spend my whole life studying, you are married with kids; I’m young and nimble, you’re old and foggy). If you want to push for teachers sitting for actual exams, shouldn’t the HODs, principals and Minister of State for Education do it as well, so that they know exactly what we underlings are going through? Like making Lui Tuck Yew stand on the MRT during peak hours.

Maybe we don’t need to make teachers compete against students in an exam ‘live’, which would put many off the profession, or tempt some to even cheat given that their career is at stake, but rather against each other, not only as a competency test and friendly competition but so that they can empathise with what students today have to go through. Ultimately the goal here is to fix the system such that parents no longer see the need to subject their kids to excessive tuition. Having smart teachers who score distinctions well into their 40s alone isn’t enough. Just because I still have a mastery of solving cubic equations with synthetic division doesn’t necessarily make me a great teacher.

What I would like to see, however, is a NIE-trained teacher going HEAD to HEAD with a private tutor, given that the private tuition-sphere has its share of unapproved, shady self-professed educators with bogus qualifications. It doesn’t matter if you graduated from the GEP program, aced all your O and A Level subjects, or were a Maths Olympiad champion in the past. If you take a paper today and fail, you can kiss your tuition business goodbye. Perhaps MOE should take the writer’s suggestion and apply it in their assessment and approval of tuition agencies instead.

Primary school science questions having ‘model’ answers

From ‘Only one right answer to science questions?’23 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng and Pearl Lee, ST

EXPLAIN how the hard, bony body of a seahorse could be an advantage. The right answer, according to one Primary 6 science teacher, is: “It protects the seahorse from injury and reduces the chances of predators successfully feeding on it.”

But the child who wrote “It acts as an armour that protects the seahorse from predators” was told that her answer was wrong. This was one of several examples thrown up by parents, who have complained recently that primary school science teachers are too rigid in marking open-ended questions, and are emphasising rote learning over the understanding of concepts.

This, despite schools having shifted to an inquiry-based learning approach in science since 2008. With the approach, pupils are encouraged to ask questions, analyse data and come to their own conclusions.

Several parents wrote to The Straits Times Forum page earlier this month, calling for schools to be more flexible. Most said their children were unduly penalised for answers that had the same meaning as the correct ones, but did not contain the right “key words”.

The children had been told by teachers to stick to key phrases and words found in textbooks, in order to get full marks in assignments or tests.

Here’s another Primary 3 head-scratcher for you:

What is the difference between a bird and a lion?

If you said the ‘bird has feathers but the lion does not’, you’re wrong. You’re also wrong if you said ‘The bird can fly but the lion can’t’, ‘birds evolved from flying dinosaurs but not lions’, or even ‘birds poop on cars but lions poop on the ground’ (assuming the question involves you staring at a picture of a bird and a lion). The correct answer, according to a parent complaining to the ST Forum earlier this month (‘Good science=Poor English’, Feb 5 2015) is ‘The bird has feathers but the lion does NOT HAVE FEATHERS’, which basically means the same damn thing as your original answer, except annoyingly repetitive. (Well if you want to be even more specific: a bird has feathers but a lion has fur, not feathers).

Clearly, the student knows what he’s talking about, that a lion does not have feathers, but the science teacher here doesn’t give a hoot about your ‘understanding’ if it does not fit into the template answer scheme, even if the same statement in a composition about bird and lions would make your English teacher squirm in her seat, and accuse you of trying to make up the 500 word quota with redundancies. The parent summed it up perfectly in his letter: “Is there rigidity in the teaching of science? It would certainly appear so (that there is rigidity in the teaching of science)”. Take that, Rigidity!

Not convinced that teachers can be anal about science answers? Here’s another puzzler on animals.

You could be thinking of the following possible answers:

1) Both the bull and the lion give birth to their young
2) Both the bull and lion poop and pee
3) Both the bull and lion can kill you
4) Both the bull and lion are mammals

ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE WRONG. (The answers are ‘4 legs’, ‘have hair’, or ‘similar body shape’ i.e something you can actually see from the illustration). The thing that you should be staring hard at isn’t the actual drawing, but the phrase ‘STUDY the animals BELOW’. Gotcha.

Let’s up the ante with a dreaded multiple choice question about the properties of a light bulb.

Now read the last option carefully before you make your choice. If you chose ‘all of the above’, you are interpreting D as ‘the bulb lights up only when electricity passes through it’. If you chose ‘A, B and C’ you read it as ‘light energy is the only energy that is given off when electricity passes through it’. The correct answer happens to be the latter. Answer D, in the spirit of the other animal questions, happens to be the grammatical equivalent of the rabbit/duck gestalt optical illusion. Given the ambiguity of this shitty question, no student should be penalised for seeing a rabbit when the answer scheme says duck.

Do you know how a shadow is formed? Here’s one student’s answer to a puzzle that has tickled the intellect of many an ancient Greek philosopher.

 The complete answer is ‘Because the sun is behind her and she is blocking the path of the light’. You know what this obsession with ‘complete’ answers will do to our kids? They’ll never be able to complete their paper on time because they’d want to add details like ‘because light travels in straight lines and Betty is an opaque human being and she will generate a penumbra and umbra depending on the angle and intensity of the sunlight’. Just to play safe. Except that some teachers will still mark you wrong for ‘trying to be clever’ when penumbrae and umbrae are not taught until you’re in secondary school. If you mention anything about photons or the particle-wave duality you may be suspended from school altogether.

But back to the seahorse question. If I were grading the student I’ll not only let it go, I would also give her BONUS marks for using her imagination and drawing a figurative analogy between ‘hard skin’ and ‘armour’. By our school standards, this paper published in the rather obscure ‘Acta Biomaterialia’ journal is pure BULL. Its title? Highly deformable bones: Unusual deformation mechanisms of seahorse armor (Porter et al).

All this nitpicking over ‘key words’ will not only kill our children’s love for science, but also restricts how individuals grasp concepts, punishing those who, well, ‘think outside the box’. A student who sees beyond 4 legs and digs deeper into the taxonomic characteristics of mammals vs birds is given zero marks vs another who memorises ‘key words’ because his tuition teacher said so. Flowery language, like ‘armour’, is not ‘scientific’ and has no place in a science paper, they say. Well try describing DNA to laymen without ‘unscientific’ analogies like zippers and enzyme/cell receptor interactions without using ‘lock and key’.

Final question: What’s the difference between a robot and a typical Singaporean Science student?

Answer: The robot needs electricity to recharge but the student does not need electricity to recharge.

Parents sending kids for brain-training

From ‘Parents jump on brain-training wagon in bid to boost concentration and memory in children’, 9 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng, ST

Forget maths tuition, swimming lessons or piano classes. Parents are now sending their children for brain training, hoping to improve their concentration and memory skills.

…Some opt for these classes – which can cost more than $100 per session – as they think tuition may not be as effective. Aiming to train motor and processing skills, for instance, the centres use methods such as listening exercises and puzzles, as well as physical activities like catching balls.

…Ms Cheryl Chia, founder of BrainFit Studio, said getting distracted is a common problem. To combat this, children learn to focus and follow instructions. BrainFit has three branches here, two of which were set up in the last five years. Each branch takes in 200 pupils every year.

To cater to the growing interest, it started programmes in the last two years for pre-schoolers and toddlers as young as six months old. These programmes had about 50 and 20 children respectively last year.

At Happy Train, children go through “right-brain training” to speed up information processing skills. The centre has seen more than 400 children sign up, twice as many as seven years ago. Children younger than two years old make up half of its pupils today, compared with 30 to 40 per cent in 2008.

Another centre, People Impact, uses brain training techniques among its methods to boost intellect and social skills. It had over 100 children last year, a 45 per cent jump from the year before.

‘Brain training’ is preparatory class for what would eventually become tuition, and we already have enrichment classes for toddlers. Before you know it, with advancements in brain-fitness ‘neuroscience’, we’ll be training brains of foetuses while they’re still in their amniotic sacs. Maybe pregnant mummies will have to gyrate their bodies in a certain way to the nourishing sounds of Mozart so that their unborn child will exercise the necessary ‘mental muscles’ to prepare them when they’re discharged out of a womb into a chaotic world. You could call this Pre-brain training, priming your child’s rudimentary nervous system with tools based on the latest ‘neuroscientific principles’ when there’s nothing bigger than a budding hypothalamus in that gooey pre-head of his, so that he can develop an ‘intellect’ before he can even climb and descend a playground slide.

Anyone familiar with dystopic sci-fi should be able to see the creepiness of all this. An analogy would be an elite group of human beings with superior intellect and powers plugging newborns into a vat filled with neurochemicals and hormones, their eyes glued to a series of flashing cue cards and images from the history of mankind, subject to constant physical aquatic exercise, so that by the age of 3 years they emerge from their cell ready to devour Shakespeare, form theories of the universe, play tennis blindfolded and attend  a cocktail party without experiencing any social awkwardness at all.

Brainfit Studio is unabashed in giving its programmes titles like Baby Da Vinci, Baby Newton and Baby Einstein, with the notable absence of Baby Michael Jordan, Baby Britney Spears or Baby Lee Kuan Yew. It’s practically giving you a choice to pick the kind of genius and fine physical specimen you want your kid to grow into. Happy Train claims to imbue the powers of PERFECT PITCH and ALPHA-WAVE RELAXATION into their students, which are exactly the kind of properties you would want a docile singing robot to have. Heguru Education wants to take you out of the ‘Friendzone’ and into the INCREDIBLE GENIUS ZONE. And this is how People Impact describes one of their ‘creative sequencing’ courses:

The learning objective for this module is to enhance each student’s ability to recognise, encode, and generate sequences of significant symbols, objects and events, in ways which enhance memory whilst also reducing their cognitive workload. Students will learn to identify and make use of the differences between arbitrary and ‘naturally’ ordered sequences, whilst developing the means to construct time- and energy-efficient hierarchically organised sequence embedding when set-sizes become too large to handle ‘in-the-head’ when relying upon short-term memory alone.

Which sounds like something a theoretical physicist needs to decipher gravitational waves, not kids who’re barely old enough to tell the time. Playing with wooden blocks is not good enough, these guys want you to break codes that would stump Alan Turing. With all this emphasis on ‘right-brain training’, your kid may grow up with a skull that looks exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Einstein never needed a gym instructor for the mind nor an intellect on steroids. Kids these days.

As a parent you could, of course, forget about the prenatal ratrace and only start preparing your kid by buying past years’ PSLE assessment books when they’re Primary 5. You could bring them to the beach instead of a ‘learning lab’, build sandcastles, play catch, hide and seek, climb a tree, challenge to tic-tac-toe in the sand, catch a crab or skip stones.  Or, if you want your kid to grow up into Megamind, you could splurge on a brain-training session so that someone else can play damn ball with him, and not waste time with all this dirt and adventure bullshit.

There’s already a tried and tested, but more importantly, FREE, method available to any parent who wants to see their offspring develop into a human being full of potential with his own personality, not a polished automaton with a bootcamp brain with chill alpha-waves. It’s called PLAY.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 352 other followers