Kiasu parents compiling top PSLE scores online


From ‘Parents compile online lists of PSLE top scores’, 30 Nov 2015, article by Calvin Yang, ST

A move to stop revealing the names and scores of top performers at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) to reduce the emphasis on academic results has not stopped parents from compiling their own lists of top scores.

When primary schools withheld the scores of their high-fliers after the PSLE results were released last Wednesday, some parents went online to assemble unofficial lists of aggregate scores attained by the supposed top pupils in their children’s schools.

They told The Straits Times that these lists give them some indication of whether their children have a shot at getting into “brand name” secondary schools here.

Engineer Daniel Yeo, 44, whose son got his results last week, said: “It is about managing expectations. At the end of the day, we don’t want our child to be disappointed if he can’t get into a particular school.

‘At the end of the day’, when results are out, no parent for all practical purposes, cares if MOE claims that the reason why top and bottom PSLE scores are not disclosed is to ‘align practices with the emphasis on holistic development and all round excellence’. 

Without official announcements from MOE, we now have instead rumour, speculation and questionable ‘crowdsourcing’ on education forums like Kiasu Parents. Now people don’t just make assumptions of what the ‘best’ schools are, but which among these unofficial lists are the ‘worst’. When it comes to the PSLE, there’s no limit to how creative our parents can get, even though ‘creativity’ is not something you’d associate most Singaporean kids with.

As a consolation to those who did not fare so well, the media gets famous people to confess their ‘terrible’ PSLE results to public. Like ex-gangster turned lawyer Josephus Tan’s middling 183 for example. Sometimes happy successful people are where they are now not despite their atrocious PSLE score, but BECAUSE of it. Maybe to get a more ‘holistic’ explanation of why the rest of your life is not determined by a 3-digit number, they should interview not just winners at life but disgraced failures too, people who are obviously very smart and can ace the PSLE with one eye closed, but end up as storybook villains, like folks from a megachurch going to prison for corruption. So you can tell your kid that spending your education in a ‘middle-class’ school doesn’t mean you won’t descend into a life of sin and debauchery.   In any case, you’re still giving undue attention to The Score, which is exactly what MOE does not want.

This isn’t the first time people obsessed with PSLE ranking bypassed the MOE’s gag order. You can also gauge how good a secondary school is by ranking their cut-off scores. Despite not divulging top scorers, schools continue to honour kids who score ‘above 250’, which already tells you that anything less than 250 is mediocre. And then there are braggy-ass parents who insist on telling the world on Facebook how well their children did, which eventually will draw other FB parents into a heated T-score comparison war. My kid went up on stage but yours didn’t. HAHAHA.

Not many parents are willing to groom their children into artists like the Holycrap family. The urge to keep up with the Jones’s is part and parcel of not just the Singaporean but human psyche, so for the rest of us, with perfectly average children with no special talent to exploit, the PSLE is the proverbial trial by fire that allows parents and their kids to express and exaggerate that survival instinct, more so in a potboiler society where high office candidacy is still restricted to degree holders, and children have nothing much to live for other than homework and CCAs.

It’s dog eat dog, winner takes all, and the T-score is the golden snitch, the battle scar, the trophy on the shelf. I don’t care if that guy on stage in the top 1% is a douchebag, his score is an aspiration. And that’s what the PSLE, and the MOE’s futile diversions from it, is doing to us all. We’re engrossed in the numbers game to the point that we even make PSLE jokes of the PSI when it hits the 290s.

One Jurong West Secondary School principal exposed the hypocrisy behind the dictum ‘every school is a good school‘ by asking how many of our elite actually put their children in neighbourhood schools. Every school will want to distinguish themselves from the rest. Every school has its own tradition of excellence, however you want to define it, in academia or otherwise. That’s all part of the ‘branding’. Even if I say to hell with the PSLE and decide to push my child towards Wushu mastery, I would have to choose carefully. I’d go for one with a track record of winning competitions, just like how a kiasu parent who wants his child to become a rocket scientist would track PSLE scores in addition to how their science team fares in Robot Olympiads.

If the MOE wants every school to be as ‘good’ as the other, then it’ll have to do much more than playing hide and seek with PSLE scores, which desperate parents have the means to sniff out anyway.  It has to come down hard on schools known for their ‘exclusivity’ to a certain class of Singaporeans. It has to do away with this mindset that top dollar gives you top education. It has to review the entire GEP scheme. The top brass should have no shame telling people that their kid is working part time at McDonalds’ to pay for an education in arts or drama. We’d have to find a cure for this tuition epidemic. We’ll need to stop rich people from moving house just to get a better chance at securing the school ‘of their choice’. If we continue to jail parents for lying about their addresses, then the ministry has failed in its mission.

Yet at the same time, we shouldn’t succumb to the ‘Zuckerberg’ myth that results are not important, that you could drop out of school and become a internet multibillionaire. And we shouldn’t bring everyone down to the common denominator like some socialist utopian state. Ultimately, we don’t want to hear if this school is as ‘good’ as that school. What we want is this – It doesn’t matter which school you go to or how well you did. It’s what you made of your education, and who you are that’s most important.

NSP candidate joking about Tin Peiling’s weakness as mother

From ‘Being a mum is not a weakness: Tin Pei Ling’, 4 Sept 2015, article in CNA

Her new status as a mum is not a weakness, and neither is her youth, the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Tin Pei Ling said on Friday (Sep 4). Ms Tin, the PAP’s candidate for the MacPherson single-seat ward, had written a Facebook post in response to a TODAY report in which National Solidarity Party’s (NSP) Cheo Chai Chen was quoted as saying that being a mother was Ms Tin’s weakness.

Mr Cheo, who spoke in Mandarin, had said: “If voters choose her, she might focus more on her child than on her voters. This is her weakness.

Disagreeing, Ms Tin said she is committed to MacPherson, and that she returned to work two weeks after she gave birth because she wanted to continue to serve. “I am confident that even as a mum I can continue to focus on my work in MacPherson,” she said.

…Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Cheo said his comments were meant as a joke. “I just said: ‘Tin Pei Ling now has a son, so she will focus on the child. Then she will split her attention to the residents’,” he said. “It was not my intention (to criticise her), it was a joke.”

Ms ‘Kate Spade’ herself should be used to getting picked on, none more so than by her former Marine Parade GRC team mate, ESM Goh Chok Tong himself, who posted on Facebook that Tin had been ‘traumatised’ by election pressure back in 2011, and was seeing trauma specialist Dr Fatimah Lateef. He clarified that it was ‘tongue in cheek’. Goh recently boasted that the PAP could be its own ‘self-check’ (which spawned Pritam Singh’s ‘Ownself check Ownself’). Not sure if his tongue was in his cheek then. At least the PAP needs someone to check on the appropriateness of their ‘jokes’ perhaps.

When Cheo passed what has been deemed to be a discriminatory remark about mothers, he clearly forgot about fellow NSP candidate Kevyrn Lim, who revealed to the media a few days back that she was a single mum. If Tin’s baby were a liability to her political aspirations, then what of Kevyrn? The latter already had to endure online catcalls and nasty comparisons to a streetwalker. NSP hastily backpedalled after the incident, but with the Macpherson card already a case of three’s a crowd, it looks like Cheo inadvertently just made it easier for Tin to secure the SMC.

Cheo’s not the first to be a potential nominee for AWARE’s Alamak award. In 2001, then Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang responded to Dr Lily Neo’s call in Parliament to use Medisave to cover breast screening by saying: ‘Save on one hairdo and use the money for health screening’. Tampines and 3-time contestant Desmond Choo raised the analogy that voting for the PAP was like choosing a housewife who’s really good in the kitchen. Some even call out the Cabinet for being predominantly male. While other Asian countries are seeing women take top leadership posts, we still have some in our midst indulging in old fashioned stereotypes, that women are meant to stay at home to look after their kids, look good for their husbands, cook your meals, or, in the case of the AHPETC saga, check the utility bills.

Yet, nobody questions men if they would be able to juggle their hectic day jobs with politicking, looking at the portfolio of some of our more distinguished MPs, be they directors of law firms, mega corporations or prominent lecturer-surgeons. An attractive female candidate like Nicole Seah is labelled ‘a pretty face‘, but no one doubts the abilities of PAP’s undisputed ‘selfie king’.  Neither did anyone in the new PAP Sembawang GRC team retort when they were referred to as a ‘boyband’. If you had an all-women team fielded instead and you decide to nickname them the Pussycat Dolls, you won’t be able to walk in the streets without someone sticking a stiletto heel up your groin.

Parents sending kids to psychologists for IQ tests

From ‘Ensure we don’t create elitist mindset’, 19 June 2015, ST Forum

(Jeffrey Law Lee Beng): AFTER reading yesterday’s report on parents having their children tested for “giftedness”, I cannot help but wonder if we are creating an exclusive society (“Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests”). I find it unacceptable that toddlers are subjected to psychological tests, the findings of which some parents claim can help them tap their children’s potential.

Equally deplorable is the fact that some parents send their children for the tests to join high-IQ society Mensa so that their young can be in “like-minded company”. In other words, children at such an impressionable age are encouraged to form a class of their own.

This may not be healthy as they could turn into a generation of intellectual snobs, having the notion that they are extraordinary. Instead of comfortably ensconcing themselves, children should be accustomed to interacting with other children their age, regardless of their personal backgrounds and IQ scores.

This helps them to expand their horizons and further enrich their lives when they become adults. It is, thus, crucial that parents not overreact to their children’s high-IQ status with a “high and mighty” attitude. Instead, they would do well to teach their children that there is more to life than being born gifted.

The youngest MENSA member is 2 years and 6 months with an IQ of 142. While it seems like the most natural thing for parents to find out if their kid is a genius, others forgo the testing entirely and sign them up for GEP tuition classes directly. Unless there is a real need to get your kid’s brain checked by a doctor, I don’t think parents should get over-excited and start calling up psychologists whenever their kid starts exhibiting signs of ‘giftedness’, like reciting a Bible passage by heart or Pi to 20 digits. In some extreme cases, like a sudden familiarity with an ancient language, an exorcist may be more useful than a mental healthcare professional.

Mensa, Latin for ‘table’, was founded in 1946, and was set up as an exclusive club for people with ‘high intelligence’. Its Singapore chapter was established only in 1989, and restricted members to 8 years and above. Today, 5% of the 1000 plus members are 6 years and below. What in blue blazes is a toddler doing in a society still made up mostly of  adults, one that counts not just science gods like Isaac Asimov among its alumni, but has also embraced unlikely personalities like Geena Davis (of Cutthroat Island fame) and PORN STAR Asia Carerra? Your MENSA fellows may all have the exact same IQ score, but you guys will still have nothing much to talk about. Well, unless you’re an adult film star with a brain as big as your..never mind.

To call Mensa ‘elitist’ would be like saying that the X-men are ‘freaks’. MENSA is basically a fancy interest group, just like how we have interest groups for people addicted to bodybuilding, Lego enthusiasts, bus-spotters, birdwatchers or vintage sock collectors. In a way, we’re all ‘snobs’ in what we’re passionate about, be it intellectual pursuits, sporting excellence, cafe-hopping or competitive Monopoly. Like Game of Throne geeks, these ‘geniuses’ just need a platform for conversation where they can be on the same wavelength as others like them, and not feel oestracised by the man on the street with the reptilian IQ of 100, though what exactly MENSA has done for humanity remains to be seen. They sure as hell ain’t the Justice League.

The question is whether we’re depriving such young children of a ‘normal’ childhood by rushing them into a club for geniuses before they even develop the minimal set of social skills, like making friends, reading expressions, knowing what’s right from wrong, or even grasp mundane knowledge like why people grow old and die. More importantly, a sense of compassion and humility. Can they grow up and live ‘normally’ despite an insane IQ without being booted out of the village constantly like Brainy Smurf? By labelling toddlers as ‘gifted’, we risk having them fixated on their newfound ‘powers’ relative to their lower IQ peers, giving them high hopes and the illusion that they are destined for success, or worse, Greatness.

7 year old MENSA member George Yeo, for instance, is already sounding like the smart-aleck every kid in school wants to punch in the face. He reportedly told his parents not to ‘waste money’ on school because he already ‘knew everything’. One thing MENSA doesn’t test is your EMOTIONAL intelligence, which could make the difference between someone who becomes a pioneer quantum physics, and the weirdo with the crazy hair building a killer robot monster in his hidden lair.

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.

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.

Couple having sex in RWS jacuzzi in front of children

From ‘Couple causes stir in Resorts World Sentosa jacuzzi’, 14 Dec 2014, article by Lim Yi Han, Sunday Times

A couple allegedly stripped and had sex in a jacuzzi at Resorts World Sentosa’s Beach Villas last Friday afternoon, in full view of horrified guests. While the jacuzzi was meant only for the couple’s villa, it sat within a larger pool being enjoyed by other guests.

One guest, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lee, told The Sunday Times that she was alerted to the incident when her two children and their two cousins – aged between five and 11 years – noticed that the woman was not wearing anything from waist down. The children were swimming in the pool at the time.

The 41-year-old housewife, who was there with other family members after one of them paid about $1,000 a night for their villa, said she alerted the concierge immediately, and told the children not to look.

“But the couple started having sex in the jacuzzi. It was very obvious, and my mother shouted at them. I quickly ran in to get my phone and snap pictures, and they stopped only when they saw me doing that,” said Madam Lee.

“I would have closed one eye if the kids were not there, but I’m surprised the couple did it even though they were aware there were children around.”

…Those guilty of public nudity can be charged under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, and face up to three months in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000. For committing an obscene act in public, the maximum punishment is three months in jail and a fine.

Embarrassed, curious, shocked, amused, angry perhaps, but the ST chose to describe onlookers as ‘HORRIFIED’. Madam Lee herself admitted that she would have let the horny couple go at it if there were no kids around, though I doubt that would stop voyeurs like her from taking photos either. If there’s anything useful about this complaint it’s that people, not just young innocent children, should avoid private jacuzzis altogether. You never know what remnants of bodily fluids lurk in that bubbling cauldron of sex.

Telling your kids ‘not to look’ is just about the worst parenting advice ever. Children will stumble onto sex inevitably, whether it’s from the Internet, a HDB staircase, void deck, on public transport, even erotic bus ads. A mother determined to shelter her children’s eyes from any activity hinting at public fornication would have to equip them with smart visors 24/7, a gadget that turns your field of vision into a mosaic fog once activated by Mommy’s stern voice, or if the device detects two human bodies connected in a pattern consistent with ‘fondling’.

Better still, hook your 11 year old up with chastity underwear with erection sensors, because once you stop him from staring at people having live sex, his adolescent mind will automatically conjure up fantasy scenarios beyond a wet romp in a hot jacuzzi. Once an arousal is detected, a signal will be transmitted to an app in Mommy’s phone with the notification: ‘Level 5 erection detected’, after which the program will share tips on how to control your kid’s bodily urges, like throwing him into a tub of ice or making him kneel before an altar and confess to some angry deity.

Children should be protected from domestic violence, misogynistic rap songs, bad grammar on public signs and people not clearing trays in hawker centres. An encounter with public sex is an opportunity for realistic, fact-based parenting, not puritanical liturgy; To teach children that people engage in exhibitionist sex because they’ve run out of ideas in the bedroom, that excessive time spent in a jacuzzi is bad for your sperm (after which you can educate him about what sperm is), and that if you ever think of hanky-pankying with your classmate in the void deck, the penalty will be some uptight housewife whipping out her phone (which they only ever use to play Candy Crush), uploading your pic on Stomp, and exposing the precocious, disgraceful pervert that you have become, your life ruined forever.

Tuition in Singapore is a billion-dollar industry

From ‘$1 billion spent on tuition in 1 year’, 9 Nov 2014, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Singapore’s tuition industry is now worth more than a billion dollars. The latest Household Expenditure Survey found that families spent $1.1 billion a year on tuition – almost double the $650 million spent a decade ago and a third more than the $820 million spent just five years ago.

The Department of Statistics, which polled more than 11,000 households between October 2012 and September last year, released the latest survey in September. The average household spending on tuition rose from $54.70 a month 10 years ago, to $79.90 in the latest survey.

The department told The Sunday Times that along with spending more, there were also more households in the latest study – 1.2 million compared with 993,000 a decade ago.

Some parents are known to pump in almost $6K a month on tuition for their kids. That’s more than what the average household spends on food ($1188/mth), transport($811), clothes/shoes ( $156) and recreation, including holidays, ($292) COMBINED in 2012-2013 (12 interesting trends about Singapore household income and spending, Sep 18, 2014, ST). Now a billion dollar industry that has naturally spawned copycats and scammers,  this amount speaks volumes about how tuition has taken precedence even over some of the bare necessities of life for some Singaporeans. We are no longer just a Tuition Nation. We are tuition JUNKIES.

All this despite PM Lee’s assertion that the PSLE is not the be-all and end-all in 2012, and after the Ministry ceased announcing top scorers in the exam. This year, PM Lee again reiterated that there’s ‘too much tuition’ going on in Singapore, quite the understatement really. In 1981, tuition was already a million-dollar ($52 million) goldmine, with parents spending up to $125 a month. A 2009 survey revealed that 85% of students between 13-19 spend FOUR HOURS per week on tuition, that’s excluding hours spent on CCAs.  The number of tuition/enrichment centres also jumped from 750 in 2012 to 850 this year. And that’s counting only those registered with MOE (Tuition seen as ‘necessity’ for students to do well, 2 Sep 2014, ST), and excluding private tutors.  How many are out there under the Ministry’s radar operating out of a house in Lentor? How many are earning big bucks like millionaire super Physics tutor Phang Yu Hon? ( The other lucrative subjects taught by super-tutors are JC economics, Math and General Paper). If you’re an aspiring tutor aiming to bank on this national addiction, you’ll never get anywhere teaching Geography or, god forbid, Literature.

In fact, there are so many centres business owners have to resort to bad spelling to differentiate themselves, like Beautyful Minds . Some are not even just ‘classrooms’ anymore. We have ‘STUDIOS, HUBS, LABS and MUSEUMS’, and there are centres that even decide the career path of your kids before they complete primary school, like Little Professors. Or those that promise to groom you into a business powerhouse through ‘leadership skills’. Some parents even go out of their way to attend courses themselves on how to get their KIDS to ace the PSLE. You’d be a total disappointment to your tuition-happy parents if you grew up to be a ‘hawker-preneur’, boy.

But it’s not just the traditional subjects (Mandarin, Maths, Physics) that require tuition. We have tuition for pre-school,  tuition for sports, and tuition for ABACUS. I mean, who needs a calculator or a smartphone if you have magic BEADS to perform your daily practical arithmetic, like finding out how much Mommy spends a month sending you to enrichment classes, or counting the number of precious hours of your miserable life slipping away when you could be out there in the sun learning how to ride a bike or knowing what flowers really smell like. Or if you’re the kind who actually begged your parents for tuition, the hours wasted in that useless institution known as SCHOOL.


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