Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bad Education

Sometimes I watch my little niece at play ( let's call her Chatty Carmen since leaving her anonymous would be plain sad ) and I pity her since I can imagine the sheer burden of exceedingly high expectations she has to carry on her tiny shoulders being the eldest in her generation.

Ever since the first syndicated examinations were held to torture recalcitrant folks in ancient China ( those lousy sadistic buggers!! ), education has always - and probably always will be - paramount in a conservative Chinese household. Since learning their ABCs or their equivalent in Chinese, every small child has been literally drilled on the importance of attaining the all-important paper qualifications, preferably in the more seemingly prestigious fields.

Not sure exactly what pushes me to study. Certainly not a relentless thirst for knowledge since I'd rather not know half the things I do know. Certainly not from some compulsion to better myself. Would say that it was subtle, almost subliminal pressure from my stern parents but my mother would probably issue a vociferous rebuttal the minute I made mention of it.

A quick study

Admittedly I never had that much obvious pressure from my parents when it came to my schooling career. Apart from the odd, exceedingly rare reminder to mug for the coming exams, I have never gotten a stern lecture from my parents on this particular subject. Perhaps it was because I already looked stressed enough about the idea of exams without them adding to it - anymore and possibly I'd run crazily amuck through village wielding a heavy textbook while tearing out the pages to festoon the electrical lines.

Or perhaps it was because there was no one else to be held in comparison since we were the eldest in our generation - while the previous generation had just stepped off the proverbial boat from China. My elder brother thankfully wasn't that far ahead in years from me so our academic feats were hardly worth the critical analysis.

But since then of course, we've had dozens of top-scoring younger cousins who have performed shockingly well in exams and it would be nigh impossible to top the whole lot of us, short of winning a Nobel Prize at eighteen. Anything else would have been done before - and possibly better - by someone else in the family. In my really really large tribe, it's easy enough to get lost in a crowd.

Honestly I'd love to say that above average academic results don't mean much in the long run, that sheer hard work and determination will see you through - but astonishingly enough, I can't. Such platitudes wouldn't ring all that true ( sure everyone knows academic excellence doesn't mean much but it does smoothen the path a little! ) since I can easily imagine the sheer consternation if my own daughter were to return with less than satisfactory results.

Poor Carmen. :) Not only would she get flak from her dad, she'd get a sadly uncompromising uncle too.


Anonymous said...

You had to blog about this today! I just sent in my uni apps today, and had the attendant "You have to work harder" talk. *groan*

Poor Carmen.

Kurb said...

Redirected here after doing a search for your email I lifted from Nifty. You'd probably make good as a writer, and all sorts of other things...being "good with your hands" and all. Just remember to wash afterwards, ok? Definately bookmarking this.

strapping.shane said...

Don't start kor. Just don't. =P

Michelle said...

As if I weren't anxious enough already .. On the 14th we find out if my son was accepted to his early admission college of choice. If he didn.t, we have 2 weeks to send out the rest of the 20 applications to second choice universities. I am not sure what the system is like in Malaysia, but in the US good grades are no longer enough for the Ivy league colleges. Good grades and good scores are a given, now you have to also prove that you are well rounded, accomplished and a LEADER. Writing for the school paper is not enough, you have to be editor in chief. Playing sports is fine, but did you make CAPTAIN? Uggh the pressure!


Anonymous said...

Better results don't translate to a better life. But it does make things easier at certain points in life.

Anonymous said...

i wish my parent send me to chinese school during my primary time. at least it will allow me to pick up cantonese n mandarin along the way. just hard when ur bf happen to be chinese. of course we talk in malay n english, but i love it if i can understand what he say when his using his mother tongue.

Anonymous said...


you just have to belive in yourself. that'd suffice.

Anonymous said...


you just have to believe in yourself. that'd suffice.

Anonymous said...

Life is an education by itself, a degree does not mean a thing, it does get things easier but then again, the education of life never ends...

Sprinting Dan said...

You tell Shane to copy homework and all that but you're gonna be strict with your niece? Yer...

savante said...

Gotta agree too, may. Poor carmen has much to live up to.

Whoa. Thanks for checking up on me, kurb :)

Doesn't mean you don't have to study, kid.

That's actually difficult. Never can tell where you're gonna get, michelle. Good luck to your kid.

Certainly does help make it a smoother ride, william.

So did I but it would change you a little, pakcik.

Certainly do, shah.

Yeah, we continue picking up stuff along the way, coolgardy.

Well, he's an adult and already has his own ethics. My niece is a child, dan.


Anonymous said...

They say that teacher-parents are not so hard on their kids in the academic area