Nov 27, 2008

Tan Wen Yi - The CCA Suicide

A tragic report of an apparently happy, healthy 15-year-old teenager suddenly killing himself, in front of his mother.

ST Nov 27, 2008
Boy jumped over CCA
15-year-old wanted a switch but parents tried to dissuade him
By Elena Chong

A 15-YEAR-OLD jumped from the 11th-floor bedroom window of his home - in front of his mother - after a disagreement with his parents over his intention to switch his co-curricular activity (CCA) in school.

Tan Wen Yi had wanted to switch from track-and-field to drama but his parents were against it. Up till then, no one would have thought Wen Yi as a troubled or even self-destructive sort. The Secondary 3 student of Anglo-Chinese School(Independent) was described as cheerful and was well-liked by his classmates and respectful towards his teachers, the Coroner's Court heard yesterday.

A police investigation report presented in court said that on Feb 13 this year, Wen Yi skipped track-and-field training to play football. He was caught by his track teacher and questioned.

He later complained to his classmate that he had been dealt track training sessions four times a week as punishment; he also said he was going to die, but his classmate assumed he was joking.

On their way home in the same bus, Wen Yi was cracking jokes and did not appear depressed.

Staff Sergeant Raymond Chng of the Tanglin Police Division said in his investigation report that Wen Yi's mother received a call from the track teacher that afternoon about her son's ditching his training for football. The teacher, Mr Ng Yeong Joo, 38, who had been told that Wen Yi wanted to switch to drama, told the teen's mother to advise him against it.

That evening, in a talk with his parents in their Stevens Road condo home over the matter, Wen Yi said he had lost his inspiration to run and insisted on the switch.

His parents tried to talk him out of it, but he refused to listen.

He then announced that he had planned to make the switch the following month, 'but I am going to do it now'. He headed for his bedroom, followed by his mother, who sensed something amiss. Before her eyes, he walked up to the window, opened the blinds, climbed onto the ledge, pushed the window open and jumped out. She rushed forward but was too late.

Staff Sgt Chng said that a day before, Wen Yi had sent a classmate a text message in which he said he was going to commit a crime - jump off a building as a 'final feat of rebellion' and let his craziness be known to the world. 'Will you as a friend accompany me on this day?' he had asked.

When he took up track-and- field in 2006, his attendance was irregular, but he blossomed into a medal-winner last year .....

I don't think that the school can be blamed for the suicide itself. Based on what the Straits Times reported, none of the teachers would have seen it coming at all. On the other hand, I wonder whether there is something fundamentally wrong with the way schools run their CCA programmes (or perhaps it's just ACS).

Should a student be punished for missing his CCA? And shouldn't a student be permitted to freely drop a CCA, if he no longer enjoys it?

It's just a CCA, for goodness sakes. Why coerce students into CCAs that they don't want to do? I thought the whole idea of CCAs was to allow students to pursue their interests.

Maybe Wen Yi's problem was that he had "blossomed into a medal winner" last year. Perhaps after that, the school just wouldn't let him leave the track-&-field team. Perhaps Wen Yi's sporting ability was viewed as important for helping the school to win some stupid MOE award for "Best in Sports" or something.

Here's the irony. Top schools often coerce their less-able students into dropping their weakest subjects, even if the student actually wants to carry on with the subject. The school's fear is that the student might score a B or C, thereby dragging down the school's overall percentage of A's.

So that's Singapore, for you. Schools will force you to quit studying what you DO want to study ... and force you to do the CCAs that you DON'T want to do.

124 comments:

Anonymous said...

World-class education system lor. And people think it's something to brag about.

Anonymous said...

I guess this is something that many students experienced while growing up in Singapore.

Somewhere along the process of growing up, school ambitions begins to impede your education.

yuez

Wayne said...

Some students don't even have the freedom to choose their CCA. In secondary school, I had a friend who wanted to join NPCC, but was coerced by the teachers into track and field because of his strength in running.

Perhaps that's how my school won gold medals every year in track and field.

WhiteDuskRed said...

I guess it is not so easy to let a student switch CCAs so easily. Imagine a whole school of 1000+ students switching CCAs every other week. Can anyone achieve anything?

As for the kid... no one can see that coming... but kids these days... you really cannot understand what they are thinking...

Give them love, they want respect. Give them respect, they want money. Give them money, they say you don't love them.

Not easy to be parents. Not easy to be educators. Hell to be both a parent as well as an educator...

Anonymous said...

hi mr. wang,

i think it is fair to say that you are more subtle than your post suggests, whereas most of your readers would surely use this episode to flog the government (a hobbyhorse of theirs).

let's look at it another way: why are teenage years so difficult to live with in this day and age? wen yi's unfortunate and tragic end brings to mind the megan meier case in the states, and the brandon crisp incident in canada.

i would be happy to hear your thoughts on this.

regards

yamizi said...

Sir,

CCA was used to known as ECA (extra-curriculum activities), I think back then, it was deem to be activities that the students would be interested in.

Not anymore with CCA, when CCA ranking is part of the school ranking, no?

Anonymous said...

If I am not wrong, CCA points accumulated over the 4 years in secondary school can be used as one of the subjects for a stident if he chooses to go to JC. The school will discourage students from switching the CCA becuase the points they have accumulated during that period will be void and if a student joins a new CCA, he may not accumulated enough points in the remaining years and the overall grading will be low.

My elder boy likes badminton, but was deemed as not good enough to be in the team and was told to join the school musical band which he doesn't like at all.

My eldest boy who is studying at a junior high school in Canada is allow to join a new CCA he chooses if he was deemed as 'not good enough to represent the school'. He played basketball, went through the training, and was eventually not selected to present the school. He then joined the soccer team, joined the volley team, though he was not selected to represent the school, but at least he went through the training and have the opportunity to be trained and played different types of games. He was also selected to run the vertical marathon at the CN Tower and has done pretty well though not fantastic considering he is just a 14 year old boy. He enjoys the process of playing different types of games.

CCA has to be fun and to one's liking. If it pegs to a grade, then it is just another academic subject.

Lam Chun See said...

Mr Wang. You certainly are making a lot of speculations about the school based on so little facts.

"Maybe Wen Yi's problem ..."
"Perhaps after that .."
"Perhaps Wen Yi's sporting ability ..."
"Top schools often ..."

I dare not comment of this tragedy, but I do know that ACSI is an excellent school and I am so glad that I sent my son there. I especially like their emphasis on all round education.

My son spent all his school years in ACS and I am thankful to ACSI for giving him the opportunity and helping him to excel in sports. I have met many of his mates during training sessions and sport meets. They all appeared happy and motivated. And I have nothing but praises for the teacher in charge of his sport.

Anonymous said...

Suicide is quite a little more complex than the incident implies. It may be that his unhappiness with his current CCA was merely the outward manifestation of larger problems. ie., if not CCA, it would have been something else, such as doing poorly in math or history.

miake said...

CCA should be based on your interest, but unfortunately that is often not the case. When I was in sec sch, I wanted to join the guides, but they declared me as "not suitable". It's just CCA, not applying for a job! How am I "unsuitable" in any way?! Bloody hell! Gd thing I didn't join in the end anyway, cos they force their guides to sell $10 cookies every year to poor suckers. And the cookies don't even taste that good...

Jolene said...

It seems to me very likely there is another angle here, unreported, which is the policing of gender norms. Is it a coincidence that his parents required him to remain in a sporting CCA rather than switch to drama? If asked, would their justification have been only the fact that he was doing well in track and winning medals, or would the idea of masculinity also have been part of their motivation?

Are we looking at a death that is caused in part by sexism?

- Jolene (www.glass-castle.org)

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Mr Wang. You certainly are making a lot of speculations about the school based on so little facts."

Okay ... Then let's consider the facts that we DO know.

1. The boy did not want to do track & field.

2. The boy skipped his track & field.

3. The boy was punished for skipping his track & field.

4. The boy wanted to switch CCA.

5. The teacher told his parents to tell the boy not to switch CCA.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"I guess it is not so easy to let a student switch CCAs so easily. Imagine a whole school of 1000+ students switching CCAs every other week. Can anyone achieve anything?"

I did not fault the school for not letting the boy switch to the CCA of his choice. I faulted the school for not letting the boy drop the CCA he hated.

Of course, it is not possible for everyone to switch CCAs they like. For example, a school team / club etc may only be able to take X number of players. Therefore we don't expect students to be able to switch to their preferred CCAs all the time.

But if a player wants to QUIT a sports team .... Is it right for the school not to let him? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Nice choice of picture, Mr Wang. The old discarded sports shoe simultaneously reminds us of Wen Yi's rejection of track & field, and also the death of an athlete.

jun said...

not all top schools force their students to drop subjects the students are not doing well in, that's for sure. i was from a girls' school and failed physics throughout my upper sec years. however, i was never asked to drop - the teacher only said i could, if i could not cope. in fact that was the advice my classmates who weren't doing well all got - drop if can't cope. i doubt my school ever feared that 'the student might score a B or C, thereby dragging down the school's overall percentage of A's'.

jun said...

and my school allowed everyone to join whatever cca they wanted. imagine my surprise when i went to jc, and found out from friends from some other top schools that the ccas chose them instead of the other way around. perhaps my school was unique, then.

Anonymous said...

i dont feel that there was a problem with him being questioned for skipping track.. you are supposed to keep regular attendance for ur CCA/ECA, cause if anything happens to him while the parents thought he's in school doing cca, it becomes the school's problem.

the problem doesnt lie with his irregular attendance, but rather why he skipped and whether there was something that the school can do more to understand why he skipped.

and mr wang, he doesnt hate to run at the point when he joined. the report said that "he had lost inspiration to run", which mean it was CCA of his choice when he decided to join. it's just that for some reason some time later he has lost reason to run and wanted to change. perhaps this is the issue that we should discuss. why he lost the reason etc. not the issue of him being forced into joining a cca that he didnt like, for his case.

Anonymous said...

was he punished for skipping track?? i dont think so right? he just felt that it was a punishment to go to track.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Read the ST article:

".. on Feb 13 this year, Wen Yi skipped track-and-field training to play football. He was caught by his track teacher and questioned.

He later complained to his classmate that he had been dealt track training sessions four times a week as punishment ; he also said he was going to die, but his classmate assumed he was joking."


He skipped track. He was punished. The punishment - compulsory & extra track-&-field training.

That's how I read the article.

rebel peasant said...

I feel that schools are extremely self-centered as they only take in students who are good in the respective CCA and dump everyone else into a "lousy" CCA aka one that doesn't win truckloads of medals and trophies every year. They should split up the CCAs into the "dedicated,wants to win prizes" group and the "just play for fun" group.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what made it so stifling for this boy that he felt he could not talk things through and work things out, that he had to resort to suicide. He had expressed his suicide intent to his classmates; thought about how to do it - through jumping; and he could readily use the method whenever he wanted to. He was at risk. The only missing piece was that no one knew exactly what had been the on-going issues. This triggering issue of CCA might just represent an event of something he felt strongly about and he felt he had to rebel against. This is a sad incident... may he find peace...

Anonymous said...

oh. i see... sorry mr wang, my bad. =)

Anonymous said...

I work as a contract staff school for a school. What I had noticed was, the teachers and Principals are more concern about getting best result for the school rather than the well-being of the students.

Why?

If the school achieved good result or medals, the Teacher concern and Principal will get good rating which means an increase in performance bonus. That's $$$$$.

Anonymous said...

As an educationist of over thirty years I find it vry strange and disturbing that on the one hand we are told that the governmenet spend millions of dollars re-tooling our educational system so that it will be flexible allowing for choices and yet schools continue to be dogmatically blinkered in matters like CCA. If there is to be TRUE choice then this should be seen in every facet of the educational system. Otherwise we are merely LEGISLATING independence and this false independence actually underlines the lack of creativity of our educationsist, policy makers and politicians. Sure, let's have freedom for students to express their creativity so that they can strive to be Blll Gates but do not make them feel that they are being forced to live a lie on behalf of some political programme by the powers that be. More is at stake here than criticism of the government. We are actually destroying a whole generation of students. Mistakes in education reveal themselves only after 15 to 20 years when the students come of age and enter the working world and adulthood. I plead with the government not to be obstinate and be like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand. Open your eyes and see what you are doing to the people who have faith in you and pay your salaries. Do not destroy their confidence making them bitter and aggrieved. You need to do better.

Jon said...

We live in a skewed Meritocracy that worships Meritocracy as an end, not a means.

Meritocracy begets Measurements.
Measurement begets Performance.
Performance begets Priorities.
Priorities begets sacrifice.

Pragmatism has been deemed to be the national creed. Learn to live with it.

Anonymous said...

"and mr wang, he doesnt hate to run at the point when he joined. the report said that "he had lost inspiration to run", which mean it was CCA of his choice when he decided to join."

This is not what is implied in the Asiaone report. (how come you guys never cross-check report by 144th media?)

According to http://www.asiaone.com/News/Education/Story/A1Story20081127-103764.html,

What is known is that from the start, Wen Yi was unhappy about being in the track-and-field team and frequently missed training practices as a result. The situation improved a little when he began to do well in the sport, clinching 2 individual medals in the process.
According to

don said...

I'm a 20 year old NSF, and I have been through a similar predicament.

I was somewhat a "lobo" boy, extremely aversive towards CCA training and also didn't like to hole myself up in any one particular CCA.

I did not enjoy CCA at all. However, I was forced to take up a CCA and in the end, I was assigned stupid CCAs in which i have no interest. Life was miserable because attendance was "COMPULSORY" and I risk penalties if I did not attend.

In the end, I somehow struggled through. However, i still cannot forget how difficult that period of time was. I wasnt allowed to get into something I LIKE. I was forced to go to a cca i did not like, and i wasnt allowed to quit. I decided to skip trainings and was severely punished by the school. i felt so entrapped and miserable at that time.

please stop putting sg education system on the pedestal. you dont know what goes behind the appraisals, ranking systems and KPI. they think just forcing CCAS down every single student's throat is called "all rounded education", while at the same time disregarding the student's happiness and preferences.

Anonymous said...

don, if appraisals, ranking systems and KPI are true, then the teachers are self-serving creatures.

Then why didn't you play one against another? You can complain to your form/subject teachers that your grade is slipping *because* of that stupid CCA. Or you volunteer for remedial classes. I believe grades come first, after all CCAs stop few weeks before exam.

Anonymous said...

don, I'm assuming you were not a CCA medallist like the deceased. So the CCA has no reason to keep a "non-performer" against the wish of your subject teachers. :P

Anonymous said...

"was he punished for skipping track?? i dont think so right? he just felt that it was a punishment to go to track."

Once again, ST and Asiaone seem to differ.

ST - After Mr Ng had left, Wen Yi complained to his classmate that he had to attend make-up training session four times a week.

Asiaone - After the teacher had left, Wen Yi turned to his soccer buddies and confided that he was sick of attending training four times a week as punishment for his truancy

So have he served his sentence?

T__T said...

This is disturbing. However, there may be other more complex factors involved.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if this happens in other schools but my sons are in this particular one. I have a few and they are all in the same school. Every time they go into secondary 1, selecting a CCA seems a bit of a nigtmare. My sons are not exactly excellent sportsmen but they do love tennis and unfortunately tennis is an extremely popular sport in their school. However as they have not demonstrated excellence in this sport (I suppose through past performance) in order to participate in the tennis CCA they have to have a "try out". Being an extremely popular sport there are many good players so my sons are deemed "not good enough". They will then go to the next second best one for another "try out". Not exactly their choice but ok...Quite obviously thery are again deemed "not good enough" and this went on. Finally they found one that they were accepted. But it seemed that this is also the dumping ground. All those that cannot "qualify" for the other games ended up here. By then they do not really care anymore as it was an exhausting exercise. Everythime my sons tell me this I am extremely indignant. I always thought CCA is for you to enjoy and if you are new at it or not good at it, picking up the CCA will allow you to pick up a new skill or hone up your weak skills. This is obviosuly not the case in our school system. And it is sad sad sad. Imagine I may be passionate about an activity but I may not have the opportunity to participate in this activity, say tennis, either because my primary school do not have this or my parents are too poor to send me for expensive classes. I will never have a chance to pursue my passion because my school do not think I am good enough in just one try out.

hojiber said...

Aiyah Wang, it's the stupid performance system lah. You know, KPI? Balanced Scorecard?

So it now becomes teacher's career versus the students' interests. Of course, the school prefer their KPI loh.

Anonymous said...

ECA is last time. It means EXTRA curricular activity. Extra means you do what you want.

CCA is now. It means CO-curricular activity. CO means it is part of the school KPI loh.

fish fingers said...

Mr Wang, various Anon, you jest.. ACS(I) requires most students to have TWO CCAs, not just one like the rest of the island's secondary schools.

Only those with explicit permission from the HOD/CCA equivalent are allowed to get away with one, typically the sports people, as in this case (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong).

After all, ACS(I) is not the Top Boys' School for Sports and Games in Singapore* for the 12th year for no good reason. It has a very good system to, uh, develop the (sometimes latent) strengths in its boys.

Grades come first, over CCA — sometimes. Definitely not during the competition season, nor after. After all, it's not the school's fault you don't study for your exams, you don't catch up with assignments and coursework, you sleep during classes.. who ask you to be so irresponsible? Cannot expect to be spoon fed, right!

* Caveat: I'm sure we're all aware that HCI tied for this in 2008. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

i think the reason why eca became cca is because when it was eca, some students took part in something that they were really good at and had interest in, but were not able to score well academically. so in order to recognise their ability, they set up standards of evaluating ur ability to excel in ur interest
* in which itself is a little ironic*
so that students who did well in their eca/cca have this added marketablity
*again another irony*
besides their results if their results are not good.

my brother was an example. his grades are not good in sec sch. but he was a very good judo player and had interest in it *all the WWF back then had great impact on him. and his unfortunate experiment, me.* so he managed to pull strings and go to the affilated jc.

it's just all about marketablity.

Anonymous said...

anon_ November 27, 2008 9:15 PM

flexibility in the singaporean education system is quite a facade. flexibility means more uncertainties, means more excess work. it's quite known that teachers always prefer to do less work when it comes to CCA. or at least, this is what i see now as a trend when i compare teachers-in-charge that took care of my CCA when i was a freshie, and compare to the in-charge when it was my generation, and compare to the in-charge that they have now. the teachers in charge back then really cared for us like we were her children. but i think such teachers are quite rare now.

Anonymous said...

some schools adopt like "school team"/"recreational" divisions for sports cca. is this kind of distinction a minority or majority in schools??

Anonymous said...

i think the problem lies with the school system itself.. teachers, and their supervisors down the line, get credit if the students are doing well in their sports and representing the school. self-interest would be a great motivating force for the teachers to select and retain their best students in their respective fields, so to speak. especially now that schools are no longer ranked, trying to distinguish school A from school B relies on arbitrary markers of distinction like--well, sports.

i had trouble quitting my high school CCA as well, because the teacher in charge had absolute authority and refused to let me quit. by the time i got out after the first year i was FIRED, more than allowed to leave the CCA, and because of that (and the time lapse) i wasn't allowed to join any other CCAs which had, i think, detrimentally affected my applications to JCs.

rather than just blaming the schools, i think parents have a certain responsibility as well. if parents are willing to go far enough to challenge the school, it is unlikely that the child would be forced to stay in his CCA.

min-tsek said...

Just to let everyone know:

In my son's primary school, during a parents briefing session, the parents were told that the students have to choose a CCA and is not allowed to switch to another CCA.

I was like WTF!!!??? A PRIMARY SCHOOL!!!???

It is one thing to say that certain CCA have limited places and you may not be able to join. It is another thing to have rules preventing PRIMARY SCHOOL kids to switch CCAs.

Maybe it is to facilitate a more streamline administration. Or to prevent administrative problems. Or to win medals. If so, I am unable to accept this. CCAs are not for the convenience or glory of schools. They are there for kids to try new things.

min-tsek said...

CCAs have certainly changed. CCAs are now so important.

20 years ago, CCAs are not so important. My CCAs are completely ignored by my school and my peers and my teachers (except a few who recognised that CCAs can be impt -- another story). Who cares?

No one during my singapore school days plan their CCAs as a factor to get into uni. (though there is one kid I know who did it to increase his chances of getting a scholarship -- he did get a nice scholarship and is now an important person in government). It is all about A's.

I did my CCAs without giving a hoot to whether I can get a uni place or not. When I was in an overseas uni, people in uni pursue their interest in the CCAs and has no interest in joining a CCA to secure places in hostels, courses or whatever. So different from what we see now in Singapore. Not enough CCAs can even get you booted out of your uni hostel.

As an example of how things were different then, the student in my graduating year in sec school who was invited back after graduation to give a talk during the following year's graduation ceremony was not the captain of the table tennis team, who has won medals for the school and was our only student in any sports who was training for the national team.

It was the kid who scored 10 A's. I think he was the member of the computer club or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I was part of chinese orchestra previously and i absolutely hated it. I wanted to switch but the teachers said that I couldn't.

Thank goodness a teacher who was transferred in had some good sense to let me switch after I've skipped practices for 6 months.

It was such a pain to get out of a cca.

utopia said...

i simply think the rankings of schools be abolished.

no rankings = no honor and glories = no stress

i was from an autonomous sec sch in tampines and poor-performing students were encouraged to drop A Maths. i still remember how my Maths teacher taunt my class when everyone failed his quiz.

"drop now, save my trouble and the school"

David Chappell said...

No one has picked up on the failure of the track teacher to do his job as a teacher properly. Apparently, he "had heard" that Wen Yi wanted to switch to drama and, on the strength of that rumour advised the mother to discourage him. As a responsible teacher he should have talked to Wen Yi to find out why, especially as the boy, by skipping practices, was plainly not happy.

yamizi said...

utopia,

I had a similar experience. During my sec 2 streaming, I didn't do well enough to get myself into certain class. That class didn't offer A maths. The whole class knew that A maths is important (from seniors, from our own elder bros and sis), so the whole class wanted to appeal (haha, silly us!) with the Principal, to let the class have A maths. We did that just about 2 days after we got our results, that was during end Nov.
The Principal was too 'busy' to meet us, so the VP came, with the usual put-down tone. In the end, we didn't even get to do A maths.
Such is life.

yamizi said...

utopia,

Sorry that I typed wrongly. I meant that I chose certain classes in sec 3 but was unable to get in, so I got 'kicked' into a class that was not in my choice instead.

James said...

I noe someone who has been to ACS(I) during the recent O Levels exams.

Realistic Observations were made at close quarters about ACS(I) culture and conduct on the part of students, teachers and parents. After recounting these observations and experiences, I have to conclude that things that have gone very extreme and wrong compared to the past ACS, given my close historical affiliation to the ACS community.

In my understanding therefore,the various aspects of this suicide story, i.e. attitudes of the student, teacher, school, mother/father, fit the background above.

Btw, consider also the recent 'ragging' incident in ACJC too. Haven't things also gone to the extreme.

Society is fundamentally and also internationally sick - look at Mumbai and Bangkok.

Kaffein said...

Anon November 27, 2008 9:15 PM wrote:
"As an educationist of over thirty years I find it vry strange and disturbing that on the one hand we are told that the governmenet spend millions of dollars re-tooling our educational system so that it will be flexible allowing for choices and yet schools continue to be dogmatically blinkered in matters like CCA. If there is to be TRUE choice then this should be seen in every facet of the educational system. Otherwise we are merely LEGISLATING independence and this false independence actually underlines the lack of creativity of our educationsist, policy makers and politicians."

How true indeed! Coz I remember someone saying to the tune of:

'Change has to take place in Singapore but change must take place not (between parties) but within the PAP.

'As long as the PAP changes itself, and continues to provide clean and good government, and the lives of Singaporeans improve, the country is much better off with one dominant, strong, clean, good party.'

It's like painting a different colour on a cracking wall. The structure is falling away but all they did was to paint another colour.

So how can anyone expect anything to change if the people effecting the change comes from within?

If you have the same school ranking system, salaries and bonuses graded by performance and KPIs in place, no matter how you change the education policies, the focus is still on KPIs, scoreboards and rankings.

Duh.

Kaffein

Anonymous said...

David Chappell—I hear that the track teacher in question was not hired as (and was not) a teacher per se, not in the traditional sense of teaching an academic subject. Don't think you can fault a PE teacher for not knowing what NIE trained teachers are taught, hmm?

James—amen.

Anonymous said...

I am a school teacher.

In my school, there are students who do not turn up for CCAs. If the parents support their kids in NOT turning up for CCAs, there's nothing we teachers can do about it. So, it is not fair to pin the problem on the school for badgering students' regarding their attendance.

I have learnt that in school, there's no such thing as 'compulsory', regardless of what the teacher or principal says.

We have organized 'compulsory' remedial programs during holidays, and students don't turn up. 'Coz parents want to bring their kids for holidays or outings.

There is really no such thing as 'compulsory' attendance in school. You parents just need to put your foot down.

Anonymous said...

yamizi, didn't you know there's AO Maths in JC? Don't need to "beg" principal la. Furthermore, AO Maths class in JC very small, almost like small group tuition.

Anonymous said...

James, I didn't know that kind of teacher got such executive powers. :P

Anyway I'm curious why didn't the deceased switch to football? Or some other team sports.

Was he truly interested in drama? Did he show flair?

David Chappell said...

Anon@9:35

It matters not that the track teacher was or was not an academic NIE-trained teacher. He is still in a pedagogic role and the principles are the same. He had no business giving the advice he did to the mother on the basis of something he "had heard".

Anonymous said...

Actually I'm still surprised for a competitive CCA like track and field, they are willing to take in somebody who does not have interest.

You mean what, track and field is dumping ground in ACSI?

Anonymous said...

Certainly this guy is not very smart IF his intention was to "play truant". He didn't even smoke out.

On the day of the 13th, the teacher-in-charge of Wen Yi's CCA, Mr Ng Yeong Joo, 38, saw him in playing soccer in school with friends instead of attending practice. When confronted, Wei Yi revealed his unhappiness and expressed his wish to transfer to the drama club instead. (Asiaone report)

So the drama club could be a lie, i.e. he was just being rebellious. The teacher(s) might have viewed the whole matter from this perspective.

QQ*librarian said...

Did the boy really commit suicide over CCA, or there are other issues that he was grappling with, not mentioned in the report and clearly not mentioned by his mother... I am concerned we take issue on the CCA when the root cause of the problem may be something else for the boy - which may perhaps be a more serious social problem than the CCA system not revealed in this case.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when the VOCATION of teaching is replaced by perfpormance, pay and theories (politicians are so quick to jump tothe defence of Singapore's "unique" political system - no need for opposition lah) but name me ONE government oragnization in Singapore that does not base itself on and copy theories from some foreign shore! A vocation is more than a job for pay/performance bonuses/promotions. It is a calling. Politicians do not believe in vocations, why should teachers?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Well since I was a DPP, I do know something about how the police works.

When the boy died and the police commenced investigation, they basically would have interviewed his parents; his classmates; his teachers, anyone else whom the boy would regularly have been in contact with ... and also the police would typically search his home to look at his personal diaries, notebooks and computer.

So the IO did all that, and his investigations clearly show that the suicide has something to do with the CCA. The investigations don't show anything else:

eg there was nothing to show that the boy was upset about his girlfriend, his homework, his school grades etc etc, or acting depressed about anything else

so I wonder why some readers here keep speculating that there must be some other reason why the boy committed suicide.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Frankly, if you hate track & field, punishing you by making you go for track-&-field sessions can possibly be quite torturous.

I imagine it would be something like punishing a soldier by making him run four extra SOCs in a week.

Anonymous said...

MR Wang,

You wrote, "so I wonder why some readers here keep speculating that there must be some other reason why the boy committed suicide.

November 28, 2008 11:40 AM"

This is the power of the matrix, the worldof simulacra that the government has thrown over all of us. It is like living in Narnia, an enchanted,make believe world where things are scripted and acted out. So we CANNOT believe that the authorities are to blame EVEN IF WE KNOW THEY ARE IN THE WRONG. Don't believe me, look at the Town Council Financial fiasco investment episode.

Anonymous said...

Our world class education did not put the student's welfare as the first priority.

That's how I see it.

I think it's a good reminder to us, parents, to take a step back and view education in its right perspective.

The CCA system needs reviewing. I hated CCA. I am not good enough for those CCA I like and for 4 years, every Saturday, I endured something for 2 hours just to meet the criteria. I could have used the time to pursue my other passions outside of what the school can provide.

My son had the same problems too. He liked to draw and wanted to join the arts club in his primary school. But the teacher let someone else the chance because that student had done better academically.

I always wonder what was the harm of letting him join. He may not be Picasso but the school could make him so happy and motivated by a simple gesture of letting him just doodle along with the others.

We moved to Australia shortly after. At 14 now, he is still drawing. His friends even asked for his drawings.

He may never win medals but he won many friends with his passion for drawings. That is good enough for me.

WhiteDuskRed said...

In my opinion, the parents had a major role to play in this episode. They didn't have to force the advice from the teacher onto their son. Did they say anything out of line which pushed their son over the ledge? I don't believe teachers have such powers. If they do then the teacher wouldn't have to call up the parents.

"I imagine it would be something like punishing a soldier by making him run four extra SOCs in a week." - This type of things are still quite common in NS, no? And what is he going to do about it if he didn't commit suicide and go to NS?

Call me heartless or whatever but I feel little sympathy for the boy. If he think the world is unfair then what will happen when he reaches NS? Take out an SAR and shoot his CO? Kill the boss when he become a salaried man?

Suicide are for cowards. They end their life but everyone who survive will suffer forever. Rotten son never spare a thought for his mother...

Anonymous said...

WhiteDuskRed, wasn't he legally underage when the crime was committed? So don't use the "what will happen in future" scenario leh.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Now, of course I think that the boy's reaction is waaaay too extreme.

This doesn't mean that Singapore's school CCA system is all fine & dandy.

This whole incident should, at the very least, inspire ACS to relook how they allocate CCAs to their students.

Maybe the school should even ask students to participate in CCAs that they enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I agree with the educationist who posted that the Ministry of Education needs to do better for the younger generation. CCA should be for enjoyment. Why force youngsters into a CCA when they have lost interest? Why force 4 years of the same CCA to score points for JC entrance? In New Zealand , kids get to join any sport they want. There are "leisure" teams and "competition" teams. Either way , teams get to compete in the relevant league. So no one gets "trounced" by a team from a higher league. And everyone has fun. Of course that means parent helpers are needed to referee and manage the large number of teams and competitions; but I believe parents will step up to the tasks for the sake of their children. As the anonymous educationist commented, we are doing harm to an aggrieved and bitter generation. Youth should be spent on more than passing exams and scoring CCA points...His passing would not be in vain if Singapore's education sector wakes up and make changes before it's too late....I pray for his family; that they have been / will be comforted from this sad tragedy....

WhiteDuskRed said...

How open is everyone to the idea of going back to the good old days of ECA? I, for one, never saw any problem with that.

I know of some friends who didn't make it to the basketball team. They didn't join any other ECA and joined us for training. In fact their attendance put some of the team members to shame. They train harder and squeezed their way into the team by sec 3.

Needed a mix of policy (ECA instead of CCA) and welcoming attitude from teachers-in-charge to allow non-members to join in.

Great old days...

Xtrocious said...

Hmmm...seems like a lifetime ago since I was last in Secondary School...

During my time, I was able to join as many ECAs as I wanted as long as they do not affect my studies...

ECA - that's how old I am...hahah

I was representing my school in rugby, swimming, waterpool and track and field. I was also in NCC and in the Computer Club and Maths and Science Society...

I had a blast to say the least...

Anonymous said...

I don't think that CCAs should be run like the military.

It's not difficult to see that some degree of coercion and harsh discipline may be required to train soldiers for warfare.

However, neither school track-&-field nor the Drama Club have anything to do with warfare.

Anonymous said...

To previous anon, should uniformed groups be run like military then?

It is all about discipline la for competitive sports especially.

Wowbagger said...

WhiteDuskRed wrote:
"I imagine it would be something like punishing a soldier by making him run four extra SOCs in a week." - This type of things are still quite common in NS, no? And what is he going to do about it if he didn't commit suicide and go to NS?

Actually the context of being forced to do extra CCAs is very different from that of being forced to do extra physical work in NS. In the latter case, it is understood that you are doing NS to serve your country; your welfare is subjugated to that of the country's. In the former case, the culprits (teachers and parents) are supposed to be in the business of nurturing the boy and looking after his welfare. They are not supposed to put the school's interests above the boy's education and personal development --- the purpose of school is to educate boys like him. Yet they are the ones who are forcing him to do extra things that serve only the school and not him. From the boy's point of view, he could see it as an act of betrayal or dishonesty --- why are these people who claim to care for me forcing me to do things that aren't any good for me? It may sound trivial, but it is also emotionally hard to accept that people who claim to care for you actually want you to do things that are detrimental to your welfare and personal development.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang wrote:
"Maybe the school should even ask students to participate in CCAs that they enjoy."

Most schools do.

If i am not wrong, favourite CCAs are filled up fast leaving many students to find an CCA that they DISLIKE the least.

Many students enjoy multiple CCAs, good for them !!

Wowbagger said...

I should add, too, that it is particularly devastating to the child when parents are unsupportive of their child's true interests and insist on the child going down a more socially acceptable road that he detests. The family is an important support network for most people, and it is no small thing if the child feels that his family is opposed to an important part of his self.

Potassium Chloride said...

After viewing through the article posted by Mr Wang and the comments of others, I would just like to share something.

There's nothing wrong with ranking secondary schools, afterall we do rank our universities. Obviously the problem comes in when the schools themselves are coming up with all sorts of weird and different ways to push their students to excel in their CCAs and studies, such as forcing people to join CCAs which they do not like or making them drop a subject.

It's like the TradeNet system that Singapore has implemented in the 1980s, before the age of the Internet. TradeNet was implemented to allow companies to submit their forms regarding port taxes and other documents to the relevant government agencies easily through computers, thus allowing paperwork to be saved. But it did not take off very well because many of the jokers in the government agencies were afraid of using computers and alien technology, thus papers were all printed out from the computers and be vertified by these jokers, before these bunch of jokers ask their subordinates to help to key in the decisions made by them back into the computers. In the end, the problem was solved when these jokers were made to either learn how to verify documents on the computers or be transferred to other boards.

So now we have the same problem. The concept of ranking is alright, but it's not right when schools themselves decide to twist the system. I am sure our MOE never states that students are not allowed to switch CCAs and need to drop subjects if they keep failing. It's the schools who forcing the students to do such nonsense. This is an obvious case of a system that is designed to encourage friendly competition among schools and yet not setting some policies to make sure that the schools are twisting the system to suit their own needs. For example, if MOE states that schools are not allowed to stop students from joining their favourite CCAs or be forced to join CCAs which they do not like, do you think such problems will still happen?

I think not. Perhaps MOE should really take a good look at what the schools are doing and see if the schools are actually abusing the system. You can design a perfect system, but if users themselves are all clowns who refuse to use the system properly, then it is the fault of the users.

Onlooker said...

True.
How many non elite Singaporean child have to die for the "Reputation" of these "Famous" School.
Remind me of the ragging incident a few week back.
Such incident had also occurs in raffles and hwa chong too but most are non fatal.

Concerned Parent said...

It is obvious that Wen Yi has some psychological problem - to resort to suicide over such a minor issue.

As parents we like to think we can guide our children, and help them make decisions that positively impact their future.

All the child has to do is to discuss with their parents and not resort to such drastic and irreversible measures to get their ideas conveyed.

D. Tan said...

"I did not fault the school for not letting the boy switch to the CCA of his choice. I faulted the school for not letting the boy drop the CCA he hated.

Of course, it is not possible for everyone to switch CCAs they like. For example, a school team / club etc may only be able to take X number of players. Therefore we don't expect students to be able to switch to their preferred CCAs all the time.

But if a player wants to QUIT a sports team .... Is it right for the school not to let him? I don't think so."

As a student from ACS(I), I would like to clear some misconceptions that Mr Wang may have regarding the school's CCA system.

Like Wen Yi, I am also on the verge of quitting my current CCA in favour of another one. My current CCA's teachers and coaches explicitly mentioned that the members of the CCA can "walk out whenever you want, but you can never return."

Understandably, one CCA cannot account for the school-wide system, however, some of my schoolmates have made CCA transfers before, showing that the CCA system is not inflexible.

Mr Wang also mentioned that:

"1. The boy did not want to do track & field.

2. The boy skipped his track & field.

3. The boy was punished for skipping his track & field.

4. The boy wanted to switch CCA.

5. The teacher told his parents to tell the boy not to switch CCA."

Is it not correct to punish a student for skipping his CCA? If not, why do most if not all schools in Singapore have rules against truancy? Surely this applies to co-curricular activities as well.

Also, note that the teacher merely advised Wen Yi's parents to dissuade their son from quitting Track and Field. There is, in my opinion, completely nothing wrong with giving advice, as there is no proof that the teacher actually FORCED Wen Yi to remain in Track and Field.

Again quoting Mr Wang, "This whole incident should, at the very least, inspire ACS to relook how they allocate CCAs to their students.

Maybe the school should even ask students to participate in CCAs that they enjoy."

ACS(I) provides the new students with the CCA Fairs as part of their orientation programme, and while I understand that there are limited places in the various CCAs and not everybody goes home happy, I would like to point out that it is still preference before merit; i.e. if a student is good at Hockey, for example, but does not want to join, he is neither obliged nor forced to join.

Just thought I'd clear these doubts up.

Anonymous said...

Suicide is for cowards?

Why don't you try jumping down from the 12th storey?

It takes balls of steel to do it.

Unless of course the victim has given up on everything.

Anonymous said...

I would like to look at this incident from a different angle.

Obviously this kid was facing some kind of personal, emotional or psychological problem which he could not find someone close enough to relate to. And the problem could be further aggravated when someone is especially harsh with his/her words on him which may have led him to feel that his life is no more worth continuing with.

And the result, an act of desperation committed at the spur of the moment.

I suspect when he asked to switch to drama, he must have given a very obvious hint, if only those around him were in a position to understand him or cares enough to be really concerned about his welfare.

I think I know the reason why he took his life, because it probably take the same kind of minded person to understand what he has gone through.

It's just a pity that our society do not understand people like us.

numbernine said...

Research in neurology shows that the human brain develops in a kind of way that is associated with crazy and extreme behaviour during the teenage years. There is a larger amount of neural rewiring during this period, and the same is true when the person is two years (hence the "terrible twos")

If you couple this with a more temperamental disposition that you would expect from a person who has an artistic inclination, he is more apt to think about suicide, more apt to do something rash.

Also, parents who are pushy enough to get their kids into prestigious schools are also less inclined to listen to their kids. I know this because I came from one of those schools. At the same time it's almost impossible to excel in today's education system without being very stubborn.

In sum, I would put all this to an explosive combination of factors. We've all lived through teenage years before and we usually can remember what a turbulent time it is. But I think that the educators and the parents are guilty of a lack of empathy.

It is so easy to allow the student to switch CCAs, and it is so hard for the student to keep on doing what he doesn't like to do. The teacher in question is going to get fucked for the rest of his life and frankly he deserves it.

That said, when I was in a student, every morning when I woke up, I thanked God that I'm not Japanese, or Korean or Taiwanese. You just can't compare what Singaporeans go through with what goes on for students of those countries.

yamizi said...

anon @ 10:19am,

Only a few made it to the JC. The rest of us went to polytechnic instead.

Well, those were the days, young and ignorant. Anyway, failure is a good lesson itself.

Mercia said...

I went to ACS I a long time ago, and the schooling environment was far from the usual oppressive Singaporean education most people had to endure. During my time it was bloody unheard of that CCA teachers would punish you for missing lessons.

If this is the case, then the ACS I that many of us were privileged to attend has changed, and not for the better.

Anonymous said...

"To previous anon, should uniformed groups be run like military then? It is all about discipline la for competitive sports especially."

Yes, of course. IF you want to participate in competitive sports, that is.

Wen Yi did not. In fact, he'd rather die.

Anonymous said...

Do you readers actually check ACSI CCA webpage? Where got track and field siah?
http://www.acs.sch.edu.sg/acs_indep/pages/CCAList

Anonymous said...

They call it "Athletics" lah. It's Number 2 on the list, behind "Aikido".

auntielucia said...

Why hasn't anyone expressed sympathy for the kid's mum? Why did the kid react so extremely over the CCA issue? Did he always have his way and so cldn't adjust his mindset fast enough when the adults in his world suddenly decided to reel him in? These are questions that should be pondered over too rather than hammering away at the education system -- which is designed for the masses for heavens sake, not customised to every individual!

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have recently decided to adopt a new theme for my blog. I seek to focus my attention on issues where I think that improvement is possible and/or needed.

I can't do anything for Wen Yi or his mother. But I can express an opinion; raise awareness; and inspire an online discussion about possible issues with Singapore's CCA system in schools.

So that is what I am doing, with my current post.

d said...

This isn't a problem with just CCAs, it's a problem with the whole 'meritocracy' business.

Because schools were ranked according to their students' results, academically weak students are forced to drop subjects which might drag the school's KPI down.

Because CCA points give you an advantage when applying for JCs, some schools like ACS force students to join 2 CCAs. Coincidentally(?), the position of a sgt/staff sgt in a cadet corps was attributed the same number of points for representing the school at national level. How on earth are those 2 similar? I believe this was similar with the PEARLS system in JC (before it got scrapped). How many students fight for positions on the executive committee just to look good on their testimonials?

Because university has an added emphasis on project work, PW was added to the syllabus in A levels. Somehow having the groups chosen 'randomly' would make it fair among the students. And because all the teachers have the same standards when it comes to project work, they are given absolute power to decide whether the students get a 'satisfactory' or an 'excellent'.

Because the practical examinations for JCs are graded by teachers (their very own in fact!) it is very easy for subjectivity to play a part in marking papers.

Because you don't show a natural affinity for this particular sport, I will recommend you to join another activity instead, and completely disregard your determination to overcome that barrier.

It's not as though the parents are totally innocent as well. Primary schools which are 'outstanding' have waiting lists stretching until kids who can still barely walk on their own. I visit Popular and see rows upon rows of assessment books and 'challenging' questions for primary school students. It's no wonder the tuition industry is such a thriving business.

This death is definitely not a one-off case. For such an incident, there are many more 'close calls', and even more situations where students have been affected.

Now if you would excuse me, I'm off to find more tuition students...

WhiteDuskRed said...

Reading the post again, it seems like he as bent on committing suicide since he told his friends he was going to die.

The bigger problem with our society may not be the school system. Its really more about whether parents understand their children and can communicate effectively.

Alot of us here are writing comments based on what we been through but how many of us have gone back to secondary school in recent years? We never had internet/mobile phones/mp3 players in those days.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he faced a lack of support. For me my prev cca teachers showed no concern for my welfare when I was overburdened with work being part of the committee, juggling multiple tasks while studying for As. Luckily i had family support, they pulled me out of it immediately. The sch principal apologized personally for lapses in the system.

Have the courage to leave a CCA. No matter how the teachers may treat you, givng u glares and all that, do not suffer, it's not worth it.

Anonymous said...

I really laughed when i read d.tan's comments.

me said...

what's so surprising when the govt will force you(if you are a male) to do something you DON'T WANT TO DO for two years once you reach 18?

Anonymous said...

This is tragic news indeed. Whilst I was in secondary school years ago, I too was stuck in a sports CCA which I grew to hate. Just because my school wouldn't let you change CCA after you've joined one.

The foreign coaches were showering all their attention to the talented students who were in the national team and ignoring other novices like me. Sometimes, we were even made to clean up the place! Ironically, we even had to pay a CCA fee of over 200 dollars per term, possibly going into the fat paycheck of those coaches.

Nevertheless, I always turned up for the thrice a week 'training' just for the measly 1 bonus point for attendance. I tried appealing for a change of CCA but to no avail because the school stuck fast to their policy of absolute no changing of CCAs. Looking back, that was the most miserable four years of my life. A total waste of time and money. I wished I had the courage to walk away from it all then.

The CCA system definitely needs an overhaul. If the school is only going to send in the same select few accomplished representatives for the annual sporting competitions every year then they shouldn't bother with recruiting excess members.

Mama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama said...

Something must change in our education system or our young will suffer. My husband and I are planning to leave the country before baby goes to school, and I will homeschool, do anything to send baby to an international school before enrolling her in a school here. Too scary. Ever heard of the International Bacculareate Programme? Well, some schools run them here, and sadly they miss the whole philosophy and point of that international programme. The IB programme is also linked strongly to the Primary Years' Programme (PYP) where children do not sit for an exams till past age 11. The emphasis is on character development, inquiry learning - they have 1000s of questions to ask - they find answers with the help of teachers to their questions. And it is a two way assessment system - the child assess how much he or she has achieved from the aims of each project/tasks she undertakes. The teachers then give write up feedbacks on how the child has developed. There is no grading, no comparing with other kids etc. This is healthy because each child grow differently and in different spurts of development. The Middle Years' Programme follows the PYP where students are very active in engaging in learning, and given much time to pursue subjects in depth those they are very interested in, and engage in community and voluntary work. Sports is something they have lots of fun and are intrinsically motivated in, not forced to excel. The IB programme is excellent because it makes you think global, act global, starting with addressing issues which are global like environment protection etc. In Singapore, I am given the impression that all the students, parents, and teachers care about are those grades. And those grades are for memorising, learning things that students are not fully interested and engaged in. Very very sad - our education system here. Good maybe for churning out rats for the rat race, and some very good rats good at speeding for that seat in the MRT meant for the elderly etc, and immediately pretending to sleep...very very sad where this country is going.

numbernine said...

Well you could always send your kid to the only school here which offers the IB program. Which is - wait for it...

(drum roll....)

ACS (I)!

Bwah hwah hwah

James said...

Wang: "I have recently decided to adopt a new theme for my blog. I seek to focus my attention on issues where I think that improvement is possible and/or needed."

Life is to be enjoyed. We have joy taken out of life in Singapore, for the most part.

If we cannot change our outlook and perspective of life, then improvement/change is impossible.

fish fingers said...

mama, numbernine..

ACS(I) is a world class school. They do the IB Diploma Programme, in the Uniquely Singaporean style. Very efficient, very organised. Truly top notch.

Of course, with the overwhelming success that you are supposed to expect of anything done Singaporean style -- brilliant results, for both individuals and the school. Really good stuff.

numbernine said...

Even though I am from a different premier school from ACS(I) which is a rival of it, and even though I have no special affection for it, the ACS(I) of my time seemed like a friendlier, more laid back place where these sort of things do not happen. Back then there was a real emphasis on holistic development instead of bottom line, something that I respected. I just wonder what happened to them now.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe that the creation of a CCA is meant to allow students to de-stress from their hectic school schedule and also, allow them to become an all-rounder.
Yet, the education ministry insist that it be taken seriously, probably due to the hefty costs of hiring specialized instructors to conduct these lessons, by making it compulsory for all students to engage in one. This makes it even more frustrating for the minority students like the mentioned boy to achieve. From my analysis of the ST report, the boy has a record of skipping CCA and finally achieves something out from it - could this well be a tell-tale sign of an impending doom? I'm well sure of it.
If you have read 'Little Girls In Pretty Boxes', recall the story of Julissa Gomez and Christy Henrich. The stress they underwent during their sports training (plus family pressure to do well) is intensive, and their deaths were mainly attributed by their parents who insist they continue with the sport they're in as it costs alot of money.
So who's fault was it that the kid doesn't perform well in a CCA? School, trainers or parents? Its high time the ministry of education looks into this matter before more and more such cases erupt.
Oh, not to mention that these days, it takes long for parents to also recognize that their children are under pressure, too.

My 10 C worth. Apologies for those I may have offended. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually glad that most people who commented realise that teachers in Singapore schools are really just cogs in the huge MOE machine, they can't change anything and well,like cogs, they're dispensable. Drop dead and they're easily replaced. Be a rebel? Try to change the system? Get a D grade all through your career for being stubborn and not being able to adhere to the "mission and vision".

Running the schools like a company with all the KPIs, AFIs and hard-to-acheive awards, all these are really done at the expense of students' development.

MOE? I think one of the greatest mistakes MOE made was to give autonomy to schools - that is how the whole "dropping a subject because you're bad at it and hence it won't sully the school's image" started.

Cog in a machine.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad and unnecessary death. As a teacher, I have experienced seeing pupils die. They are always sad. Pupils can always drop the CCA that they do not want. Sure, the school can make noise. But the reason why they make noise is not always because of selfish reasons or the schools are into awards etc etc. Sometimes, it is about resilence training and commitment on the children's part. It is how important we treat our lives, and not let setbacks affect us. It was a moment of recklessness, and a sad death. My condolences to the family. I am not sure what happened. But Mr Wang is in his usual high ground self. Suicide is usually complex. I suspect it is here too, and a number of factors are in play.

If Mr Wang wanted to give up his job, and Mrs Wang did not allow him, and Mr Wang decides to jump in a moment of recklessness. Is it Mrs Wang's fault? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Mr Wang Says So said...

It would not. Obviously you did not read my post very well. Here, let me reproduce the first paragraph for you:

"I don't think that the school can be blamed for the suicide itself. Based on what the Straits Times reported, none of the teachers would have seen it coming at all."

And yet you accuse me of taking some moral high ground. Sigh, this is what happens when I allow people to comment freely on my blog. The crap comments start rolling in.

Mr Wang Says So said...

It would not. Obviously you did not read my post very well. Here, let me reproduce the first paragraph for you:

"I don't think that the school can be blamed for the suicide itself. Based on what the Straits Times reported, none of the teachers would have seen it coming at all."

And yet you accuse me of taking some moral high ground. Sigh, this is what happens when I allow people to comment freely on my blog. The crap comments start rolling in.

JY / kosherjellyfish said...

This sounds like a scene out of Dead Poet's Society.

Anonymous said...

See your own posts below Mr Wang. Of course you did not blame the school. You just faulted the school. If only the school would allow him to drop the CCA he hated, then the world would be bliss. If only Mrs Wang did not force Mr Wang to keep his job, then Mr Wang would not have jumped in a moment of senseless recklessness.

Plse don't take the moral high ground and then claimed to be innocent after that.

"I did not fault the school for not letting the boy switch to the CCA of his choice. I faulted the school for not letting the boy drop the CCA he hated."

Mr Wang Says So said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Wang Says So said...

I do fault the school for not letting the boy drop his CCA. However I do not blame the school for the boy's death.

Try to understand the difference. I feel that schools SHOULD allow students to drop CCAs that the students are no longer interested. This view is generally applicable to all schools, and does not depend on whether their students are currently killing themselves or not.

But I do NOT feel that ACS should be blamed for the boy's suicide, which:

(1) was by his own act,

(2) was a very extreme reaction; and

(3) occurred without any prior warning signs that his teachers knew about or should have spotted.

Hope that clarifies. For you. (I'm sure most other readers had understood me well enough already).

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Suicide is usually complex. I suspect it is here too, and a number of factors are in play."

Yes, I could say that perhaps he was jilted by his girlfriend. Or that perhaps he felt traumatised by his very bad acne. Or perhaps a relative recently passed away and he felt very depressed.

All of that, however, is just wild speculation, entirely without basis. If you like speculating, I'm sure you can also come up with 100 other reasons why he perhaps committed suicide.

However, since we don't know if any of that is true, I prefer to stick to the facts as were uncovered by a official police investigation and a coroner's inquiry.

anon said...

I'm late to this post.

Anyway I think the real problem lies with how young people deal with setbacks in life.

I recently attended the funeral of a 22-year old friend who committed suicide over work problems. And he's only been working for less than a year.

We all face setbacks and problems in life. Suicide is clearly not the answer. Our children have not learned to be resilient.

I foresee this problem is only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

ha,ha......guess the boy didn't like his CCA teacher.At my school,they see what we are good at(they waste no time:).

Anonymous said...

Guess the guy is too pessimistic.

Anonymous said...

if i am that guy,and can't change CCA,i would try and change my mindset and try to look forward to it.

Chenghao said...

CCAs should be fun , and teach you a thing or two.

Let Students choose what they want and not just participate for a better grade

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe the boy's repeated explanation seems to be getting him into nowhere since they refused him of his dreams. That is why he is opting out of the unreasonable demands by doing this. Put it this way: Even if he wins the 2 gold medals, the school is proud (for themselves to brag about? sounds selfish, isn't it?). On the other hand, even if he wins the 2 gold medals, is he really happy? Is it really meaningful for him? What credit is it to him? Did he get any desired reward in the end by quitting to pursue his dream they had denied him of? Even he is being very respectful to teachers, is he really being rewarded for that? Now he has ended his life due to his unfulfilled dreams. The question is: WHO WILL BE NEXT??? Will the school be able to do something about it, isn't there a Pastoral Care for students? Or will the school continue to force students to receive more high honours, little did they realised they are paying a high price for it and see more corpses? Also his parents had gone overseas to forget everything. Did they do this to forget about their son? Don't his parents and his school love him any more?

Pamela said...

I totally agree that schools force certain students to join a particular ccas in order to achieve better performance which totally irks me. I've seen incidents like these happen in my schools as well. Some of my teammates didnt want to join my cca but was talked into joiing by my school principal as my cca is a niche cca and they want experienced players.
In addition, my school forced every year one students to stay back for a cca carnival to join a cca of your preference. My friend, paid 26 bucks to go on odac probation camp, was rejected, went on air rifle trial- got rejected agn, and most ccas of his interests don't want him as they want experienced players! He ended up in a random cca which he dreaded trngs, luckily, his trngs turn out fun, if not i cannot imagine how he can last thru these years. I really question the purpose of holding the cca carnival when you cant join the cca of your choice. Its really disturbing to hear from a contract teacher above who mentioned that teachers and principals just cared abt the results and performance if schools instead of the welfare of students. Then, what are schools for? Like some MNCs, whereby students are employees, serving their superiors(teachers and principals) to earn more profits. No wonder so many singaporeans are migrating. I think the root of problem starts with our education system. Otherwise, singapore will be a perfect country that everyone desires to live in.

ninelives889 said...

"Is it not correct to punish a student for skipping his CCA? If not, why do most if not all schools in Singapore have rules against truancy? Surely this applies to co-curricular activities as well."

WHY SO RIGID. punished for not attending CCA??? i think sg schools shld really cut back on these kinds of drastic punishments for such minor issues. he did not skip lessons. he simply skipped a cca that he did not enjoy anymore. they shd have just let him be. but no. all of them together drove him crazy and literally pushed him off the ledge.

Anonymous said...

Tom Yam Soup
I don't think schools should punish them for not attending CCAs.Still,core subjects more important mah. For me,they are very 'kiasu'people lor. So much for being a 'top' school.

Anonymous said...

Why must schools punish children for not attending CCAs? For me, they are very 'kiasu' lor.

Anonymous said...

Why schools must be so strict? Be more lenient mah. Then your students will like school more.

Doan Xuan Loc Nguyen (a.k.a Justin) said...

Hmm. My school does not punish students for skipping CCAs afaik because I have a few friends who are "floaters" (people without CCAs). Everyone is made to join a CCA at the start but there aren't any strict rules about skipping CCAs. Once you start missing too many trainings, your name would automatically be off the record.

And as a few others above said about not being able to join a CCA they want because they're "not good enough", you can't put all the blame on the school. Popular CCAs like tennis have limited facilities (like the number of courts) and so the number of students they can take is limited. If I were the one to decide, of course I would choose the students who perform better at the sport. There can't be a situation where everyone is happy and there have to be compromises here and there.

Ivory Loo said...

In my school,girl guides have to sell at least a number of boxes of cookies forced by their teacher and band members have to also have to sell at least a number of tickets for their concert.Why should we force students to sell at least how many boxes or tickets? And what more, SJAB have to collect a limited amount of money for charity and thats ridiculous,as that is for charity, you cant force students to donate money rite? SJAB cadets are always frantically asking people to donate every year.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Wang, I am a student from a prestigious JC like ACSI and I totally agree with you. Some people posting here will just say that you can't put down a school just because of 1 person. Let me say this - they are completely wrong. They can never understand what I am going through now. I am generally a very cheerful person on the outside but truthfully, when I go back home I close my room door and start crying. Everything is because of my CCA. I am not stressed by my CCA but it's just that I have no interest in it. I am in Chinese Orchestra and I completely hate it because I have no Interest! Sometimes I just feel like I am depressed. I just can't talk to anyone. Because people will start looking at me differently. That's why when I saw your blog, I was so relieved to see that I am not the only one. I am really sorry for the poor boy. I can understand very well what he went through. Back in my primary school, it was completely my choice to take a CCA or not. But in this JC I am coerced by so many people to take the cca they want me to take not what I really want. I am really sorry if I ranted too much but I hate, no I abhor the CCA system here!!

Anonymous said...

Um, I am facing a similar situation as the boy, I joined my CCA during my first year in secondary school. And I gradually became less passionate to continue working hard as I did not expect it to be as exhausting as I thought(guessed it was my own fault for not considering deep enough and sugar coating the fantasies of joining the CCA I chose) but now I have persevered for a long time, and I am not sure if I can stay on much longer, and the stress coming from teacher-in-charge and teammates is getting harder to cope with by day. And my performance isn't good(unlike the boy, he had a great achievement, medals) and I would like to quit my CCA, since the emotional and physical exhaustion is very hard to bear, but the school and teachers have really strict rules, If I don't provide the correct "evidence" to persuade them,guess they will not allow me to leave, and they may label me as a coward for escaping from my problems. as you can see, my mind is like broken into half, conflicting and pushing my limit, and this is really difficult to cope with. Maybe the boy faced some problem like, a serious conflict with his teammates, or severe anxiousness/depress(from being forced) before every training, and imagine, it's like squeezing a wet towel dry with all your strength, and even when the towel is already dry, the force is still squeezing it, very tormenting and painful.

Anonymous said...

In Singapore is like this. Teachers and Parents. I think the parents should have be on their son's side, agree and encourage him. I know how its feels like without the support. I joined a cca which I don't like because my parents likes it. Totally regret it. CCA is for the students and not about the parents or teachers or anyone else. I skipped my CCA after going for 3months. Unluckly, my cca teacher is my form teacher, who always tell my to go and even called my house telling my parents the cca is choice by your child so she should go and so on... Slowly I started skipping school and when I was in Sec 2 I skipped alot which results in me retaining. I even skipped my exams. School aren't fun anymore. Cause after school I just go back home while others go for their CCA HAPPILY. I felt different. I don't feel happy. Everyone blame me for all I have did but who started it? Even my relatives all scolded me and all. Parents out there pls let ur child choose their own interest CCA if u want them to enjoy life unless u want them to be miserable like me then do whatever you want.