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).
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 .....
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.