Nov 29, 2008

How Top Schools Stay At The Top

One way is the way I had mentioned, two posts ago. I quote myself:

"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."

Of course, I have my skeptical readers. One of them, Lam Chun See, left a comment to suggest that my remark about top schools was just "a lot of speculation". Ironically, just today, the Straits Times Forum published the following letter:
ST Nov 29, 2008
Tuition not the way to success

WHEN I collected my Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results in 1985, I was told I had been selected to attend a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) secondary school. This sudden 'promotion' did my parents proud but it gave me much stress. The moment I started at the SAP school, I fell from being the top girl to being among the top 15. For the first time in my life, I knew I was simply 'not good enough' and was bitterly disappointed with myself.

Since almost everyone ahead of me had tuition of various kinds, I told my parents I needed help too.It was not long before my single-income family began to channel huge amounts towards education investment - tuition for me and my three siblings. One day, the principal of my SAP school in Katong asked to meet my parents concerning my lacklustre grades. He wanted me to drop chemistry and English literature specifically, 'so as not to pull down the school standard'. After my mother pleaded with him tearfully, this humiliating episode ended with more tuition for me and less retirement funds for my food-seller parents. In all, I had tuition in six out of 10 subjects, not because I did badly, but because I was not good enough to achieve the As and Bs the school was furiously churning out ....

Rebecca Wang

Of course, I do not have the statistics to show how common this kind of practice is. I am sure that the schools themselves would not keep such statistics. Their reputation is what they care about .... remember? Why gather hard information about things that are best kept a secret.

Producing many A's is an achievement that a school should be proud of. However, producing many A's by pressuring the B-grade & C-grade students to drop their weak subjects is just window-dressing. It is nothing to be proud about.

It is similar to the structural unemployment issue that Singapore faced, a few years ago. A large number of Singaporeans were unemployed, because they lacked the relevant job skills. Singapore then imported a very large number of foreigners to work here, and granted them PR status or citizenship. On an overall basis, what happened?

Of course, the percentage of unemployed citizens/PRs went down (because of the large number of employed foreigners-turned-citizen-&-PR). And yes, that looks good on paper. But that figure in itself does not tell you whether the government had actually succeeded in helping any of those structurally unemployed Singaporeans to find new jobs or not.


ashke said...

Huh? Someone was skeptical about what you said? I thought it was quite a well-known practice. They even kick out poor performing students lah, got all kinds of tricks okay?

Anonymous said...

In my alma mater (HCJC, back in the early 1990s), asking weaker students to drop subjects is very common. Occasionally, they even retain the weaker students (ie, make them repeat their first year).

The rationale was made clear to the students. Not because they think it is in the best interest of the students, but because they were concerned about the overall school ranking.

But this (bad) practice is not specific to HCJC (where I had a great time, btw). I believe it is widespread in most Singapore schools.

Anonymous said...

The gahmen is always concerned about the big picture. Individual interest is the first to go in favour of organisation or national interest. No doubt about that. Only when national and individual interest coincide, then you are lucky.

In fact, not just employment or grades is at stake. Even lives in the thousands can be sacrificed for "national" interest as long as the gahmen can still remain in power. And they will find ways to remain in power.

Anonymous said...

The gahmen is always concerned about the big picture. Individual interest is the first to go in favour of organisation or national interest. No doubt about that. Only when national and individual interest coincide, then you are lucky.

In fact, not just employment or grades is at stake. Even lives in the thousands can be sacrificed for "national" interest as long as the gahmen can still remain in power. And they will find ways to remain in power.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how our first generation government leaders ever got to be where they are if the educational system had been so poor. Of course, NOW that the educational system is BETTER than previously it stands to reason that the CURRENT and FUTURE leaders will be BETTER than these first generation leaders. The LOGIC of renewal suggests that the old should give way to the new. Out with the OLD and in with the NEW. Duh, will that happen?

Anonymous said...

Let's not be fooled. All systems and the ducational system is a SYSTEM no matter what carries its own rationale, justificatio and aim. What does our school system aim to produce? Not well rounded, happy and creative students but scorers.Why? Among other reasons we are suckered into believeing that systems that test and produce performers are the best. The second is that we have to perform and show to the world that we are number one. Otherwise how to be educational hub?

Anonymous said...

Aiya, they do it in the army too.

When the company's IPPT is up, they asked those unlikely to pass to "have a break" and not to attend the test.

All for the greatest number in the world - one!

Anonymous said...

SAP purpose is to turn local potential talents into A REAL SAP.
They never catered to late bloomers and student with no resource "ie Millionaire Parents"
Agree with the anon above:)
Best Camping whatever award >>who cares<< except the PAPer Scholar(who never watch Pron yeah right) who is in the commanding post to add to his resume so he can get into the public sector provided he cannot make it in the private sector because he cannot survive in the real world so he try to become a Mini Star.
Kind of people these type of school Churn out by the dozen although there are some are truly rare gems , usually some are complete SAP.
IE Book smart but a complete social moran.

Anonymous said...

Everyone in the SG school system is stressed. Parents, students & educators are caught up with performance and "face".
Top students do well, parents bask in reflected glory esp if parents do not have similiar b/ground. Top schools post 99% A's.

Every CNY, a visitor tells how well her child is doing in school/JC/Uni. Every year i nod throughout visit-if it gives her so much pleasure, why be churlish? Her child is bright and nice. I never got to know visitor bec she is her child's grades.

Untapped talent or tapped untalent - both could be helped with tuition which prepares students for questions in exam papers. In life, there are no tuition classes... At some point of time, tuition or assistance ceased.

BTW, i failed to see why bright children (they are gifted to begin with) have further assistance like SAP (Special Assistance Plan) while others do not. Where are special assistance programmes for the B and C students and students in schools like Pathlight? Where are the special teachers, smaller classes etc?

Jimmy Mun said...

The new principal of the school my wife teaches in chose to refrain from squeezing students for grades and the results are dramatic. When the PSLE results were reported, this "top school" has near nothing to report. A few more years like this, that school wont be called "top" any more.

Change has to come from MOE.

It was quite refreshing to see Tharman at work when he was the minister. Unfortunately, MOE seems to be full of little leprechauns who are out to pervert every one of his well intentioned policies like "Teach Less Learn More".

The through train system relieved many "top" secondary schools from competing on grades, so the likelihood of students being forced to drop subjects is lessened. But the schools still need to compete, still need to build a reputation.

So it should not surprise anybody that all the competitive pressures of ranking merely moved from grades to CCA.

What we need is profound rethinking of education, and kick out all those scholars who try to tweak education as though it is a manufacturing process. Be especially afraid of schools that try to claim manufacturing certifications like ISO 9000 or Singapore Quality Class.

Instead of encouraging a system of winner take all, the definition of winning should be broader.

Anonymous said...

"But that figure in itself does not tell you whether the government had actually succeeded in helping any of those structurally unemployed Singaporeans to find new jobs or not."

Govt dun care.

Anonymous said...

So glad my sch (SJI) doesnt do this kinda stuff, forcing people to drop subjects in order to maintain sch rankings.

Anonymous said...

I was never made to drop any subject during JC, even though it was clear I was never going to ace all of them. So I kept working at something I was never going to excel and at the end of the day, all I got was a B to show for it. I spent more time on that fruitless task than I did on my remaining subjects because I kept trying to make it an "A" and I kept getting frustrated at not making the top grade. Top schools aside, you should never hold on to traditional ideas like how you must always take 4 A Levels and 9-10 O Levels. All subjects are pissy anyway, so the focus should be enjoying all folly(s) associated with being young and having fun and I can tell you that 2As IB and 2As 2Bs for A Levels is not very different. And unless you are going for a scholarship, you don't need a CCA for anything if you are a bright chap and will know how to cruise along.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I think it's fine for schools to tell students to take or drop more subjects, if the advice is given with the student's best interests in mind.

However, it's not fine for schools to tell students to take or drop more subjects, for the sake of engineering outcomes to make the school look good.

Eaststopper said...

Hello Mr Wang,
Not sure how the dots are connected - making students drop subjects to make schools look good == singapore govt not helping structurally unemployed ppl to gain employment? Maybe you could shed some light for me?

Re structural unemployment, it is defined as a long-term and chronic unemployment arising from imbalances between the skills and other characteristics of workers in the market and the needs of employers. The only permanent way out is to constantly re-tool workers and upgrade their skillsets.


kilroy said...

Its all about KPIs and quantifiable arty crafty socio economic objectives allowed!

Anonymous said...

Like Jon, I also went to HCJC, but more recently (after 2000), and the practice of coercing students to drop subjects was still prevalent. This was done on the basis of the first-year final exams. I know many, many students who appealed etc. to be allowed to continue taking the subject but they were all ignored.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"making students drop subjects to make schools look good == singapore govt not helping structurally unemployed ppl to gain employment?"

No, it's more like:

"making students drop subjects to make schools look good ==

importing skilled foreigners to make our unemployment percentage look lower & better"

The government's fudge had already been extensively commented on by bloggers previously, specifically on how the government tweaked the employment numbers by considering the "resident population" rather than "citizens".

Anonymous said...

Students should learn everything in school. When they need external tuition after school, then there is something wrong with our education.

Westerner don't understand why our students still need to have tuition after school.

My niece who is in secondary 2 is learning some topics which were taught when I was a second-year student in Polytechnic. Are our young students learning too fast?

Anonymous said...

Not only does this happen in the top schools. I was a student at Ahmad Ibrahim Sec Sch during the mid 1990s. I rememeber vividly how badly a number of us had to plead with our then principal, Ms Molly Tan to allow us to take additional mathematics.

We were disallowed to take it because our results were not good enough. And I was actually top the school in science but was unable to take up sciences because of a single subject.

This was not an isolated incident. Many in my class were 'dumped' into a humanities stream so as to not pull down the schools grades.

Because I was not offered additional mathematics in sec sch, I could only go into the arts stream in JC.

In university, due to a lack of mathematics C becase of a lack of additoinal maths, I went to arts faculty. Although that was not what I wanted to pursue.

That, is our great educational system and the ppl running it. Statistics... Ironically, I majored in economics and statistics

Anonymous said...

Just because i am 2 points short of the cutoff point in Sec 2, that determined my path... unless you are rich enough to leave the country that is... just one stupid principal

Anonymous said...

apparently they have a new way of modifying school results. with the DSA (direct school admission) scheme, some students with lousier O level results get to enter top JCs, and rj make these students take A levels as PRIVATE CANDIDATES, so as to not pull down their overall grades. so much for helping rj win medals, they dun even get "raffles junior college" on their A level cert.

Anonymous said...

basically our pink-IC'ed lives do not belong to us; they belong to the state. Therefore any aspect of our lives are subject to regulation, statistical and social engineering.

Anonymous said...

true comment about ri and rjc's practices. i completely concur and i personally know of a few such cases. :)

Anonymous said...

It is not a myth.
It is true. I was studying in VJC and I was asked to drop one subject and study for 3 only.
I was a 6-pointer during my GCE 0 Levels for 6 subjects, mind you.

The teachers in VJC were only interested in training and more training....who? Those with special papers.

Yes, I had the same intriguing thought.

Parka said...

People still don't realize that getting As is just partially related to getting tons of money.

Getting As is the only way schools can easily measure their success. Even when students later on become successful, the link back to them isn't really there.

Anonymous said...

Thought you might find this article interesting:

Anonymous said...

People are top schools like to brag about having record setting distincton holders. [new record for number of "3" As blah blah]...

But they forgot that people are entered the top JCS are already an exremely elite and bright bunch of people. So is the success of the students due to the school? Not to a large extent.

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

I can vouch that this fact is true.
After my NYPS days, I went to NYGH, NJC and I was kinda like the average kid so the things about the CCA/dropping subjects were seen around me.

But hey who cares, I'm not working in the bay area now so really, schools should learn to take it easy.

BTW, just a time reference, I'm born in 83 so it's not too far away and from the looks of it, probably the same weeding out of the "weak" is happening and more zealous than ever.

Anonymous said...

my my - the comments regarding RJC really suck full time.

I had a friend who mentioned that with the cost of paying tuition, it may be better to put the kids in a private school (eg SJI international) so that they get a semblance of teenage life. lol.

Anonymous said...

Can't speak for all, but it wasn't true for my case. Was a student of RI/RJC.

Did horribly for most of my school exams. In sec 1 through sec 3, never scored above 70% overall grade for school exams. In first year of JC, got a A,B,D,E and B3 for GP, B4 for Chinese.

Not once was I asked to drop a subject so as not to "drag" down the schools' overall grades.

Anonymous said...

I was an ex-RI-RJC student also.. I am not sure how things are working now... But...

I failed my A.Maths in sec 3 and I was never asked to drop my A.Maths.

My results for my entire JC was atrocious to the extent of getting 2Es, 1O, and 1F, and I was NEVER asked to drop any of my 4 subjects

Anonymous said...

Guess we need more sports man from RJC to speak up - those who were not asked to 'drop' subjects were probably in the mainstream classes, not the 'sports' class hehe....

Anonymous said...

Diego Maradona wins the World Cup for Argentina with the infamous "Hand of God", illegally scoring a goal (the referee didn't notice). Another great choice of pix, Mr Wang!

Anonymous said...

I was fr St Nicks. Was told to drop my third lang cos wasn't scoring A1 for English lang in Sec 1. Was scoring an avg of B3. The call for me to drop the third lang was made very frequently and publicly as well, in front of the class. My English lang teacher's point was, if I can't do well in English, then I should drop such extra subjects to focus on doing well in the main subjects.

I din comply and went on to score A for the third lang and a B for English lang. Don't regret that though...

Anonymous said...

Why should anyone be skeptical of your remarks? Maybe said person was educated overseas or one of the elite who never had to face such ugly facts (most of us lesser beings are not so lucky).

I was from Dunman High School, also a SAP school and I was forced to drop A-Maths due to the same reasons. Not-so-coincidentally, Dunman High School has been producing 100% distinctions in A-Maths for years running.

Who cares about student development? Not Singapore's (top) schools.

P/S: I have nothing against my alma mater and enjoyed my time there largely.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was lucky to get into TJC during my first 3 months. Initially intend to take triple science.

It turn out that because my prelim Physics got a B4, I was not allowed to take Physics at JC level.

No choice.. since I was already in, there was a incentive of 2 points deduction when you are there during 1st 3 months. Sadly, my "O" level results turned out to be B4 still. Hence, I lost my chance to do triple science again.

Somehow, I do feel cheated that this was not openly indicated when we select our JC.

Anonymous said...

Back then in my JC life, I had a classmate who have been getting As or Bs for the mid-term and final tests.

It was only once that due to her CCA commitments ( during the tournaments period), she flunked.

Soon after, the tutor asked her to drop the subject despite the fact that based on historical data that she has performed well.

Incidents of tutors openly and publicly humilating the students by asking them to drop their subjects was extremely common. Emotional blackmails with comments like "you will be pulling the standards down" or "you are last in the whole cohorde" were also common.

Hated my JC life... but guess that make me more stronger too.

Anonymous said...

> I think it's fine for schools to tell students to take or drop more subjects, if the advice is given with the student's best interests in mind.

However, it's not fine for schools to tell students to take or drop more subjects, for the sake of engineering outcomes to make the school look good.

Short of a full-scale investigation into numerous cases and statistics, how do you prove that it is the former or the latter? Schools always claim that their decisions are based only on the students' interest, and never on engineering the schools' result.

Ultimately, it boils down to WHO IS THE BOSS? - everyone can give advice/suggestion, but after all the advice/suggestion, who has the final say - the student (boss?) or the school (boss?).

This is like politics - PAP always claim its decision is made in the people's interest; just that the people are too stupid/childish/baby-like to comprehend. WHO IS THE BOSS?. After all the consultation, whose contradictory view should be implemented - the govt's (boss?), or the citizens' (boss?)

My point is: the way the school is run is firstly, a reflection of how the country is run, and secondly, a precursor of things to come - today, the teenage student learns that the person in authority has the final say in their school. Tomorrow, he learns to accept as normal the same helplessness, when it comes to how the country is being run.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the mentality of some of you. If you are made to drop subjects in those elite JCs, it probably mean you are not good enough, certainly not good enough for S Papers and PSC Scholarship.

If you are truly smart or knows how to study smartly like Mr Wang or Adam Khoo, you wouldn't even have such a problem. Agree?

And what's wrong with going to an average JC? I've seen people from those average JCs ace through in university.

Anonymous said...

"Ultimately, it boils down to WHO IS THE BOSS?"

Who's the boss? The client or the supplier? Go and figure.

Not happy change school lor. Or you can't even do that?

Anonymous said...

About dropping subjects - does that mean students who are told to drop subjects are not good enough? Yes, it may mean that the students are not good enought o score "As". But is the purpose of studying a subject just to get "As" and add to the performance bonus of the school principal? How about the student benefitting from the subject. And how do we know that the student does not benefit from the subject if s/he does not get an "A". A true educationist believes that the subject s/he teaches benefits a student never mind whether the student gets an "A" or not. It is ironic and tragic that the advertisement for recruting teachers suggests that students benefit from interaction with their teachers (and studying subjects) and not from "As". The only defensible and honest answer to the obsession with grades by a school is to say, "Actually the only benefit a student has from studying a subject is clearly spelled out in the grades s/he gets. There are no other benefits." Well, at least our schools would have intellectual honesty if nothing else and be living up to the critical thinking skills they trot out to justify the huge expenditures on them by the state.

Anonymous said...

"About dropping subjects - does that mean students who are told to drop subjects are not good enough?"

It means they are not good enough in RJC (for example). If a bell curve is drawn, they would have already failed. Heh.

If they want to enjoy the subject, go to average JC where competition is less stiff and pace is slower.

Anonymous said...

Let it be forewarned that not only will you be told to drop subjects in JC, you will be penalised if you are homeschooled

Different benchmark and posting exercise for homeschoolers
MY WIFE and I decided to homeschool our son in 2006. The Ministry of Education (MOE) approved this and granted us exemption from compulsory education. MOE told us we would need to track the homeschooling progress of our son and submit to the Compulsory Education Unit a progress report in the first week of December every year until he reached the equivalent of Primary 6 in a national school. He would then sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

We did as instructed. My son took the PSLE this year and scored an aggregate score of 242. He scored A* in mathematics and science, A in English and B in Chinese as second language. MOE then told us 'there is a different benchmark for homeschoolers' and 'the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise does not include homeschooled pupils who sat for the PSLE and wish to enter national secondary schools'. Homeschooled pupils are to approach schools directly for admission or approach MOE for assistance in seeking admission to a school with a vacancy.

There are three issues:

First, why is there a different benchmark for homeschoolers in the same PSLE? They should be assessed on equal terms as their mainstream peers. Should there be any moderation, it should be done on an equal basis as all took the same exam and are Singapore citizens.

Second, when we asked MOE if there was a provision to review exam papers, we were told we could apply to have them reviewed by 'an official from the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board'. PSLE papers were marked by this board. Should an independent party not be appointed to review such a major national exam?

Third, there appears to be discrimination against homeschoolers in the Secondary 1 Posting Exercise. Mainstream pupils were required to submit their six secondary school choices by last Wednesday. Homeschoolers can submit their three choices via MOE only from Dec 12. MOE will facilitate the admission application to 'a school with vacancies'. This procedure is normally for students who have fared poorly and cannot be admitted to a school of their choice. Therefore, the purpose of a homeschooler getting good grades in the PSLE is undermined.

As a Singapore citizen who made a conscious choice to homeschool his child, I consider these discrepancies tantamount to being treated as a foreigner with no citizenship benefits.

George Rocknathan

Anonymous said...

Note: I am the anon who reproduced. the above letter to the local press. I am NOT the writer "George Rocknathan"

Anonymous said...

>Not happy change school lor. Or you can't even do that?

Actually, it should be: not happy, change the school SYSTEM lor! Similarly: not happy, change the electoral SYSTEM lor.

Changing the school principal, school is not enough. It is the SYSTEM that needs to be overhauled. Likewise, replacing PAP with WP or SDP will not solve the problem. It is the lack of check and balance in the flawed electoral SYSTEM that need to be changed.

Anonymous said...

Eh Wang, I got this feeling, but need investigate hor. Don't say I neh warn.

This home-schooling, acually, I is neutral lah.

But for certain reasons, a certain religion seemed to have hijacked this idea, and do home schooling to pump their kids with religious ideologies of THEIR own intepretation. This may create some social concern, especially if SOME (not all hor) of them become fanatical or too ideological later.

- Hojiber, I lazy to sign in lah.

Chee Wai Lee said...

Perhaps I attended school in a different era (born 1972).

Am ex-RI ("gifted")/RJC.

My key weaknesses in RI were Chemistry, Math, Literature and Chinese as a 2nd Lang. Only my Literature teacher was concerned (in Sec 2) enough to offer extra assistance (and it worked!) to help me grasp a good understanding. Math I struggled on my own and eventually did well but have never developed a good understanding (still do not, despite being in Computer Science and engineering) of it. Chinese and Chem I eventually got C6 and B3 respectively. I was, however, never pressured to drop anything (perhaps it was the GEP system of requiring people to take 10 'O' levels classes - not much choice in dropping anything, hehe). In fact, most of my teachers did not intervene.

In RJC, my Chinese continued to suffer (D7, E8 and finally C6 on my last try) and I had early trouble with Physics. My score of A,B,C and a D in the first year was so uninspiring I should have raised alarm bells. Still, no intervention (at least none that I knew about) from the school administration.

I can believe scenarios where schools make their students drop subjects for the school's ratings. Didn't happen in my time though, sad that it has now.

Anonymous said...

I went to HCJC in the early 90s.

Due to adjustment problems, I scored a few bad grades in my first year after a previously strong track record.

I definitely concur with the other commentators' comments about weak students being forced to drop subjects for the reputation of the school (being called into the VP's office for discussion), and entire classes being subject to public humiliation by the civics tutor.

I ended up coping by skipping all classes to study on my own - got decent results, but it was a lonely experience.

As for the civics tutor, she was on holiday during the yearend and the only scholarship recommendation NOT written by her resulted in me landing a prestigious scholarship offer.

Then a few months after graduation, during a discussion with another JC teacher, I discovered that my SATS were one of the highest in Singapore at that time (but I was also getting nasty remarks from my Civics tutor).

The other JC teacher must have gossiped about it in the staffroom, because the civics tutor called me back to school for an open air dressing in the staffroom for "maligning" her. While the civics tutor wasn't the only one at fault, and perhaps, like she said, she meant well, and I was a difficult child with difficult parents (which my secondary school handled so graciously!!!). I was 18 years old, and 33 years old now. And I still don't have many fond memories of that place.

As an aside, my JC class simply skipped the Speech Day in the year after graduation which was meant to honour the top performers, and not even the bribe of an all-expense-paid buffet tea at a hotel could induce them to turn up.

Eaststopper said...

Hi Mr Wang,
I have to disagree with you:

"making students drop subjects to make schools look good == importing skilled foreigners to make our unemployment percentage look lower & better"

As you have said in your article, we are dealing with structural unemployment which means that current local pool of workers cannot meet demand, and existing pool cannot be converted quick enough. Say if we need 1000 lawyers and there are only 800 available in Singapore, we have to import the remaining 200.
Being a practical government and seeing that we have a lack of say lawyers, the government policies do tend to drive students towards areas where there is an acute shortage of professionals.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

My point is that the unemployment figure may look good but doesn't actually tell you whether the unemployed Singaporeans have managed to find jobs; just as a top school's percentage of A's may look good but doesn't tell you how many B-grade students have been forced to drop their subjects.

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Anonymous said...

In short, the Tops schools are man made. They claimed to be the best because they made effort to purge out everything that is B or less.

The way I see is akin to Inbreeding.

It is like the Manchus who would bind every females' feet in their realm. And saying unbound is uncouth.

So how they are gonna run in times of trouble?
(So much for all pretty women must have bound feet)

They didn't diversify themselves; confining only 1 type of solution for every problem.

BTW I am not triple A grade student.

Despite that, I love studying. Because I am hungry for knowledge not for the sake of getting PHDs, MA, BA......
(Yes, I respects the academics but that's all. I will not blindy listen any academics who claimed themselves so well versed that they know how to run a country without a hitch.)

The "Top" schools phenomeneon always reminds me of the "Heiki crab" incident.
The heiki crab is an example of artificial selection (meaning that people influenced their evolution). Fishermen threw back heiki crabs because their carapace resembled the face of a Samurai warrior. They ate crabs who weren't lucky enough to resemble the ferocious faces. The plain crabs lived shorter lives and so had less time to reproduce children who resembled them.

So you produced a entire legion of triple A students.
Okay, now show me what you can do other than that.

That's the million dollar question I gonna ask.

I have no wish to have a legion of these folks who are indoctrinated to a entitlement mentality that because they have scores more As than Stephen Hawkings. It is their entitlement to have top jobs and posts in the public or private sector.

That's utter nonsense in my book.

Wanna get a top job?
Show me your stuff instead of reciting the entire textbook.

Anonymous said...

If anyone feels they are sucked into the MOE system of high-stakes exam, take heart if your kid doesn't make the grade.

The whole system channels academically or rather exam-smart students into the gov't service, leaving the bulk of the rest to find their way in the private sector (excluding GLCs which will still perpetuate this system). When you look at the numbers, getting yourself all flustered and stressed out when your kid can't join the gang is not worth it because only a small % make it as mgt trainee with automatic escalators up the career path in govt and GLCs. So why pervert and skew your kids' education in such a manner. Never mind if grades are a little off, never mind if you can't compare with the Tans cos there'll always be higher mountains. Rather, take hold of that precious individual and not let your kid think he is inferior. Encourage confidence building, sports activity that build resilience so they know a thing or two about "come-backs". Encourage soft skills like public speaking, thinking on one's feet, ie skills for life and not skills for a specific job in mind.

We need to educate our young so that the outcome is a productive and happy life, not to work in a specific job. Look at how we pale against the westerners when we work along side them in Shenton way and you'll know what I mean.

Pleaseeeee....don't bark up the wrong tree.

Anonymous said...

"In short, the Tops schools are man made. They claimed to be the best because they made effort to purge out everything that is B or less."

They are not man-made. Even if nobody is forced to drop subjects, they will still be in the top positions. But their "perfect score" will be a lie.

Anonymous said...

"The whole system channels academically or rather exam-smart students into the gov't service, leaving the bulk of the rest to find their way in the private sector (excluding GLCs which will still perpetuate this system)."

Blanket statement.

How about exam-smart students going into law and medicine? I remember Mr Wang was DPP before. And all doctors have to serve a bond right?

And in the sciences, how about exam-smart students going into research, like AStar? I'm sure Philip Yeo doesn't want his scholars to recite textbooks only.

I find your govt service and private sector dichotomy a bit offensive.

Anonymous said...

"So you produced a entire legion of triple A students.
Okay, now show me what you can do other than that."

How about you do a comparison? When our elites go ox-bridges and harvards, how do they fare?

You seem to insinuate our triple-As are not worth their As.

Anonymous said...

"It is like the Manchus who would bind every females' feet in their realm. And saying unbound is uncouth. "

Check your facts first. Don't anyhow tuakang.

First, use your brain. Doesn't it strike you as weird Manchus who hail from the steppe like to bind their feet?

Second, do some research. You mean your teacher never taught you that?

The Manchus, who conquered China in the 17th century, tried without success to abolish the practice. Manchu women were forbidden from binding their feet or the feet of their daughters. Instead they wore 'flower bowl' shoes which gave the illusion of tiny feet. Bound feet became an important differentiating marker between Manchu and Han.


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

I was quite lucky to be educated at The Chinese High.

My grades were definitely not the best but the school's policy did not include asking weak students to drop their subjects.

Instead, they pressured teachers to guide us better. Pros and cons, but that's discussion for another day.

My teachers gave me a lot of coaching. I felt comfortable to consult them anytime I want--- be it 7am before assembly or anytime after school. Some teachers even called us the night before the exam to ask us if we had any problems studying.

I did relatively well for my sciences and maths which I would have probably failed if not for them.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1985 and studied at Cedar Girls. If I remember correctly, at that time it was compulsory for everyone at sec 3 to take 8 subjects including E Maths, A Maths, Physics, Chemistry.

The only people who were advised to drop subjects were those who did poorly overall at the end of sec 3. And most of the time the students were happy to obliged. I had a few classmates who were weak in science but had to take A Maths, Physics and Chem because our school felt that these are impt subjects.

I guess this is opposite of the situation highlighted in your entry. Instead of asking students to drop subjects, we were "forced" to take impt subjects even if we suck.

As for myself, I was able to score relatively well in every subject except Chemistry which I consistently failed and finally had no motivation to study. Noone asked me to drop Chemistry; mind you, I was churning out F9s and occasionally D7 if I'm lucky. In fact I was hoping to drop it, but I was too lazy to go though the process of meeting the teachers, explaining to my parents, writing a letter etc etc.

Well, I'm glad CGSS made it compulsory for us to take some of the science subjects. Cause judging by my results at sec 2, I suck at everything. In a way, I did not have to fight to study subjects like A Maths, Physics etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi Uncle Chee Wai

Most of the nonsense really started when some ministar of education believe that school ranking is a good idea.

(i.e before ur time)

SJI was nowhere near top 10 (no offense Mr Wang), have a colorful history and had a rather powderful principal who could bochap just about any1.

KaiShan said...

The only time I ever got straight 'A's was when I had an interesting teacher. And all of the kids that were total 'A' grade students turned out to be flops in the real world.
Totally different at tertiary level of course, but you're an adult then and taking responsibility for own life.
I don't believe that there is a direct link between intelligence and scores when the curriculum is boring.
- Kai

felly said...

I think this practice might be very common! not just in top-schools. My sec friend in MJC told me she was pressured to drop Biology after her 1st year final exams. She got a C or a D. But that is normal, I feel. Cuz I got a C for Chemistry in my mid terms in year 2 and got an A when it really mattered. I was fortunate enough my teachers were not like that. Schools shouldn't be such wanna-bes.

Anonymous said...

Really, Chinese High doesn't have the dropping policy? When i was flunking history my teacher tried to make me drop my 3rd lang too what. Thanks to my 'up yours' attitude i kept my 3rd lang and am now ironically studying in Germany, where i am actually interested by history again.

Of course that was when we still had the O levels lah. But i think the pressure is placed on CCAs and the like.

When it's all about the grades and your teacher's performance bonus, there can't be fun at school.

Anonymous said...

rebecca's story has made it to the newspaper. good idea of who's reading your blog eh.

Worm said...

During my time, CHS did not practice any sort of asking students to drop subjects.

I think the principal at that time was one of the great educators of our time.

I would have left with only 2-3 subjects for 'O' level if being asked to drop those borderline subjects...

Ed said...

A top JC vice principal was placed at the helm of our newly created secondary school located in the heartlands...that was a decade ago.

Since we are the 1st batch, he seemed kind of nervous of our results, coz we are the 1st batch, and perhaps our results will determine his "value" in the MOE system.

Thus he started to "take the weeds" out, people like me. I have never passed my A maths back then, but some of my classmates and I were singled out to "persuade" us to drop A maths, "coz we have no chance to pass it anyway, might as well concentrate on other subjects."

For the record, we have all made it to JC. And we did not drop the A maths.

Things never change.

Anonymous said...

It is the society and circumstances that makes what we are today, that makes what schools are today.

I recalled when I was young, my parents gave me a lecture and asked me if I every wondered what my education is all about. I replied, so that I could be a better man in future with the correct morals and ethics.

If anyone would think I was praised by my parents for this ideal thinking, they were seriously wrong. I was given further lecturing for the rest of the day and they insist education is all about the grades and the kind of job I was going to get in future.

Today I still standby what I stood for when I was younger. If educators were to remember why they were there in the first place, they would agree with me and throw that top 10 school ranking straight out of the window.

Alas, today's society has made everyone so practical that we forgotten about the good old values of our forefathers. Such is why schools today are no longer schools but simply factories that our lively young ones go in and get produced to be mindless robots who are good at only producing the exam paper result slip.

PSLE taker this year said...

Wow...... I wonder I will drop from the 1st position too...... If I do, I'd rather drop down form a building......