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Living in a multi-racial country with its diversities, one finds it rather acceptable , or should I say “normal” to see children from ages 7 onward being immersed in a totally, stressful, education system. From a foreigner’s point of view, it may be interesting. I myself, if I were a complete stranger to this, would be rather amused at the fact that a kid, literally sunk in a whole world of stress, preoccupied with an inflexible, rigid, military-like timetable, is made to believe that it is the best system of education for him. I can testify to this myself because I have gone through those 6 years of terror.

At the mere age of 7, Chinese primary school children are forced into a relentlessly oppressive education system. They are assigned to at least 5 pieces of homework a day, with each piece consisting of about 4 pages of writing the same word again and again. This is the result of the rote-learning system that is planted into their minds at a young age and therefore harvesting and practically developing a closed-minded, robotic mindset, by the time the child is a teenager, depriving them of the time and opportunity to think and voice their thoughts and doubts about their study or even about everyday issues! These children have no idea what is in store for them. Their lives are basically driven by the principle of rote-learning. They memorize, they answer. They listen, they write. They see, they copy. If they don’t bring a book, they are canned. If they forget one question from their mathematics worksheet, they are doomed. Talkative and outspoken students are hated and crucified. In literature class, they memorize novels word for word. In science class, they are taught why, and not how something happens. In each lab session they are motionless spectators. How can they speak for themselves when they turn into adults? All this is the prime cause for the wide-eyed, spiritless, blank future young graduates sitting in their interview rooms, with no motivation at all and all lost about their goals in life. Is this how we are bringing up the children of this generation? Are we bringing up an ideal witty, knowledgeable generation to be full of originality or a timid, closed up and uncritical generation? To make it even worse, Asians that subscribe to this system of education form a huge percentage of the world population! Are we doomed?

On the other hand, in Western schools, discussions are the main activity in classes. Students are even praised for voicing a dissenting opinion and a whole school-day can be taken up by active participation in an experiment in the lab for science class, English discussions, drama classes, and almost 2 hours of Physical Education and sometimes even special motivation talks for the academically disabled as well as the able students. Individual responses, personal participation and involvement are the key features in this system of education. Thus, it is rather perplexing to think that most Malaysian-Chinese parents would think of
sending their children to a Chinese school in Malaysia despite the major setbacks.This fact sends conflicting messages to my mind. Yes, I do want my children in future to be attentive and aware that education is a main essential for their future, but I can’t accept the fact that my future child will be spending 7 hours a day, memorizing an entire Chinese novel from cover to cover, being in a non-participating science class and practically living on written tests. These children lack individuality. They lack the idea of actually “thinking” for themselves, because all they have to do is memorize the ‘right’ answers in order to score well. They are without any informed opinion of their own and introverted due to their utter lack of participation in class. But can they help it? If they didn't adhere to the repressive Chinese education system, they would be told terrible stories of being a failure in life and dying on the streets and so on but score well and they will live a happy and rewarding life, With all such drilling, how do you expect your child to “find his passion” and “strive for his dreams”? This is why there are an increasing number of private schools which reject the rote-learning principle of education. But, parents who are financially tight may find trouble in enrolling their children there. The idea of a private school is always a matter of dollars and cents. Do the children of those parents who can’t, have to stick to the system and suffer the consequences until ultimately someone influential comes along and changes it ?

My hope is that after hearing this speech, some people would have the courage to think through these issues and take them even further on. We need leaders to effect necessary changes in our Chinese education system. As somebody once said: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus”



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