Monday, March 25, 2013

Just a rant about my education.

I think this is a rant about my education. It's just a few thoughts on my head that I feel it's worth my time to type about. Of course, seeing that my education is in Singapore, it is related to our country's education system. I'm writing this because I am finally going to be entering the workforce and I took a look back at the past 25 years, decided to rant it. I'm not particularly angry or frustrated, just a mixed feeling of being jaded and satisfied.

Where do I start? Chronologically? Listing down the factors and influences involved? There are a ton of factors that came into play. One is, of course, is my parents. My parents are great, seriously, even though I never show it to them (because I'm bad at those stuff). I would consider that I came from a rather well-to-do family by Singaporean standards, and that is because my parents are both hard-working, thrifty, really good with money and of course, a bit lucky. Because of that, money for education is never an issue, even for my sister. Of course, this means they treat me as an investment sometimes, which I can't blame them for because from my perspective, I would think I AM an investment too, and this partly fuels my desire to 'repay them of all they have done to me'.  I mean, it does feel really bad when you are leeching off your parents for 25 years in the name of education.  

My mother is your typical Singaporean Generation X mother when it comes to education, comparing schools, results and grades with her friends', neighbours, neighbours' friends, get the gist. Most Singaporean children should know what it is like. Anyway, let's start chronologically. Primary school felt easy for me, to the point where I started slacking and be satisfied with As and Bs. I was not in the top class, neither was I at the bottom, which is enough to appease my parents. Obviously, this is not enough for me to get into a 'good' secondary school. 'Good' meaning places where top students go. My definition of good is very different at this point.

Secondary school life starts at 12 to 16. At this point, I remembered that I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of subjects. I scored badly for 2 years, that is when for some whatever crazy reason, the school allowed me to take what-seems-to-be easier topics (combined sciences, and accounting) which scoring well for them is equivalent to scoring well for obviously much difficult papers like Additional Maths or the pure sciences. Completely retarded, but it worked in my favor so I did not complain and started topping my classes. 

Let's sidetrack a bit. Education in Singapore is quite stressful. Getting shit grades results in angry parents and probably angry teachers, which results in angry self, which results in being demotivated and everything can theoretically just go to hell. Happy grades leads to the opposite, which is a good life and at best, fame. Fame! I cannot emphasize this enough. How many times have I seen newspaper front page reports of a certain group of students who scored incredible points for 'O' levels (the final paper for secondary schools) from a certain 'good' school. How many times have I heard of incredible primary school students who topped their PSLE results? I have once walked past an award ceremony at a void deck for top scoring students from a certain school. THAT is how important scoring good grades felt. When I was 14, I saw how everything can go to shit if I don't do anything about it soon. So I did. On easier topics. That is, I have an edge in getting better results than anyone. 

Then it came to a decision. The decision that most Express or Normal-stream secondary students make: Junior College or Polytechnic (sorry ITE dudes, no hard feelings but you understand). I was really a typical student when I decided on Polytechnic. The thought of entering a specialized course that teaches what you want, no uniforms, classes are not 8am-2pm and no regimentation feels like heaven. Even better, only the results of 5 subjects (including English) is taken into account (Junior College need 6 including English).

Polytechnic lasted 3 years. I entered the new Digital Entertainment Technology course, which is basically Games Programming (or Technical Direction, depending on your specialization). It was gruesome as hell, nothing like the good life I imagined, BUT I was learning a hell lot of stuff which I enjoyed. Unforunately, even though I worked my ass off the bigger projects in my school, a project is still only a module. Doing badly for classes which had no relevance to my interests just killed my results (classes with exams like memorizing how to create a fire using photoshop). Also, a quick flashback - remember that I said that I chose polytechnic because I was thinking like a typical Singaporean student who wants a good life. There are a bunch of people like that in my course and it doesn't help that when I team with them, I ended up doing almost everything. I remember I kept telling myself that it's all going to be worth it because I am the one learning stuff. 

In the end, my GPA was bad. It wasn't really super bad. It's like 3 out of 4.  The fact that Singapore local universities are bitches at accepting polytechnic students started to hit me really hard at this point. It was general knowledge that getting into a local university requires 3.5 or more, unless you have a really really kickass portfolio. I had neither. I have a good portfolio, not a kickass one. After getting out of polytechnic, with nearly zero hope of entering a good university, I was really jaded. Then NS happened. 

National Service lasted 2 years. I came out 23. Normally, I would complain that NS stole 2 years of my life and also gave me a back problem that's potentially going to be troublesome when I get older, but it gave me time to think about what I want to do. Local universities rejected me, Digipen (my dream school at that point) was incredibly expensive and I do not want my parents to spend that much on me anymore. On top of that, it was a 4-year course, which means I would be 27-28 by the time I'm done. Twenty-freaking-eight. That's 2 years away from being considered middle aged. It's nuts from my point of view.

Then a miracle by the name of Singapore Institute of Technology appeared. The rest the pretty much smooth sailing. They subsidized my enrollment to Digipen and turned it into a hellish 2.5 year course from 4 years. It was a win-win situation from my perspective. And after going through all that crap in polytechnic, I felt Digipen shouldn't be any hard. Thankfully it wasn't in my opinion. I had good sleeps before presentations thanks to my hardworking teammates (even when we crunched and I had 3-4 hours of sleep), compared to polytechnic which I literally had none for like 90% of my projects, so it's much more bearable. Even better, most of the modules and projects I find were relevant, interesting, and worth doing. Probably the best 2.5 years of my life thus far. 

And here ends my rant. I'm not really angry about what happened so far. I am just glad it's finally all over and I'm going to work the work of my dreams, which is a really happy ending to a really long 25 year chapter. I can rant a hell lot more and make a long article out of it, but for now this is good enough.




  1. You should have seen one of my secondary school principals, she's completely obsessed with grades and rankings it's almost disturbing.

  2. Parents these days, they will buy their kids expensive toys and gadgets as incentive for excellent results. Teach wrong values.