Dear Xander

What Society Wants (Updated)

Update 1: I received a text from my wife, having enquired with the teacher about the assessment book. The text reads:

“Teacher say no need to filll in. Read can ler.”

“The written work is for K1.”


The anxiety continues…

Update 2: We’ve pretty much pinned down the issue to a communication breakdown with the school (which, unfortunately, is quite common with this school). I guess this will serve as more conversation fodder at our next parent-teacher meeting.

Dear Xander,

We found out that your school was putting textbooks and assessment books into your school bag for us parents to guide you through your homework. Over the weekend, your mother decided to give it a go with you.

Homework for a 3-year-old. Wait, it gets much worse.

After a failed attempt at getting you to take a nap at 4pm on a Sunday, your mother then proceeded to dig out all your school material and started flipping through your school material, consisting of 2 Chinese textbooks, a Chinese workbook, asp spoken word audio CD accompanying the workbook (in the voice of your school principal and her daughter, no less) and what I can only assume is a parent’s/teacher’s instruction manual of how to go through the lessons.

The workbook was what started the evening’s disaster. It was a book of Chinese idioms, with one page listing 8 idioms, and the flipside of the page with the same idioms but with words missing for you to fill in the blanks. Never mind that your mother and I didn’t know the meaning of half the idioms listed, even though the audio CD took care of the reading for us. As time wore on, your mother got increasingly frustrated when she realised you weren’t recognising and reading the words in the textbook; you were reciting from memory the contents of the audio CD that must have been played and replayed over during your classes.

Your mother tried getting you to write the Chinese characters on a blank piece of paper, without much success. Sensing something was up, she asked you to write your name in English; you went as far as X and A before finally exhibiting what you were only capable of writing at 39 months of age – crooked lines. Your mother started wondering what you’ve been taught in school since you enrolled back when you were 18 months old. Then she started getting angry, then anxious, then worried.

She started to cry.

You realised what was happening, and went up to hug her. you took some tissue nearby to wipe off your mother’s tears, and then started stroking your mother as you would always do whenever you think she’s sad. You started crying as well, and in between breaths, you said to your mother, “Mummy, don’t cry.” confused and not knowing what else to say, your mother replied, “But you’re not writing your words.” And then she cried even harder.

In a bid to soothe your mother’s emotions, you immediately reached out for the workbook, picked up your pencil, and filled in every blank on the page. The result of your tense, urgent need to finish your homework under pressure was this:

I had gone out to get dinner for the family during the entire time. When I reached home, I saw your teary-eyed mother on the sofa looking defeated, and you sitting next to her, watching television. She told me what happened, and I, too, started wondering what the school was trying to achieve, and how they were expecting you to deal with such an advanced level of learning.

Later in the night, I read about children’s milestones between 36-48 months whilst perusing through the Internet. Most of the web articles I read seem to hold the same agreement: that children will only start learning to write at 5 years of age. Your father then understood why many of his friends decided to migrate with their children.

I didn’t intend to write a follow up to my last letter to you, but as a relatively new parent, the overly advanced, competitive nature of the local education system has only now begun to slap me – and your mother – in the face. I always wondered why I never felt I had an enjoyable childhood; and if it was a lot simpler back then, I dread to wonder what the future holds for you here.

What our society expects from its children quite honestly does not sit very well with me.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *