NPCC drill competition; Chung Cheng High

People who think Singapore’s education system is a success is blindsided to the harmful effects on the growth to adulthood.

Having gone through the system myself and now witnessing first-hand the education system in Japan and Australia, I see where Singapore students are lacking in critical aspects required to mature.

For example, curricular clubs and activities known as CCAs in Singapore are beholden to the number of awards they get each year. Students who join CCAs ended up being pawns of the schools and the clubs, pressured to win awards in inter-school competitions and whatever ridiculous competition they could come out with.

I was in NPCC, a police uniformed group found in every Singapore school. There was this singing competition, drill competition (where you become a clown toy tossing rifles), training camps and all sort of sorry events so some school will get a chance to take home some awards and certificates.

My friends who were in the band and choir clubs had to train for some competitions held every few months. Nobody joined the CCAs out of their own interests. Everything was a farce.

I still recount the day when I was 13 year old and I wanted to join the badminton club and basketball club. I was not “selected” because I was too short (about 150cm) and probably regarded as not a competition material.

I spent my free time playing basketball in the neighbour and sometimes played against students from schools’ basketball team. I didn’t notice any difference in skills, and I was ever asked if I was in the school team.

When I reached poly, I did not bother to join any club. I was an avid swimmer, religiously swimming everyday to improve my speed and stamina. I was clocking 20 laps a day everyday after school back then. The Temasek Poly swimming club saw me all the time swimming on my own. I was approached by one them to join the club, and I rejected them knowing that they just wanted me to compete.

Why can’t students join the club out of interests, and why must they win awards for the school to justify their presence? Singapore schools never asked the students what they want, and in such a regimented environment devoided of ‘personal choice’ , they grow up forgetting what they want in life except to earn more money.

For the record, I have nothing against money. But I am lucky to find out that I like writing and history at a later age. Unfortunately during my school years, I never knew I like writing because I was never asked what I would like to experiment. I wouldn’t make it to the school’s rotary club or language club because my poor grades wouldn’t help them win a single award.

Students should be given the opportunity to experiment, club-hop, and explore their interests. Not everyone knows what they want to do in life, but they will know what they dislike once they tried something.

The student age is a period of making mistakes and learning. Students are not pawns to to win awards to feed the school’s ego or justify education budget. Singapore’s education system is a failure in producing people with passion because students are only told to be passionate at the school’s choice of subject.