I’ll tell you the story from a 1st Person POV.
I’m a 15 year old student from Singapore.
I happen to be in Dunman High School, one of the top schools in Singapore. (3rd Best School available for boys)
My story, would start from Primary 4, when I was 10 years old. Before this, I was in a neighborhood school, or basically the low performing schools (We’ll put aside the “All schools are good schools” BS for this) I got a chance to change to a better school when I was Primary 3, so I accepted it and moved. The first time I saw my report card was mid year, the end of May.
The difference between the standards of the two schools were so wide, that just my smartness alone couldn’t carry me through. Back then, young me was worry free, but my parents were worried sick. My father decided to act as my personal tutor (Not due to the cost, but simply because he is an awesome guy and would be better than most if not all the tutors we can find)
It was here that I was introduced to “Mugging” basically doing a shit ton of practice papers. We worked hard for the remaining half a year and I managed to get into the third best class. We continued the routine for the next two years in preparation for PSLE, a nationwide exam that will decide what Secondary School you go to. My dad was really supportive and made it as fun as possible, but it was still really tough, so just imagine all the other kids who had the role played by tuition teachers who were there for the money. The kid’s emotions wouldn’t be high on their priorities.
The story doesn’t end here.
I entered Dunman High through a program called Direct School Admission where you could use non-academic achievements as a booster. My achievements were nature and achieved through the process of having fun, while many kids in Singapore are forced to take a shit ton of sports, music and art lessons to attain these achievements.
I was allowed to slack off since we had made it through the first barrier. But of course, within 3 months, my parents were called due to my bad results. I did not study at first and got addicted to gaming due to the nearly 2 years hiatus before PSLE. At one point, my dad got so angry, he smashed the IPhone 4 he handed down to me.
I scrapped through Year 1, with a 2.47 GPA (More or less a Grade B) where 2.00 was the passing mark. Not too bad for how little I studied, though I would have been getting “A”s in Primary School.
Then Year 2, once again, barely scrapped past with 2.56 GPA with a bare minimum of 2.4. Had to study more this time, but I was still pretty free.
Then Year 3, I was sent to the 2nd worst class due to my Year 2 results, and this was where I got shocked. I actually put in some effort but was failing constantly and I really didn’t know how exactly to “Work hard” and at the end of the year, I failed to meet the requirements, but was promoted while on “Probation” (If I failed in Year 4, I’ll be send to the “O” Level Class where I would have to repeat a year and take the nation exam for Secondary Four students that Dunman High Students are typically exempted from.)
Year 4, where I am right now. This is where the the point of my story becomes obvious. I’m still doing badly but there is still hope so I continue to struggle.
And let me tell you what the Singaporean Education System does to you.
Remember how I started off with really good grades in Primary School? That was a major ego booster in a competitive environment like Singapore.
I was feeling like the top of the world, then came secondary school, where I just fell into bits.
When you try to tell yourself, that it was because you weren’t putting in enough effort, you feel alright. Then when putting in effort still doesn’t pull you back up, you eventually start questioning, “Am I really good enough? Was my former glory just luck?” and when an ego this big starts falling apart, it goes a long way.
Everyone is expecting things from you, yet you just can’t seem meet their expectation? Take a look at my profile, you’ll see WW2 is one of my most answered topics along with military stuff in general. Yet the WW2 group project I did a while ago for History received the worst grades in my class. The topic I had the most confidence and the most passion about yield me not only not the results I expected, but the worst results in the class.
And when you hear stuff like “It doesn’t matter what course you get, just get into NUS or NTU or SMU” (Top 3 Universities in Singapore) it really adds more pressure onto you.
To summarize, you under go IMMENSE pressure and stress in our education system. It’s kind of like making a sword. Sudden immersion of a hot sword into cold water could either strengthen it, or break it. Same here, the students here are among the best in the world, but quite a few don’t make it. Either emotional and mentally or literally.
Notes: I really want to thank OP for the question which prompt me to write out a short life story of mine. It really took a huge load off my chest typing this out, which while is not nearly enough to get rid of the problem, but it still counts.
Source: Quora Post by Chiang Yu Hsuan