Ah Boy has an army of tutors towering over him every day after school, making sure he scores those As.
His kiasu parents are determined to ensure he gets good grades, gets into a good secondary school and JC, and then enrols in a respectable course at university—one that will ensure he succeeds in life by offering him a stable job and a high salary.
But here’s why no matter how many hours of tuition Ah Boy goes through and no matter how satisfied his parents are with his grades, that doesn’t guarantee him success in life.
Grades don’t determine attitude, motivation and work ethics
When you wield the cane, Ah Boy has no choice but to bury his head in those assessment books. But when he enters the working world, he’s going to have to find that motivation inside himself.
It takes a tremendous amount of willpower, a good attitude and a healthy work ethic to excel at the workplace, especially now that it’s clear retrenchment threatens those who don’t take it upon themselves to keep their skills sharp and constantly upgrade themselves.
If Ah Boy has no true interest in the studies or work he undertakes, he’s at risk of becoming a mediocre employee—you know, one of those folks who’re always hiding behind their cubicle walls, have zero initiative and do the bare minimum.
Crippling stress can cause psychological problems
When PM Lee Hsien Loong himself warns that forcing kids to go for tuition to prepare them for kindergarten makes them grow up “narrow and neurotic”, you know kiasu parents have really gone too far.
The ridiculous amounts of stress Singapore students are subjected to has been the topic of many news reports, and suicides over grades, some involving primary school kids, have been a disturbing trend of late.
Exposing a kid to crippling stress does not “prepare him for the real world”, especially if he is too young to learn from the experience and can’t prevent himself from buckling under the stress. In fact, an overly stressful childhood can lead to a whole host of psychological issues later on in life.
Street smarts can only be cultivated away from the books
Singaporeans have a reputation for being book-smart, but rather lacking in the areas of street smarts and common sense.
To succeed in the real world, you can’t be a frog in the well. A certain amount of shrewdness and keep powers of observation are needed to climb the corporate ladder. Many high-level jobs are about problem solving, navigating unfamiliar territory and using your intuition, and book-learning can’t take you 100% of the way.
Too much studying results in a lack of interests outside of school
When schoolwork sucks up 100% of a kid’s time, he doesn’t have the room to develop his interests, cultivate hobbies, and develop skills outside of the very narrow ones needed to pass exams.
A kid who grows up with no interests or hobbies is unlikely to become a well-rounded individual. Someone with no interests outside of school is very unlikely to be more inspired or have better ideas than someone who’s lived a more varied life.
For instance, a child who reads for pleasure forms a far more nuanced view of the world than one who only reads textbooks. Many programming whizzes start out experimenting at home rather than relying on a university course to spoonfeed them knowledge.
EQ may not have a chance to be developed
They say that the higher up you climb on the corporate ladder, the more it becomes about who you know, than what you know.
Parents who discourage their kids from developing their social skills, such as by filling up all their free time with tuition and not allowing them to spend time with friends, are doing them a disservice, as these kids are more likely to grow up to be socially awkward.
You know those Singaporeans who blame their parents for not allowing them to date in school, and then expect them to magically find a spouse once they graduate from uni and start working?
The same thing happens when it comes to building a healthy network, getting along with the people at work and building close ties with clients. It’s no surprise that Singaporeans are often criticised for their poor communication skills and lack of confidence, as many were discouraged by strict parents from socialising in their formative years.
How important are good grades in contributing to success in life? Share your opinions in the comments!
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