The Endless Rat Race: Pursuit of Academic Excellence in Singapore

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Nowadays, we notice tuition agencies seeking tutors for children as young as 5-years-old. Parents are willing to pay a whopping price to enroll their children in extra-curricular classes in fear of them falling behind academically. Due to the high expectations from parents and teachers, students today face immense stress to excel in school and this comes at the price of their wellbeing, hence our current education system should be revamped.

Last week, as I was teaching a Primary 4 boy, I asked him if he was happy in school. Upon hesitation, he shook his head and told me there were too much work and he was exhausted. Albeit the Singapore education system has its strengths, the push for success may be too far for most students to handle. A study done by the Organization for Economic Corporations and Development shows that students in Singapore experience higher level of anxiety when it comes to tests and grades, as compared to their counterparts from other countries (Davie, 2017).

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One may argue that stress is healthy for competition and catalyze improvements (Donvito, n.d.), but overstress will physically and mentally damage us. The rising trend in teenage suicide in Singapore calls for more attention to the system (Tan, 2018). Is the education structure in place appropriate, considering how it is taking its toll on our children?

Although changes were implemented in the school assessment in recent years (Zainalabiden, 2018), there is still a strong focus on grades. One of the changes was the removal of exams at certain levels. This does not reduce stress on students, since major examinations are still in place to ensure the quality of learning and teaching.
We should strike a balance between the joy of learning and the focus on grades. For starters, abolish major examination such as the Primary school Leaving Examination (PSLE). Introduce project-based collaborative learning and include non-academic components in the assessment to shift the focus from grades to more significant aspects, such as teamwork and creativity, which are especially vital today.

Finland is a good role model for Singapore. By adopting phenomenon-based approach, students are divided into groups to observe and analyze a real-life scenario. Students are responsible for independent learning while teachers are present to enhance the process (Sinnakaruppan, 2017). We should aim to revolutionize our education system such that there is greater focus on the knowledge and skills development of our future generation.

Reflection

The most challenging part of the writing process is to come up with a topic that is relatable and of interest to my readers. Brainstorming for a good topic is hard because there are so many issues in the world today that we are concerned with, and it is difficult to sieve out the one most important issue to us. In the end, I chose to write about this topic because I myself also feel the pressure to do well academically and I understand how serious a consequence this stress can result in. This is an issue that is very close to my heart therefore, I feel obliged to write about it.

As I raise awareness of the serious flaw in our education system, the audience have the power to spread the message to more people, or even to someone who has the power to make a change to the educational system. Therefore, I utilize pathos and logos modes of persuasion in my writing, by including examples of child suicide, facts and reasons to appeal to my readers. Pathos invokes sympathy while logos convinces with the use of data, reasoning and logic, hopefully increasing the interest level of my readers.

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