What I remember about primary school...
Playing with my friends before school, during recess and after school. Waking up when the sky was still dark, the air was chilly and fireflies darting about. Yes, fireflies in PJ! We didn't have to drive all the way to Kuala Selangor and jump on a boat to watch fire flies in the 70's!
We played Rounders, hop scotch, five stones and jump rope before school. Nobody told us off for being noisy. At recess, we wolfed down our food so we could have more time to play some more.
When waiting for the school bus, my friends and I would play "Catching" which always involve jumping across the drain. I usually got caught because I was too chicken shit to jump across. I remember my teacher Miss Angela Wong who taught us well, who was firm yet loving. She was concerned about us, made sure we understood what was taught even though there was almost 50 of us. I remember a little fold up cabinet which was opened once a week so we could borrow books to read. After Std 3, once a week we went to a small room filled with books and we could borrow any books we want. I learned later that that was the school library of sorts. I borrowed books by Enid Blyton. Started with Blue Dragon books, slowly moved to Green Dragon and finally Red Dragon. Read all about the Famous Five, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I looked forward to the day we could borrow books. I can't remember now which day it was when we could borrow books. It could have been a Friday.
At home, I hardly had any homework. That was usually dealt with pretty quickly so I could watch TV when transmission started at 5pm. Yes, this was before cable TV and TV broadcast wasn't 24 hours. Heck, this was before colour TV.
33 years later and my daughter is in primary school. Her school days are so different from mine. Her school is situated on one of the busiest road in KL, so no chance to play outside the school compound for sure. Girls her age have been kidnapped, are still missing or murdered so playing outside the school without supervision is not an option!
A schoolmate's mom and I carpool with our kids. Why not put her on a school bus? Just today, a motorcyclist squeezed between a parked lorry and my car which was on the left lane. Needless to say, he scratched my car! With the number of cars on the road and the reckless way people drive, put my kids on a bus where they are not secured with any seat belt? I love my children too much to put them through that risk!
A typical day in my daughter's school day...
Arrive in school and straight away they are to get themselves upstairs to the school hall to be lined up with their class. The time between arrival and the start of school, they are taught to sing by their vice principal and they recite classics. Sometimes, they watch cartoon on TV. They are not allowed to run around or make too much noise as the morning session is still on.
Time to start school, they proceed to their classes in an orderly manner. They settle in and lesson starts. Maths and Science taught in English and Mandarin. Bahasa Melayu to learn and workbooks to do. English as a subject twice a week. Moral in Mandarin. Two to three workbooks per subject. Physical Education textbook and workbook to go through. Textbook and workbook for PE???! WTF! PE meant going to the field and being outdoors when I was in primary school!
Every kid look forward to recess right? Recess time in Laura's school... Children go straight to the school canteen and are expected to stay there the entire time. There isn't much of a field to play in in the first place. If the entire Std 1 and Std 2 population were to converge at the field, they will all be standing shoulder to shoulder. Hey, just like being in the assembly hall!
Poor Laura is swamped with homework. Something is terribly wrong with our education system when 8-year-olds go to school for 5 1/2 hours each day and still have to sit through 5-8 homework each day! A neighbour of ours also send her daughter to the same school. E is in Std 5. When we bumped into her the other day, she told Laura, "You're lucky to be in Std 2. You only have maximum 8 homework a day. In Std 5, I have 10 homework on average". She had just gotten back from 2 tuition back to back. It was 7.00pm (E goes to the morning session) and she was still in her school uniform and hadn't started on her homework. What time does she go to bed?
My little girl has always had an early bedtime. Latest to bed 8.30pm. She's a growing girl so she needs her sleep. Since starting school, she's not had the chance to sleep early. Back home by 7.10pm, shower then dinner. By the time she finishes dinner, it's almost 8.30pm. She has to deal with homework. Plough through 5-8 homework, she's in bed by 10.30pm if she's lucky. The next morning, she's up by 8am so she can attend classes in Bao Bei
. Laura doesn't attend any tuition class, only Bao Bei. She loves going to Bao Bei as children learn Mandarin in a fun way.
By the time Laura is done with homework, her eyes are half closed. She is exhausted. Dark circle under her eyes. No chance to unwind, no chance for some catch up time with her family, she is off to bed and falls asleep straight away.
Someone please remind me. What's the purpose of homework? My definition of homework is school work that can't be completed in time in school. Homework is a way to revise what was taught in school so that the students understand what they are taught. How is a 7+-year-old supposed to be able to concentrate on homework after having been in school for 5 1/2 hours? Can anyone sustain concentration for so long, whatever age they are?
What is the purpose of workbooks? Why is there such an emphasis on workbooks? One workbook per subject not good enough? Why the need for 2-3 workbooks? After Year 1, students who excel are placed in the first two classes. Laura made it to one of these two classes. I was actually hoping she wouldn't! I knew it would mean extra pressure on her and MORE WORKBOOKS! sigh
Laura was struggling with her homework 'coz she didn't understand what she was supposed to do. I helped her whenever I could by going through dictionary with her and guiding her but I get stumped too as I did not learn Mandarin in school. Several times I told her to ask her teacher the next day. She said she won't 'coz her teacher won't answer her questions, in fact will scold her for asking. A teacher who does not encourage her students to ask when they do not understand? Hmmm... Maybe something got lost in translation. After all, my daughter is 7 1/2 and may not convey fully what the teacher said or she chose the wrong time to ask. When I had a word with the teacher, I asked if Laura asked when she doesn't understand. Her teacher launched into a long explanation on her style of teaching.
She DOES NOT encourage her students to ask questions. There are 46 students in her class, so if everyone of them came up to her personally to ask questions, she does not have time to do much else. When she's teaching, her students are expected to give 100% attention and understand. Then they're given homework to do.
Hello, Ms Teacher. As you said, there are 46 students in your class. Do you expect every single one of them to be at the same level of understanding? They are 7-8 year olds and they are expected to pay full attention and be able to understand every single thing you teach? Wouldn't it be better if the students asked you questions so they learn better? They ask you questions so you can gauge how much you've taught is understood.
Laura has been known to wake up crying in the morning because she thought she had missed out on some homework. Any homework not done will result in marks deducted from her moral exams. Any students who skip school without a valid reason or MC will also have marks deducted. The teachers wield canes at the assembly hall to get the children to behave. The children are taught to fear their teachers. To do their homework or face punishment. Sit down, listen and shut up! That's the message being put across to these children. My daughter told me she's happy 'coz it's "the 5th day her teacher hadn't scolded her". Aiyooo!
I am very frustrated with the education system at the moment. Frustrated with how the children are so bogged down with homework they do not have time to be children. Frustrated at how Laura gets so stressed out when she thinks she's forgotten to do her homework. Frustrated that children's enthusiasm for learning is getting systematically squashed and replaced with learning through fear. Frustrated with the way languages is taught. That's another post! So much emphasis on passing examinations. I constantly remind Laura that examination is a way for the teachers to access how much the students understood what had been taught so far. Do the teachers and the school remember that?
Labels: education frustration, family children, school