Heh. I am sure a lot of people will be familiar with this, especially those who have been through education in Singapore. Raise your hands if you remember having to do lots of revision books, exercises, home work and tonnes of book reviews during the holidays? There was practically no chance to play. In fact, I remember hating holidays because that meant having to do so much home work that it’s better to have normal classes during the so-called school holidays.

If you think going back for 2 weeks during the first 1/2 of the holidays is bad, how about going back on alternate weeks? Yes, it was cruel but to the teachers, it was all for our own good. I remember my mum telling me when I was in K1 and K2 that I need to study very hard to get into a good school. Then when I was in P1, I had to study and work hard to prepare for the "streaming" and this went on for P2 and P3. Then at P4 and P5, I had to work hard for PSLE else I will go to the neighbourhood school behind and become an ah lian of sorts.

My mum would continue, "Do you want to be like them? (and then points to a group of smoking girls) Learn how to smoke, take drugs and then get locked up in a girls’ home?" Of course, that frightened the feces out of me and I worked really hard. Then I got into secondary school and we didn’t really have much extra lessons, but when my classmates seemed like they had a microprocessor in their brains and with the school threatening to cream me off (the worst students being the cream here), I had no choice but to work very hard. After all, I remembered my mum’s words and didn’t want to go to a girls’ home. Anyway, holidays were also spent doing CCAs and CIPs.

JC felt almost like liberation. Until the teachers showed their true colours after the "first 3 months". Punishments were meted out like water from the water cooler – at the press of a button, and on top of that, we had to be all rounders in sports and all; and be involved in community projects. There was no time to rest in J1 because we were told that we only had 1 year instead 2. J2 was merely an illusion. Hmmm… wonder whose wise words were those. Needless to say, June and December holidays were burnt because we had to prepare for the A levels or risk being sent to less popular faculties (or worse, no faculties) in University.

Did I mention that it had to be NUS? No, I am not telling where I went to. =)

The real holiday came after A levels. However, because I was then on my own with no money in pocket, I had to work, work and work, although I guess it was worth it because I now have my own cash flow which meant, at that time, that I could get anything I want. Soon enough, university started. Then there was hall activities, more ECAs, more clubs to run, more elections to prepare for, projects, assignments, final year projects, dissertations and the list goes on. So, the only time when we get to enjoy a holiday is… supposed to be after we graduate.

And you think there’s time for holiday after work begins? Hmm… =) It’s probably things like this that made me feel "Singaporean".

How was school during your childhood like?

THE four-week mid-year school holiday has begun but many students and teachers will not get a proper break until one or two weeks later.

A check with 25 primary and secondary schools showed that almost all have some form of classes, mostly for graduating batches of students – Primary 6s and Secondary 4s and 5s.

Only two schools – Raffles Girls Primary (RGPS) and Hwa Chong Institution – said they are not holding classes at all.

Many parents, whose children have to return to school for such ‘compulsory’ lessons, say they do not see the point in them, especially when the children are not sitting for major exams at the end of the year.

A parent, whose son is in Primary 5 at Tao Nan School in Marine Parade, was upset to learn that the three-day lessons held in the last week of the holidays, were ‘compulsory, with a medical certificate required if the child was absent’.

‘My son is only in Primary 5. Why have lessons during the long holidays when they already have compulsory supplementary classes twice a week during term time?

‘What’s three days of lessons in a kid’s life? I feel sorry when he asks me why he can’t play,’ she said.

Principal Tony Tan said the classes were to make up for lessons missed by the cohort during a three-day adventure camp last month.

Another parent, whose daughter is in Primary 4 in a neighbourhood school, said she decided not to let her go for the classes as the family had made plans to travel.

‘Three days will not get her more A* in the PSLE, not when she’s only in Primary 4,’ said Madam Judy Chong, 39, a customer services executive, who wrote to the school to excuse her daughter from classes.

Over at Zhonghua Secondary, its Secondary 4 and 5 students have compulsory lessons from 8am to 3.15pm every day for the first two weeks of the holidays.

Principal Dolly Ong said parents were advised early in the year not to take their children on a vacation.

‘Unless there’s a family emergency, we want students to come back for the classes. They need the time to prepare for the examinations,’ she added.

School heads say there are students who need these extra classes and who will benefit from them.

Zhonghua Primary’s principal Bucktha Seelan said his teachers have planned lessons in the first three days of the school holidays for pupils who need it.

‘It’s in small groups and not compulsory, though we encourage them to come. It’s the only time we can do something to help weaker pupils catch up with their classmates,’ he said.

In Tampines Secondary, Secondary 4 and 5 students have classes every day for the first week. Principal Neo Tick Watt said he had ‘mixed feelings’ about having classes during the holidays.

‘You want the students to enjoy, but you also want them to study. Our students need focus and motivation, and the momentum to keep studying,’ he said.

That is how some parents feel as well, especially those with children facing critical examinations.

Mrs Susan Kiew, 49, a housewife who has two children in Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary, said the lessons would benefit her elder daughter who is sitting for the O levels at the end of the year.

‘If she has problems she can ask her teacher – it’s extra help for her, and is better than staying at home,’ she said.

But students having to attend classes would mean teachers giving up their holidays too.

Schools say they are careful to set aside time for teachers to rest.

For instance, while NorthLight School has no formal classes during the holidays, some students asked for enrichment lessons like baking.

So the school found an external vendor to conduct classes, with supervision done by administrative staff so that teachers can go for their break.

Principal Chua Yen Ching said she tries to make sure the teachers get three weeks of uninterrupted rest during the holidays.

‘It’s important that after one semester, they reflect, recharge so they come back renewed,’ she said.

As RGPS principal Tan Siok Cheng, who stopped holiday classes five years ago, put it: ‘The girls get so tired, and some don’t show up because of vacation plans…so we target them throughout the school year, rather than ask them to come back during the holidays.’



Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th May 2008

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