A ‘Premier’ Perspective
This post goes out to my classmates of VS 4E Class of 2011, you guys are the reason I came to think about this issue from a fresh, new perspective! 4E 4Ever 😀
I recently read an article about this individual who felt a strong sense of elitism among the Singaporean education, going from a ‘weaker’ secondary school into a ‘premier’ Junior College. I’ve always wanted to discuss School Elitism on here, and so, here I am, giving this from a perspective of an individual who went through 10 years of a ‘premier’ school and went ‘down’ to a so-called ‘weaker’ level.
A bit of disclaimer first though, I will be agreeing with the presence of School Elitism and will commenting this from my perspective. Due to institutions I have attended, my perspective may seem ignorant and certain points, but feel free to voice out and let me learn something new 🙂 I LOVE my school, I just don’t like what society has done to her.
Let’s begin with a young me, innocently dwelling into the deep jungle of Maris Stella High School (Primary). Adults often told me that I was ‘a lucky one’, that I should be honoured and thankful for entering this so-called ‘good’ school. For 6 years, I NEVER understood the concept on why Maris Stella (Pri) was a ‘good’ school. I didn’t have many friends from other schools I could compare notes with. All I knew, was that I had pretty great fun there being a Marist. At that time, that was reason enough to call it a ‘good’ school!
So here’s where things started becoming clear to me. Frankly, at P6, most people were freaking out over PSLE. I couldn’t care less. My parents were constantly reminding me to study, as did other parents to their kids. To me, that was their job, you can’t blame them. In the end, I got a T-Score in the 250s range which is considerably good in today’s standards. Of course, some friends got higher marks, some got lower, and apparently this meant ‘lousy’ schools? That did not make sense to me back then.
IT STILL DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO ME.
So there I went, into the ‘famed and premier’ Victoria School (VS). Otherwise known to me as – ANOTHER SCHOOL. As usual and as expected, adults would praise the world that I got into VS, as if I was carrying a gold bar everywhere I went. Hearing people say that I come from a ‘Premier/Elite’ School made me feel proud of myself, I will admit, but then again, I was still carrying the gold bar I brought over from primary school. It’s shine was still blinding me from seeing the truth about the source of Elitism.
In secondary 2, we had to choose our subject combination. During my secondary 1 and 2 years, I absolutely LOVED Design & Technology (D&T), but when I mentioned that I would take D&T as an ‘O’ Level subject, it was like I killed a human being. This was because, GET THIS, during my time, D&T and other minor electives were a taboo, something that I learnt to be absolute nonsense in so-called ‘neighbourhood’ schools. Everyone (most people) were aiming hard at Triple Science, regardless of interest or capability. What’s so good about Triple Science?! In fact, in my CCA, for my seniors before me, practically all of them took non-taboo subject combinations. Guess who was the guy who suddenly decided to break the taboo and choose an elective 🙂
Because I chose D&T, which was a subject taken AFTER normal curriculum time, I was put in to ‘weaker’ class (classified so as they had 7 subjects). I’ll tell you right now:
THAT WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME.
Throughout the truly fun 2 years, it quite upsetting to see that our class, because we did the worst, was stereotyped as the ‘worst’ class in our batch. I believe that no one has had as much fun as 4E did and yet, we worked equally hard to attain results. The key issue I had was that the school always gave us the same speech – ‘TO BREAK 10‘. That’s right, to push the school’s L1R5 average to under 10. SPOILER ALERT: VS got 10.8 for the 2011 ‘O’ Levels. The enthusiasm by the top 3 classes seriously worried me – do people really get inspired to do something like that? Discrimination against my class was not very big, but nonetheless, it was obvious. The fact that it even EXISTED disgusted me. Were we being burdens, or were we being students? 4E knew the answer. The school and the ‘image‘ they were trying to maintain? Hmm…
RESULTS DAY, and 4E got an L1R5 average of 13.3. It was above the school’s average, but it was a mighty fine job if you asked me. I got 11 for my L1R5. Some of you might be going ‘WOW‘, but guess what, in VS – they don’t say it, but you know – not. good. enough. They expected 1 digit, I gave them a pair of chopsticks 🙂 Of course, I ignored them and was absolutely pleased with my results!
And as if I couldn’t piss them off enough, guess who decided NOT to go to JC? I knew, since Sec 3, Poly was the life for me, I didn’t even bother looking at JCs. I don’t even know what H1 and H2 means. (are they some new flu?) Victoria School practically discouraged Polys. You’ve heard of Poly visits, right? I sure didn’t. It was always a ‘Go RJ/VJ/MJ or Go Home’ kind of situation. In fact some adults thought it was ‘wasted’ that I went into a Poly. Still not convinced? During a Parent-Teacher Meeting, one of the teachers asked my mum “Which JC is Athanasius aiming for?”, my mum, supportive of my Poly goals, replies “Oh…no, he’s planning to go to either NP or TP!”. And I kid you not when I say this, but the teacher replied “Really? It’s okay, he’ll want to join his friends in JC!” Let’s spend a paragraph dissecting that –
“Which JC is Athanasius aiming for?” – Shouldn’t it be ‘Where is Athanasius planning to go after his ‘O’s?’
“Really? It’s okay, he’ll want to join his friends in JC!” – Why so surprised? “It’s okay”?? I don’t get you, what’s there to be worried about? “JOIN MY FRIENDS IN JC”. REALLY?! Meet 4E, where almost half of us CHOSE poly. Just saying 🙂
It was disappointing to see how Polytechnics were (possibly involuntarily) degraded. Fortunately, I see that changing every year, I hope to see Polytechnics treated equally to Junior Colleges, separated ONLY by their method of education.
April 2012 – I landed into my dream course: Mass Communication (MCM) at FMS in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and of course the first thing you do is make new friends. Most of the came from so-called ‘neighbourhood’ schools, but guess what, they are all MAGNIFICENT PEOPLE. Most of the time however, when I say ‘I’m from Victoria School‘, I would get a ‘WOW‘ kind of response. I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to respond to that.
“I just come from secondary school stereotyped with a better name, woo?”
Almost everyday, I hang on to the worry that what I say about my secondary school life might come out as arrogant. I love my school and all but the name along carries so much unwanted load, but yet, I don’t wanna drop it. It quite depressing from my perspective. I want to show my love for my secondary school, but that love sometimes bites back. These high expectations only serve to stress us out. (Okay, that was a little emotional there, oops.)
In the end, some might argue that ‘neighbourhood schools’ produces bad kids. Let’s face it, a school doesn’t make bad students. Students make bad students. Victoria School also has her fair share of underaged smokers, no big deal. In fact, I personally believe that society’s impressions and stereotypes of schools are one of the factors that actually drive these students into walking on the wrong paths. Please don’t expect ‘neighbourhood’ schools and Polys do be all bad. Please don’t expect ‘premier’ schools and JCs to be all good. We’re all Students studying under the Singaporean system. Be it Victoria, Serangoon, Raffles, Temasek, they’re names, not bars of gold. We’re only set apart by a name.