• Leo Education

Part 1: Early education

Author: Watermelon

Here my recounts of my early childhood is going to be less structured but more messy mosaic pieced together by my vague memories, my parents’ vague memories, and my friends’ vague memories. I’m also going to be touching on some observations I’ve made when volunteering at a student care, so hopefully this turns out to be relevant.

Preschool worries

I’ve noticed that the age parents start to be anxious for their children’s future has become startlingly early, and that’s no surprise, we do live in a competitive society after all. In kindergarten, I was so lazy that I’d purposely misspelled words we were supposed to copy during English class so that they would be shorter. In math class, because I had never really learnt counting properly, I was slow. My teacher at the time cautioned my mum that I would need tuition in primary school, and she was genuinely worried for me. Instead of formal arithmetic or writing, I was more interested in LEGO, Styrofoam map puzzles, educational cartoons, fables, or anything that was obviously educational through the eyes of an adult, but was entertainment for a kid. Honestly, I think the inertia kids have with studying mostly stems from the fact that it’s boring, so the real task is really to make studying correlate with learning and to make learning equate to fun. Certainly, it’s easier said than done. This requires effort from parents to create something for their kid, or you could sign your kid up for supplementary programmes that focus more on investigation and creativity instead of rote learning.

Testing in lower primary

Something else I’ve noticed from teaching kids in student care, especially young kids, is that there’s a fear of tests, which becomes a problem when the anxiety prevents good performance during exams, and that in turn leads to more anxiety and it becomes a vicious cycle.

One of my clearest memories of lower primary, was a conversation I had with my mum after the first few days of Primary 1. Just to set the context, back then schools still did CA1, CA2, SA1, SA2 in lower primary and streamed classes very early on. So that day my form teacher said something about a test in the next few months, and I remember going home and asking my mum “Mummy what’s a test?” And her explanation was simple, that I was going to learn some things, and the test will verify whether I really learnt them, where I just have to sit down quietly and answer some questions.

I think that’s why I didn’t really develop a fear of testing early. The original purpose of tests and exams was never to terrify small children, but to evaluate progress. Certainly, its purpose has arguably been warped in reality with national exams and kiasu attitudes. But my own personal opinion is that we should never start off with consequentialism and instilling fear. If we could teach kids to prepare themselves well and paint exams as less of a big looming disaster, perhaps school would be more fun. Who knows, they might even perform better this way.

How good students are made

My early primary years were really smooth. I wasn’t good at English, but I had a great P1 teacher who promoted reading very well, and sometime in P2 I started reading Harry Potter. Never mind that I could barely get the gist of it thanks to rudimentary vocabulary, the stories captivated me and my English got better via exposure. So I had fun, started to like math, became a Harry Potter fan, ran around in playgrounds skinning my knees, and really that’s it.

Whatever positive achievements I had, I generally credit my parents for not giving me pressure, and helping me make good summary notes that analyzed my mistakes in the past. For math, while practice does make perfect, understanding is probably most important step. Once a student truly understands the concepts, practice ceases to be such a chore. For the languages, it’s really through exposure. I mean it’s a natural trend. If your parents speak English at home you’re going to be better at English, and vice versa with mother tongue. Hence, if a child lacks exposure to a certain language, exposure to it must be created.

But here I’m going to be very honest. Succeeding in primary school is probably 50% the effort of the parent, 30% the teacher and 20% the kid. And the 20% the kid contributes is mostly obedience. So if any kids are reading this, have fun, go play, but listen to your parents and pay attention in class.

Anyway in conclusion, if I were to sum up this convoluted mess into a few points, it’s really just, have fun through learning, pressure on kids isn’t very good, the formative years aren’t that consequential when it comes to the future, and always balance the influences in kids’ lives.

As we move past early education into the end of primary 3 I will be describing the GEP, what little I remember of getting in, how the programme was like, and what little information I know of how it’s changed, as well as the impact it had on me, positive or not.

Next: Part 2: Opining on the GEP

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