"During our time, we went to school to learn. Now the school expects the kids to know the subject already, " was the lament of one mother who had to hire a tutor for her son in Primary Two.
Kiasuparents.com even suggests that children starting Primary One should be able to write all 26 letters of the English alphabet and construct simple English sentences. No wonder parents are rich fodder for unregulated "toddler enrichment" centers - known to charge as much as $20,000 a year - for pre-school preparation to give their tikes a headstart in the treadmill of Singapore education. It cuts no ice with the gullible if the Government said a year ago that there are no plans to nationalise preschool education, that standing philosophy is preschool goals should not be assessment based, but focused on social and communication skills development. Now the national sickness of fear of being left behind has reached the stage of the theater of the absurd. The stage when we renounce arguing about the absurdity of the human condition; and merely present it in being—that is, in terms of concrete stage images. Imagine the overnight queue on Sunday to get 3-year-olds on the 2013 waitlist of a Bukit Timah preschool - purportedly the alumni of Lee Hsien Loong and his children, and also prominent lawyers, scientists and architects.
Now imagine this: A former major in the Singapore Air Force is charging $499 for a National Service pre-enlistment preparatory course. The 6 session package, each of 1 1/2 hours length, is supposed to help pre-enlistees overcome their fears and "psych them up" before they report for the NS Basic Military Training (BMT). "If going for the course will give him an edge over his NS peers, why not?" said fifty-ish housewife Sim, who is willing to part with the cash to ensure his 17-year-old is mentally ready for his NS stint. To ace his BMT, the same way he aced his ABCs at preschool. The major even has a $999 course to ace the interviews to clinch SAF scholarships. Who knows, maybe an ex-Minister might start a course to prepare for the invite to tea at the Istana.
Fortunately some members of the younger generation can espy the scam of pay and puke. Ngee Ann student Melvin Poon doesn't see why he needs to pay so much just to learn how to do well, "Even if it is tough, we just have to deal with whatever is thrown at us." Attaboy, Melvin, that's the spirit!