Friday, March 1, 2013

Scrambled thoughts on education options

Since the change in C's classroom environment and her school's transition to becoming an international school, I've been pondering a little more about the future of her education and the options available.

I would like to believe that the definition of being 'highly educated' does not necessarily have to be limited to having gone through years of 'schooling' and having succeeded in getting a piece of paper from a well-known institution of higher learning. And the definition of being 'successful' in life is not equal to having a high-salaried job or business, status, and tons of material wealth, although these could be part of the equation in this materialistic world.

Having said this, I am not against higher education or 'success' as we need to be practical and realistic that there is a need for a reasonable level of education and material wealth in order to live relatively comfortably and be of value to society. I simply want to view education as something beyond mass schooling for a certain number of years simply for the purpose of getting ahead in this competitive world. What's all the knowledge, money and fame if you don't have good morals, values, meaningful relationships, love, joy and peace, for example? You can be educated in nuclear science or art history in university but it's the School of Life that completes you as an upright, compassionate, decent human being...

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense with all these disjointed thoughts. I'm not very good at expressing my thoughts about this currently as they encompass various issues and everything seems like a big ball of entangled wool! And my vocabulary and writing skills are not superb enough to present a clear, concise and organised post of such 'deep' matters in a blog... Anyway, this is my place to put my thoughts, regardless of whether anyone reads or understands what I'm saying.

C is currently in Year 5. Next year, she will be sitting for the UPSR examination, a public exam that all schoolchildren studying the Malaysian syllabus, be it in government (sekolah kebangsaan), Chinese or Tamil  (sekolah jenis kebangsaan) schools, are required to take, before proceeding to Form 1 (secondary school). Once C completes UPSR, if she remains in her current school, she will be studying the IGCSE syllabus. If she were to leave this current school, we will have several options: public school (sekolah kebangsaan/local syllabus), private school that offers local syllabus, private/international school that offers international syllabus, homeschooling (ideally at home, or at a 'homeschool' centre).

Back in the day during my time in the 20th century, we either went to kebangsaan schools, mission schools, Chinese or Tamil schools to study the Malaysian syllabus from primary to secondary. Any 'international' education we got would have to be at tertiary level if our family could afford to send us overseas or if we were good enough to get a loan or scholarship. There were hardly any private schools and international schools were only reserved for foreigners/expatriate children. There were only a handful of private pre-university colleges to help you prepare for entry to universities overseas, as well as only six local universities when it was my time to pursue tertiary education.

Things have changed now in the 21st century. Education is big business. From enrichment classes of all kinds for babies and toddlers to all sorts of pre-school teaching and learning methods, private and international schools and colleges, twinning programmes, online courses, short-term courses, professional courses, vocational schools, local campuses of prestigious foreign schools and universities with boarding facilites....the list goes on. We are spoiled for choice, especially if we have the means to afford these for our children. And even if we don't have the means, we will find ways to provide the best for our kids.

In our parents' generation, as long as we, their children, went to school and finished at least our secondary school education and found a reasonably good job thereafter, they felt they have fulfilled their responsibility. Sending us for what is now termed as enrichment classes such as piano, violin or ballet (the popular activities during my time) was something only the middle class would think of doing. Now, every parent would map out their child's education journey the moment he starts reciting the alphabet. Every kid, rich or poor, is now attending some extra lesson outside of school. Even the schools are offering such lessons for a fee in the name of providing extra-curricular activities. Now you can get taekwondo, voice, art, gymnastics, fencing, piano or even ukelele lessons at school as long as you sign up and pay. During my time, extra-curricular encompassed only athletics practice, badminton, netball, hockey, clubs such as Girl Guides, drama and theater, language and religious societies, etc. No extra charge.

Sigh, life and decisions for children's education seemed much simpler then. Now with so many choices, it's a challenge to decide what you think is best for your child taking into consideration her interests, aptitude, how you view education and life, and what you can afford in terms of time, money and other resources.....

Public? Private? Local? International? Homeschool? Unschool?

It would also be less of a challenge if  this country's education system is not a political circus and of desirable quality... This is one of the main reasons why many parents try to look for better alternatives.

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