Burning of PSLE books

This photo appeared in today’s Straits Times. It shows some children burning textbooks after the end of the PSLE. Comments abound, from parents setting a bad example, to the wastage of books which could be donated to the needy, to the barbaric nature of destroying books, to global warming. Of course this is terribly wrong, even if we acknowledge that they need an outlet to vent their stress.

However, 2 points sprung up in my mind when I saw this photo.

1) That our education system has surely failed in some ways if children believe that learning is just for passing some exams, and not for the sake of acquiring knowledge. 

2) That the children, and parents, must have been through so much stress that they resorted to use this method of literally burning their books, as compared to tearing them up or giving them away. It hints of releasing some form of oppression or perhaps anger or frustration at the system.

A few years back when #1 was in Primary 6, a friend organised a Chinese New Year gathering at her place. They were all from the same Kindergarten class, and had kept in contact until now. So the kids were all in their P6 year, in various schools. As the moms gathered, the conversation immediately centred on the PSLE. After the kids went off to play for a few hours, they came back down to get some refreshments. One boy commented, “You are all still talking about our PSLE? Don’t you have anything better to talk about?”

For those of you who have not had kids go through the PSLE, you will probably not understand how any parent can even condone such an act of burning books. I definitely do not condone this, but I have seen how the PSLE has taken over the lives of so many families. I even know of families who do not allow their child to leave the house during the entire PSLE year. They are supposed to stay at home to study and not be distracted by any outings or play. Daily family conversations revolve around schoolwork and tuition. And usually there is displeasure on the parents’ part, resulting in scolding or nagging. Can you imagine what the child gathers from all these? That my worth to my parents are in terms of my grades. That the exams take precedence over family activities. That these textbooks and assessment books are a hinderance to a happier family and a happier life for me.

Well, it’s easy for an MP to say that whatever the amount of stress faced, they still shouldn’t burn their books. Yes, we as parents all know that we should not burn books. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that books are definitely a source of knowledge meant to educate a person. If our schools have taught the children well, would they feel this strongly about books and want to burn them? Or has schools inadvertently led the children to believe that books are a source of immense stress. That books have no relevance in our daily lives, besides being information that is needed to be memorised and reproduced in the exact way the examiner wants. That they have to be drilled every single day, for months, on these repetitive questions. Where is the joy in learning? Where is the appreciation of books? How can we sell our kids on the idea of lifelong learning if learning is such?

It’s sad. Very sad. We have indeed failed our children.

Related posts:

On how I prepare my kids for the PSLE, click here.

On how to choose a secondary school that is right for your child, click here. 

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

2 Replies to “Burning of PSLE books”

  1. there was a Chinese current affairs programme doing a feature on this topic. the kids interviewed said they are going for tuition even though their grades are not bad cos they do not want to lose out or fall behind. these kids think all these tuition is a norm now. how sad…

  2. Dear Missus Tay

    Yes, it's strange how our system is warped in that children study for fear of losing out, or losing to their peers, not for the acquisition of knowledge or to better oneself, yet this is unquestioned.

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