Homework load in Singapore


It’s time for another installment of Draft Diving, in which I dive into my veritable ocean of the things to revive something I didn’t publish for some reason. The last time I did one of these was just over a year ago; go figure.

This post was written in early November 2019, and concerned an article written in Channel NewsAsia, the Singaporean news outlet. June Yong discussed plans in China for a school homework curfew:

Thinking about it worries me, as it does not appear to be focusing on the right problem. Instead of legislating the time kids should go to bed, should it ever come down to that situation, we should be asking ourselves, how did childhood get so hectic in the first place?

I can’t relate to the pressure in China, but I witnessed firsthand the soul-crushing mental exhaustion and anguish of my local Singaporean friends when I was growing up. I thought my international school burdened me with tons of homework, but they had it far worse. Not to mention all the extra-curricular classes they had to attend. As long as I studied during the week, my parents let me have free reign over my weekends because, to quote my mum, “any kid would go crazy”.

(It was that personal time where I learned everything I knew about infocomm, which landed me a job and a career. Who’d have thought?)

Ms Yong makes the case:

As guardians of our children’s well-being, we need to switch gears to avoid raising a generation of burnt out youths. Instead of aiming for achievement, we should aim for balance, agency and self-discipline. The achievement will follow.

And on homework discipline:

such discipline should also apply to other areas of life. A child needs a balanced life, which includes nutrition, work, rest, and play to be at his best.

I’d add to this giving kids space and permission to be creative. Singaporean schools have a reputation for high-achieving but rote-taught students. I remember my mum being fascinated by some doodles for planes and buildings in the margins of some of my workbooks; my local friends couldn’t believe that one of my parents wasn’t just chill with it, but even encouraged me to explore it.

Each Singaporean Prime Minister has discussed encouraging creativity in the context of entrepreneurship, but that’s something that needs to be fostered and nurtured from the start, it can’t be just another cram class.

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