Homeschooling or mainstream?

Today’s papers had an article about parents who homeschool their children. I thought it was an interesting and good concept. The children have a few hours of formal lessons and mostly learn from everyday experiences and play. It was reported that all of them did much better than the national average and even scored in papers from top primary schools.

Having been in mainstream all my life, I do agree that for most part of my education, school snubbed the interest out of me. How is drawing blocks for math in pri school ever going to relate to me in the future? I’m not going to draw blocks to share a pie equally with my friends and I’m definitely not going to draw blocks if someone owes me 1/2 of $100. I’ll just use the calculator. I never saw how graphs, trees and matrices in secondary school is related to computers nor how knowledge in biology can prevent me from being conned into buying unnecessary health supplements. It was mostly solving somone else’s problem. Jane who could not divide a pie properly, how to extract the components of crude oil and writing a condolence letter to your best friend Kelly. Hello…my best friend isn’t Kelly? I don’t know who Kelly is and my best friend definitely didn’t fail her exams. If she does, I’ll be talking to her and not writing a letter.

Flawed as mainstream education may be, there are still important lessons that mainstream education imparted to most of us. It allows people of the same age to interact with each other, form friendships and grow up together. That, I feel, is what homeschooling doesn’t do for a child. How would you know the tactful thing to say or do at a particular circumstance or the acceptable way to behave if the only yardstick that you have to compare with are your siblings (who’s equally homeschooled) and your parents? We learn because we’ve made these mistakes before. We’ve embarassed ourselves, we trusted someone and has been betrayed, we were talked behind our backs before, we were stared at for saying the wrong things…

Much as we complain about how much we have to memorise and the rigidity of the system we’ve been through, we can’t do without rote memorising. It is part and parcel of learning. Nonetheless, the school’s curriculum could give more space for mistakes and creativity. Why give an imaginary best friend when most of us will have one? Perhaps they could set a question which asks us to write a letter to our best friend about how much we appreciate them. I remember that in secondary school, we would be penalised if we made any mistakes in our science experiments and gave the incorrect observations. I’m glad that they do not do that in uni. Instead, we are asked to give possible reasons why our results deviates from what the correct observations would be. Although, it is much more difficult to write such a report, it gives space for personal thought and reflection. Most of us found it difficult to adapt to this new way of writing reports as we are so used to having fixed answers in the past. It’s either right or wrong. We are rewarded if we did the experiment correctly and penalised if we did it wrongly.

I’ve noticed major changes in the education system here for the past few years. There’s no longer the EM1. EM2 and EM3 stigma and studying in jc just got more competitive and demanding with the h1, h2 and h3. Even some of the knowlege that we acquire in secondary school is being to taught to primary school children. There are discussions about making language learning more interesting. Yes, it is consolating that the ministry is always trying to improve on what we have and making it better for future generations. But, do they see what appeals? Sometimes, it’s not about integrating pop culture or what is cool into the curriculum. We just want to see how of what we are learning is related to us and not be fault for making mistakes. Afterall, 3M made a mistake in their adhesive and developed post-its, why can’t we?

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