Christmas Carols in School

Jen told me there would be a performance in school and we should bring Albany to attend.

Ok. I told her. Not that keen, really.

On the way out after I picked Albany from school, the burly school gardener asked me, "Are you coming tonight?"

Slightly taken aback, I brightened up and said, "Oh... yeah, we are coming."

It was kind of a bigger deal than I initially thought, judging by the turnout of parents. By 5.30pm, parents were comfortably seated, Aussie Style, in their picnic & BBQ set up. Camp chairs, foldies, mat and all. Needless to say, twenty steps behind us were a BBQ man churning out sausage sizzles. It was then I realised the performance we were going to watch was not some elite choir team, specially picked for the event, but by every single kid in that school. That meant I got to see my daughter sing Christmas carols with her classmates. Suddenly, I felt excited about the event.


I hate to bring up bad times and I apologise because I have to. Say what you like about Singapore's education. Best in the world or whatever. I don't fucking care. Needless to say I certainly do not feel my kids are going to miss out on the God's gift by not sending them to study in Singapore. If there is to be an event like that in a Singapore school, parents will get to see the best of the school in every aspect. The entrance, the sound systems, manicured plants specially brought in, elaborate decorations, indoor seats arranged neatly. Only the best of the best kids perform one of those they would have rehearsed hundred of times before. Everything had to be inch perfect, way better than the actual, usual going-ons in school.

That is what I seriously hate about Singapore - putting on a facade. It starts from young, of course. I'm sure if you are Singaporean, you will feel there is nothing wrong about putting on your best on a day that matters. I don't blame you and I don't expect you to agree with me. It is called brainwashed for a reason.

In the army back in my days, parents were encourage to visit the camps on Enlistment Day. Bunks looked super clean, probably triple cleaned by the previous batch of botak recruits on 7 extras. Smiley sergeants greeted parents with perfect English and smiled at your girlfriends. The cook house served food that looked something you would get in Jack's Place. After the parents left, I remembered thinking, "Get on with this shit," the moment our platoon sergeant relieved his tight facial muscles and turn his fake grin to his natural snarl. Why do we want to be fake as fuck? Is there something so shameful in the shadows that we cannot face one another?

In a school event like that, I do not expect perfection. I just wanted to see things in a setting as natural as possible. I want to see how my child interacts with her teachers and classmates, not a programming code on beta testing. Or worse, not being about to watch her just because she wasn't among the best the school could offer. Seriously, why would I give a damn about the best kids anyway? In fact, I would like to see how the school actually treats the worst. The teachers probably wished they could lock them up in the school garden shed or the longhouse toilet if the option is legally available. No surprise on the country level, you will see how the elites are glorified and the weakest, buried from reality. 

With rain threatening to come pouring, the school Principal did his speech. Nothing grand and fanciful. No speech notes and robotic recital. It was short and sweet, just the way it should be.

The kids began to sing. The opener was nicely done by older children. It wasn't a professional performance. In fact, it was slightly out of sync at times. What I was impressed with was the kids did not look nervous at all, despite how obvious they were under-rehearsed, in "Singapore's standard." The better thing was, they genuinely enjoyed doing it. Standing at the side of the main crowd, I managed to observe the parents. I couldn't pick up anyone texting on their phones, talking to someone or being on the phone settling "more important" things at work. The parents were genuinely attentive, interested and very supportive. Every performance was met with a rousing applause, especially the Kindy class, where Albany was in. Their performance was chaotic, fun and beautiful to watch. Nothing like watching machine cogs spinning the way I was accustomed to in my growing environment. 

By the end of the performance, parents were encouraged to grab their Kindy kids so that they would enjoy the rest of the show better and "So will we." I laughed at that, along with the crowd. I didn't know I would end up actually enjoying the event I really wanted to avoid going.

I know the Australian education system is weak, as compared to some of the countries producing top students, like Singapore. They have been harping on that. There are even talks of adopting Singapore's Way, much to my horror. Shouldn't they focus on constructing more tall buildings first, so that the children have good locations to jump from? Australians do not know their priorities. Yes - I know academic excellence here is far behind but I hope the schools do not turn myopic turn their focus solely on it. I've seen how my child interact with Judy's kids with ease, despite their big age gap. She looks forward to going to school everyday and is keen to learn. At this age, it isn't right to grind them. It is a wonder how we think child labour is wrong but grinding them with school work to late hours is right.

At the end of the day, good grades and all, are nothing but facade. When it is time to apply what we learnt and do the deed, the Singaporean young adult say they have "returned to the teacher," whereas their Australian counterpart do it. Without rehearsals, we are lost sheep. Best education in the world? I'll pass.


  1. I'm Asian too and I couldn't agree with you more about our education system. It is horrifying to read about US and etc wanting to adopt the Asian education system O_O Happy Christmas to you and your family!