The dilemma of public vs private education

Is the current education availability landscape a boon or a bane  for the new age parents? Because of the knowledge & exposure to the global education landscape, the supposed ‘knowledgeable’ parents now became so concern with what ‘type’ of education they want their precious child to be getting. There are mainstream public school, private school, international & homeschooling – so many choices to choose from vs our parent’s time when there is just that one mainstream public school system.

I find myself reading, asking, analyzing & worrying excessively on what ‘sort’ of education system I should be sending my child to. My main priority is which education will help develop my child’s capability – but really when it comes to the nitty gritty part for me – it was just a simple – NO EXCESSIVE Homework !

Looking back, I only wanted my child to learn the Chinese language well so that she has access to more Chinese books vs just English books – which I often feel that I was at disadvantaged with. So I naturally enrolled my daughter to the local public Chinese medium school. And I never expect how my whole perspective change within the span of a year!

The accounts shared with parents of older kids attending the chinese school just shocked me & my experience of my girl getting all the weekly spelling from her kindy (according to the kindy, they are preparing the kids for chinese school) just does not sit well with me. I hear my sis in law complaining how her kid needing to complete the homework till 1am everyday & on top of that the kid’s weekends are spent on additional tuition classes.

So my question was – What is the school for then? If the kid has to do excessive homework & yet still go to weekend tuition classes – isn’t the school failing it’s role in educating the kids?

I firmly believe the parents’ well being is very important in a family. And I think if I (as the mother) has to be watching over my kid on her excessive homework every weekday nights after a working full day then weekends are spent on sending the child to tuition classes, I am pretty sure I will be not be very ‘well’ indeed – both physically & emotionally.

And thus – the alternative education came into the picture. Of course if the  alternative private / international school system is not available or even too expensive, I guess I will just have to resigned to my fate, but as I have mentioned – the availability & affordability have given us more choices. And precisely because of this availability, it furthers adds on to my ‘problems’ vs when I don’t have any other choice.

I always wonder why has the public education system eroded to just all memorizing & mugging? What’s with the excessive homework? Maybe our society has become really ‘complicated’ & the school is trying to keep up. But honestly I feel if anything, we need to simplify everything that’s getting so complicated now. People overthink & over analyze a small matter that they fail to focus on what matters. What matters is the child ‘understands’ what is being taught. Why 1+1 =2  & not 4 ? Why are we rushing them to do 20+14 when they don’t get why is 1+1=2 is not 4?

Honestly, does excessive weekly spelling actually help the child in building her vocabulary in building meaningful sentences? (eg. I had a hard time explaining the difference between happiness & happy – in Chinese to my 6 year old daughter, heck I don’t even know how to explain happiness – defined in dictionary as -state of being happy  in English!) do one explain ‘state of being happy’ to a 6 year old ?!

Yes, our public education has failed us. Our leaders are not in touch with the current trends. Our teachers are overworked & underpaid. The kids are not ‘inbalanced’ & unhappy, it is not wonder that bullying at school has gotten more vicious & deadly.

I can either be grateful that I have the means to give my child the alternative ‘better’ education system or be ‘angry’ that despite my tax contributions, our government failed the citizens in providing a decent education for future generation of this country.

So what would I choose? Can I be both?

Yes yes.. first world problems…






I love Johor Bahru as it is

Maybe because I am getting old or maybe that I have read too much zen stuff, OR maybe I  JB has slowly grown onto me. 8 years ago – it was a different story.

There was a lot of things I cannot stand like the ‘slow’ culture, the ‘I don’t really need your money-ya know’ or ‘nothing is urgent-really’ attitude. It was a shock to me coming from a competitive environment like Singapore. But as time goes by, I think that is what really makes JB unique to me.  There are times I miss those artsy fartsy stuff that is easily available in S’pore or even the events that Spore can do just because they have the crowd & definitely the strong currency that one can earn but really when it comes to simple boring living , JB wins hands down.

So today – someone wrote about how Jaybee-ians are not willing to ‘pay’ a bit more for ‘better’ service & that maybe he has to move his business to up north. Well, I guess – if one needs those ‘extra’ money to buy another luxury car or another gold colored furniture at home or another ‘exotic’ cat/lizard/bird,  I guess JB is not the place to be.

JB folks are a practical lot. We do not see how having another expensive car is going to make one happier, or another expensive piece of furniture is going make our butts/bodies any healthier or even another exotic cat when there are dozens of abandon cats waiting for adoption are available at the pound.

We don’t go around drinking expensive coffee when we can have authentic local coffee that is cheaper by 800% vs some american brand (no kick at all for us!). We don’t go around eating some expensive fine dining when the food is so-so, cos we do not need to be ‘seen’ when we just want to enjoy our food as our tastes bud has very high standards. We KNOW good food vs average ones – trust me, real Johoreans can’t take average food as we will rather eat at home if we have to pay extra to eat average tasting food. Oh – but we do pay for good education. Someone used to tell me, education is placed at the ‘top’ Johoreans, & many are willing to pay for them. And Johoreans spends the most on education in M’sia.

Let’s not forget the not too far local suburbs (vs those foreigners’ oriented suburbs) community. There are free morning qigong classes available just because the teachers want to share the knowledge! There are oldies that have pot luck breakfast once a week in the garden! There are neighbours who make nice soups & share with their neighbour. They are people who go search for some local herbal plant when one hear one of the kids’ have HFM disease! There are people who plant vegetables & offer the community to take them if they want them (no charge!).

So ya – I love JB as it is. People are still the “I don’t need your money-ya know” attitude or “I do it because I want to & not because I want your money” or “what’s the rush” ?

For those who wants to make ‘more’ money by providing supposed better services – well, JBians are not interested in those extra services you see. They are just too practical. They prefer toyota vs audi/bmw just because they don’t see the need to be ‘seen’ with the car when a toyota gives us the same quality & service cos really – why do one need a ‘performance’ car when we don’t have that need speed from 0 to 100 kph in 8 secs or less when there are traffic lights to make you stop again?

So please – don’t criticise JBians about the service culture or  their ‘lack’ of want to spend more money on the extra services. We are not materialistic folks, we do not think that having extra service will make us feel any more ‘wonderful’ about ourselves.

Yes.. please leave JB & go join the city that people view you by your clothes you wear, the class you take in the flight, the car that you drive, the coffee joint that you go to, the place that you dine & the furniture that you use. Let’s not forget the city where you need 1 hour to travel to a place that’s 15km away or people who come out in droves into the shopping centres during weekends (btw, JB is a total opposite during weekends, people avoid the shopping centres, the roads are all CLEAR, people rather stay at home/go to parks & spend time with their family).

The list can go on & on about JB ‘s nothingness, boringness & simpleness.

So please, don’t go pollute your materialism into JB. JBians understands what is really living is like.


Goalless life? really ?

I am a creature of worry. I worry about everything, what I think is going to happen & what is not going to happen. I worry about the future (a lot) & I will actually take steps that I think will help in mitigating that ‘bad’ future. Yes, I am quite sick like that.

So of late, or rather for the past 5 months after I received the positive outcome of my application, I am totally changed. Now, not because there won’t be more ‘trouble’ or problems as again – all these are just my ‘prediction’ (although I would rather call it – the reality check). It is more like it seems like the ‘challenges’ are even bigger & I am a too tired to ‘worry’ about it, let alone to ‘plan’ to mitigate the possible challenges.

Honestly – I feel very very lousy. I have been living like a carefree goalless person for the past 5 months. Only doing things I like at that moment. Going to work like a routine. It is interesting when you read ‘zen’ living articles/blogs. Like this one > Goalless life.  The gyst of is it really just do the necessary & live for the moment + live for your passion.  Ah yes, ‘passion’, the illusive passion.

I am not highly intelligent person or person that is destined to achieve great things like Jobs, Jack Ma or Musk, cos their passion actually improves people’s lives. I don’t think I have passion that’s anything great, cos as of right now – my everyday ‘passion’ seems to be getting my kid to eat the right food, sleep at the right time & not forgetting doing all the rest of the house chores. It is mundane stuff & very un-motivating but then, it is very necessary. So, does that mean that I am living the ‘zen’ life? Cos I am doing only the necessary everyday.

But what is necessary then? Isn’t saving for the rainy days also necessary? Isn’t planning something for the future also necessary? Isn’t planning what you can for your old age necessary? And all those ‘necessary’ I mentioned – aren’t they also goals? It can’t be unnecessary to save right?

Right.. I have arrive at my answer to my own argument.

What is necessary is also a goal. So .. please – a goalless life does not exist !



the education dilemma

Lately or rather the past 2 years, many research, arguments & articles were published with regards to academic vs play based learning for the young. For the last 20 years, the education methods has definitely developed for the better (or worse) & while I am not a 60 year old, I am still quite shocked at what a pre-schoolers are being taught & expected to learn in school vs my time.

I have written a few piece on my thoughts of this academic based learning in school. I went from shocked to submission with countless other ‘feelings’ along this ‘journey’ of acceptance that my daughter has to go through in this ‘education’ journey of her generation. And as I watched recent TV interview of a 12 year old & her everyday life revolving around the academics requirements, I can’t help but feel sad for her – so young yet she felt such burden for an examination.

Everyday, I hear people complaining how ‘lousy’ workers are & I am not talking about their attitudes. We hear complaints about their level of knowledge, their understanding of applying logic or mathematics & even their language proficiency. I also see many parents expecting quite a lot from their toddlers (I am one of the guilty parents) in terms of ‘knowledge’ of words (alphabets is like a given knowledge at age4 BTW) & maths. YET here we are, the very folks that complain about the ‘lack’ of knowledge or proficiency due to low standard ‘education’ that our current education is too academic based.

You see – that lies in the dilemma of the parents. Working parents faced, see & feel what lack of ‘education’ could cause yet they want their child to enjoy their childhood like they did (& at the same time secretly wanting their kids to excel in their academics).

The difficult truth is our education system is shaped by what the society wants. And the society is made up of you & me- the ordinary, conflicted & confused + full of dilemma parents. I am a very good example – I totally hate the fact that the school has ‘exams’ for a 5 year old yet when I see her reading Chinese characters (that looks like beansprouts to me) without hanyu pinyin, I was extremely happy/proud. At the point where I was ‘feeling’ happy/proud , I seemed to have forgotten that  ‘ability’ to read the chinese characters were from the excessive repetitive drilling by the pre-school teacher which I am supposedly so against of. <still I am going to post a picture here of her reading that chinese sentences that I couldn’t, just because I want to & happy about it>

We will never be able to come up with the ‘best’ education for our kids but we – the insatiable human beings – will continue to shape & develop what we ‘think’ is needed by the society of today or in the future (when we really can’t predict it so much actually). I mean kids are encourage to learn coding at 6 now (do you see my point now?) as the future seems to be about the A.I.

So really, we just can’t win with any type of education. Every kid is different, there is no one education that is suitable for everyone. While academic based education is something we should work to improvise to be more ‘fun’, a full blown fun based education may not be suitable for all subjects. Maybe our education should be more life based vs society based needs.

Me? For this time around, I am just going to enjoy that small happiness that I get seeing my 5 year old daughter reading something I can’t.

And for this time around, I am just going to live for the present & not worry about the future.

And for this time around, I am just going to let her go play with her neighborhood friends everyday after school

And for this time around, I am just going to let the school do their job while I concentrate doing my job as the mother.





Fear & need of courage

Someone once said, you need fear to have courage as courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear. Without fear – there isn’t a need for courage to go through the fear.

I have always said, I am my own worst enemy (actually I am pretty sure Buddha told us that too – our minds are our worst enemy).  I have created my own fear. Yes, I fear for the future & the present but thankfully not about the past.

You see, I have go about making something that was a wish for me 20 years ago into a reality. Now that I got what I wished for – I start to fear it. Taking the first steps is easy, but walking the next thousands steps that involve another 2 person is another matter altogether. Because now – those actions don’t just affect me but another 2 person as well. The wish if it was 20 years ago – would have been much easier because I had no baggage or responsibility but now it is an altogether different story because I have aged & because I have more responsibilities.

So here I am, facing this ‘fear’ of the future by simulating all sorts of ‘worst’ case scenarios in my head so I could plan a backup plan but I couldn’t. So do one just have to have the courage to go ahead despite not having a backup plan?

Yes.. fear is clear & present but courage is vague & not necessarily rational.

Something for me to ponder – courage without plan is foolish but plan without courage to take action would mean living on without knowing what could have happen. Choose one. 

Learning good manners again at 40

I had a 3 weeks hiatus as I was doing a few firsts at 40. I first saw the Northern lights, I finally got to try skiing (and suck at it of course) & I stayed in the Artic region for 7 days. While I enjoyed those experiences, my sister also experience first hand of taking care of my almost 5 year old daughter for 3-4 hours a day. There are good times & also bad times (like her highest ‘skill’ – crying).

So she found my girl to have bad manners – like 1) ignoring an elder  2) asking someone to go away while she watched TV (although I told many time to my family to NOT let her watch any) 3) did not address an elder. It does seem not like a ‘big’ deal, cos as I write it in words – it doesn’t seem big but when it is in action – trust me IT IS, especially coming from an almost 5 y/o.

Naturally, being a ‘google’ addict, I google for a method to help with my methods. One can find many (gazillions maybe) articles about this & most are teaching methods which surprisingly was not what I was really searching for. After much quick views of the many write ups, I found this – 7 ways to teach your child manners – it centered around the parents’ themselves – which is more inward looking vs outward.

My sisters & family members also suggested that I send her to a weekly ‘buddhism’ based gathering for kids which centered around teaching young kids good manners like respect, kindness etc. While I do not disagree to this method, I do feel that it is more than that. Spending 2 hours a week in these gathering isn’t going to help if the other 50 waking hours of the week that is spent with the family does not practice good manners isn’t it?

So, the difficult truth is – I have to take this ‘bad’ manners of my 5 y/o as my fault. Why? While I always remind her to address the elders when we meet one, I didn’t tell her why it was needed. Thus it will explain why she didn’t feel the need to do so when I am not around. While I did correct her ‘ignoring’ behavior when I see it, I didn’t go back & explain to her what it is like to be ignored (but that said, I do ignore her although not often when she was being whiny & unreasonable, she may have thought it is ok to ignore because mom does it). While I did correct her for being rude with ‘telling’ people to go away or taking things that are not hers, I did not explain to her why it is wrong to do so. While  I try not to chide her bad behavior when we are outside (insisting her way with my friends), I did not explain to her that her behavior was wrong when I am alone with her at home just because I am tired & just want her to sleep after the long day.

Lastly, I think I have taken for granted on my manners when I speak to Mike. We have become too comfortable with each other, we forgot to say please or may I or can I ? I raised my voiced often because of rush of time or tiredness, so to get things done quickly. That would explain why Relm likes to ‘tell’ vs ‘ask’ for anything.

I do not want to run away from this responsibility of my daughter’s bad manners. In fact, I do think the main cause is me – which saddens me & also served as a revelation for me. It is time for me to re-learn my manners with my daughter.

No wonder people say one learns a lot when one has a child. Not just learning with them & from them but also for them.

Street harrassment for women

This morning, was greeted by an interesting headline “street harrassment around the world”. I read it & feel a little sad that my girl will face this somehow or rather.

Yes, all women – regardless of how they look – will experience some form of street harrassment in their lifetime. I experienced them when young but luckily it’s not severe like some of those shared from the article from other parts of the world.

Is there a ‘way’ to deal with these experiences, really? Honestly – there isn’t? Of course one can dress down & cover more , don’t go out at night or learn self defence lessons (that reminds me, I have to see if there’s any courses for my girl at her age…) but it does not resolve the root cause of the issue – those ‘chikan’ men that does this pointless acts. Now there’s a twitter movement by Jen Kirkman to highlight the issues & for men to recognise this , is this going to stop these pointless & degrading acts? I don’t think it will happen so soon – at least not in the next 10 years but I am hopeful.

The difficult truth is it is inevitable that my daughter will experience this unpleasant encounter in her lifetime as she grows up to a woman. It will be wishful thinking that she would not experience it but at least I hope she will take it in her stride – either telling these ‘chikan’ men off or walk away knowing these men will not get anywhere far in their life & not ‘feel’ too much about it – cos life is such – sometimes good, sometimes unfair, sometimes crazy, sometimes sad but mostly beautiful if you see them.