School is about a lot more than just exams

The PSLE results was released last week. I wrote about how I hope we would see PSLE not as a Pressurising Sorting and Labelling Exercise but as Passionately Supporting Lifelong Education, where education entailed developing the Person, Skills, Learning, Experiences. This is, I think, in line with what MOE has been trying to do recently. Since 2012, MOE has decided not to name the PSLE top scorers in an effort to shift the emphasis of education away from merely doing well in examinations. However, old habits die hard. It seems that some parents, with the help of various websites, have compiled their own lists.

But school is more than just doing well in exams. It’s a place for students to have diverse experiences. It is a place for students to meet friends. Real friends. It is a place for students to develop themselves in many different ways. And that is why activities outside of the classroom that have little or nothing to do with exams are just as, if not more, important than what happens inside the classroom.

One person who will certainly agree with me on this is Ryan Ng. He’s the co-founder of a social enterprise called Society Staples. It aims to build “bridges of inclusion by creating and inspiring conversations through team building programs and sports initiatives.” This is their description on their Facebook page:

Advocating acceptance, equality and inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) within the larger society, our team building programs incorporate the unique life experiences of PWDs to simultaneously teach interpersonal and communications skills while empowering PWDs and exposing our clients to the challenges faced by them.

Our sports initiatives, namely our Strongman Bootcamps, Sports Events, and Programs, intentionally mix PWDs and the general public creating platforms and shared experiences to stimulate conversation and mutual understanding.

Within the first 7 months, the team has conducted 8 team building programs with clients like GIC Private Limited and MOH Holdings and organised 11 sports events with DBS Bank Ltd and REACH Community Services Society. Society Staples has also been recognised by Singapore Business Federation for their efforts, clinching the 2015 ASEAN-China Outstanding Young Start-up Entrepreneur Award.

Ryan was in Yuan Ching Secondary School. The school is now quite well known for its dragon boat team. MOE featured the team on its Facebook page:

Ryan isn’t a student who did well in school. But he was the student who started the team when he was in Yuan Ching Secondary School. He said this on his Facebook page as a comment to the video above:

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 16.35.41

From Ryan Ng’s Facebook page

Clearly, the most important lessons he learnt from his time in secondary school were not learnt in the classrooms. It is heartening that Ryan went on to use what he had learnt to start something that is making a very meaningful impact on society. It is also very heartening that he knows to be grateful to his alma mater. If more youths are like Ryan, willing to do something meaningful, that is bigger than just themselves, and remain humble and remember to be grateful to all the people who have helped them get where they are, then Singapore will be heading in the right direction.

I certainly hope that more parents read about stories like Ryan’s. And chill with the emphasis on exam results. Let your kids try different things. Let them stumble. Let them fall. Let them fail. Don’t protect them too much. Lest they turn into the durian generation. Then we are doomed.



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