I happen to know that some of my former classmates and school mates are regular readers of this blog. Of all the readers here, they can testify that I wasn't a particularly popular kid in school, especially among the teachers. I have always been a nerd—though not the Steve Urkel kinda nerd. I wasn't a high achiever in school; in fact, I was a lazy bum! I very rarely broke into the top half of the class in almost all the school exams, and I was always among those who hardly ever finished my homework or school assignments.
It wasn't until quite late in my teen when I suddenly decided to just flow with the education system one fine day. And then I was more readily accepted by the teachers. I began to do well in the exams, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I guess in a way, you could say that I was rehabilitated—that I finally ran with the pack. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I had to become someone other than myself, but it was not a matter of choice. I wasn't born with a silver spoon, and I realised that if I screwed up in my studies, I would be dead meat for life! One important lesson that I learnt quite early in my life is that sometimes one has to learn to obey orders first, before giving orders to others.
I don't deny that education, for the most part, is very important. I dare say that diplomas and university degrees can open doors. But out there in the harsh world, quite often, luck and survival skill count for a lot too! These are two major elements that no universities can teach, even if they say they can!
My daughter JJ sat for her exams recently; and although I'm not particularly concerned about her grades, her mommy would lose sleep if JJ did badly in her exams. I'm not sure if that's a natural thing for women in general, but I guess I shouldn't be complaining!
JJ had to write an essay on "Why she admires and respects her mother". So she wrote what I thought was a decent piece. Although not in her exact words, it basically boiled down to a [fictional] story of how she and mommy rode in a bus one day. The bus was full, and there was a pregnant woman in the bus who had no seat. Mommy stood up to offer her seat to that woman. Then later, JJ asked mommy why she gave up her seat to that woman. Mommy explained that that woman needed the seat more than her; that it was a kind and polite gesture. One of these days, when we are also in difficulties, would would also appreciate it very much if others would make similar sacrifices for us. And that was why JJ admires and respects mommy to this day.
It was a short story, of course, but I reckoned it's good enough for a primary 4 exam. I don't claim to be a brilliant writer—far from it! In the course of posting articles in this blog for a few years now, I have used varying styles. Sometimes I allowed my sense of humour to flow in my posts; at other times I argued my cases in a very serious manner; at other times still, I would become somewhat poetic; or maybe I'd even blend all those elements into my posts. But whatever style I adopted in my articles, there's always a message I'd like to put through to my audience. The styles, whatever they may be, are only means to capture the eyes of my readers—so that they would want to continue reading, and then hopefully get the message in the end. I have never had a formal training as a writer, so I can't say if I've been doing it the right way.
In essence, I think JJ has achieved the basic requirement of a decent essay. Note that I'm not using the word "excellent" here; merely "decent". Of the possible full score of 30 marks, I did not expect her to achieve full score. But neither did I expect her to fail the essay. That's why I was rather surprised—and I will admit it—even disappointed, that JJ scored 12 marks out of 30.
Elsewhere in this blog, I've expressed my disgust with the education system. Sometimes, I think it's just plain rubbish. I did not expect such an essay would fail. So just out of curiosity, I asked JJ to seek her teacher's justification. Was the essay too short? Was there anything wrong with the sentences?
It's not because of the length of the essay or grammar and the likes. Apparently, a good essay must contain at least a few points, not just one. JJ's story, although quite interesting, had only one point, a single event of mommy's act of kindness to a pregnant woman in a bus. I suppose JJ could have scored very well if she had told a story about how mommy would sweep the floor and clean the house, prepare dinner every night, tuck her into bed and sing the lullaby. Mommy also teaches JJ when she has difficulties in her school work. And the list could go on and on. Those are the "several points" that would qualify for a good essay. The emphasis on quantity rather than quality, which has always been the failure of the education system.
Why can't a child have a lasting [favourable] impression of her mother from a single meaningful event?
But teachers are humans too. And some of them are very sensitive creatures. They don't like their judgement to be questioned. I was given to understand that she sought the opinion of another teacher. And that other teacher's comment was that if it were her who had marked JJ's essay, she would have scored even worse!
I shall carefully refrain from challenging that decision. I just hope that the teachers did it for the right reason. As in my case over 30 years ago, I will concede defeat and flow with the system. I think it's a whole bunch of craps though. But this essay will play no role in shaping JJ's future. She just needs to play along, sing the same tune, get the certificates, whatever they are, and then move on in life—the sooner the better.