“Toxic environment” in Elite Secondary School (Singapore)

Just came across this Facebook post (originally by Pamela Lim):

For convenience, the post is reproduced below. Although the school is not explicitly named, it is quite easy to guess from the description which school it is! (It is probably a school that “offers a highly accelerated mathematics and science curriculum integrated with language, arts, humanities, sports, in a modular system.”)

Case study:

Anthony’s PSLE result was sterling and he got into an elite of elite secondary school, one that promises more than academic rigor, their high school credits can be used as credit transfers into a top university in Singapore.

Needless to say, it is a sought after secondary school, and the kids are studying 3-4 years ahead of their age peers in the areas they specialize in.

The celebration was short-lived. Within six months, the parents reached out to me. The high IQ child has school refusal problems. So I got our counselors involved to see how we can help.

Our advice was to remove him from a toxic environment where kids are often driven to a place where they feel deflated, over challenged and unaccomplished. We feel he should go to where his gifts are appreciated, where he can score well and his self-esteem is high. On the side, we promised to offer enrichment that will challenge and stimulate his intellectual needs. We felt he needed both social and intellectual support, and since he cannot get them both in the same place, we suggest splitting them.

Not unexpectedly, the parents and child felt that it was a ‘waste’ to give up a prestigious school, so they stayed. Yesterday, we received another call. In the six months since we last spoke, the child moved to an international school, and now refuse to go to the new school as well. In fact, he is refusing to get out of the house, so can we send in some psychologist.

To be honest, I don’t think we can ‘rescue’ a child like that, no matter how much they offer to pay us. He is only 14, and just 2 years ago, he was acing his cohort, happy about his situation, full of confidence of his future.

Source: Facebook

Just a disclaimer that “Toxic Environment” is a subjective term, one man’s meat can be another man’s poison. However, the fact of the matter is that many schools (especially elite schools like IP schools) do have high academic stress. The level of the internal tests in top IP schools is much higher than ‘O’ level standard. It is quite common for top students in PSLE to “fail” those tests in the elite IP schools, especially if they can’t adapt quickly to the style of tests.

Most notably, in top IP schools, what is tested in exams is quite often not taught in class! Students are expected to extrapolate the basic material taught in class, to tackle the tough questions in exams. Basically students need to 举一反三!(The teacher teach you one thing e.g. 1+1=2, the student needs to extrapolate and deduce for yourself 3 other things e.g. 1+2+3+…+99+100=5050.)

Needless to say, only minority of students (even in top schools) are capable of the above. Hence, that is why self-learning in the form of challenging assessment books or tuition has become quite popular as it is one way of overcoming the “teach simple, test difficult” style in top secondary schools or JCs.

Recommended books:


Author: mathtuition88

Math and Education Blog

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