Can Parents Resist The Paper Chase?


The recent tragedy of a Primary 5 boy allegedly taking his life upon failing his examinations has brought Singapore’s overemphasis on the academics into the spotlight. Singaporean parents have always been known for obsessing with their children’s academic excellence. This has placed an enormous amount of pressure on the children. There are various reasons for this nationwide craze, and it is necessary to reflect if it is indeed justified.

The Only Way Out

Academic success has conventionally been perceived as the sole path to success. Performing well in school leads to good university placings, which in turn results in well-paying jobs. Indeed, degree-holders typically manage to seize better-paying jobs. Parents who have been brought up in this reality are ingrained with the belief that grades determine the future of their children. Therefore, it is common for well-intentioned parents to push their children to study hard. Every parent wants the best for their child, which inevitably means excelling in his or her studies.

Cutthroat Rivalry

At every stage of the education system, students are judged based on their performance relative to each other. This is because examination results are used to determine placings in secondary and tertiary educational institutions, as well as the obtaining of various scholarships. This pits child against child as students have to strive for limited opportunities. Such rivalry drives students to work even harder to get ahead in the rat race. To make matters worse, parents naturally like to weigh their child’s achievements with that of their peers. Parental expectation thereby intensifies the competitive environment that places an excessive emphasis on academic performance. Eventually, kids inevitably begin to derive their self-worth from academic performance. This is especially so when parents openly express their delight or disappointment depending on their examination results.

Unreasonable Comparisons

Comparing children based on how well they do, however, does not make sense given that every child has different capacities and talents. Not everyone thrives under the conventional school system. While some may be academically inclined, others may do better in the arts or the sports. It cannot be assumed that all have equal potential when it comes to achieving academic success. Parents often think that because the kid next door can do well, there is no reason why their child can’t. They naturally attribute the shortfall in performance to a lack of hard work and proceed to register their child for too many enrichment activities. This can be dangerously counter-effective as the child is continually stretched beyond his capacity and has to face impossible parental demands.

Can Parents Resist The Paper Chase?

The relentless paper chase has been increasingly under fire where it is simply unreasonable and unsustainable. Moreover, while solely focusing on acing the test may have worked in the past, it is no longer applicable to the changing needs of industry and society. The education system is evolving to embrace holistic development, and the government is working to establish alternative pathways to success. Ultimately, not everybody is cut out to be a scholar, but everyone can certainly have a bright future.

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