Chinese school or childhood? that is the question!

Every so often, a mommy blogger would raise questions about whether to send her kids to a Chinese school or a national school. On many occasions, it’s been pretty obvious they’ve already set their minds on Chinese schools but they just need to hear it from other parents to reaffirm their own decisions.

Just before Steev, my eldest, started primary school, I too was under a tiny amount of muted pressure from well-meaning family and friends to send him to a Chinese school.

I say tiny and muted because DH and I are notoriously known, on both sides of our families, to be rebels – with a cause, or so we’d like to think 😆 . We’ve left deep and lasting impressions in our family scrapbooks for not walking the walk and not conforming to the norms.

But just to satisfy ourselves that we’d considered all available options before coming to a decision (I didn’t want this to come back and haunt me later), I went to a Chinese school nearby to visit with the principal and check things out for myself.

Her first question was ‘does he have two years of Chinese kindergarten background to start him off? If not, he’ll have big problems catching up with our curriculum’.

Well, my answer was no. So I reckon her comment pretty much answered what would logically have been my next question. My biggest concern, though, was not with Steev catching up. It was with other, bigger issues.

First off, because DH and I are both English-educated, it’d be mission impossible for us to guide them. That would mean having to subject Steev to a merry-go-round of tuition (where oftentimes the tutor is not teaching but doing the children’s homework for them. I’ve seen this with my own eyes). So where’s there time for the poor child to have a childhood if they’re being shuttled endlessly from one tuition class to the next?

Then there’s that insane mountain of homework. Friends were telling us their children were frequently up past 1 or 2 a.m. plogging away at ‘homework they just can’t finish’. And which would inadvertently end up with their mothers finishing it up for them so that they could all get some sleep.

So what’s the point in that? Homework is meant to reinforce learning, to gauge a child’s level of understanding and to enable them to put into practice what they’ve learnt. If Mom’s doing the homework, what possible benefit could there be for the child? None, so far as I can see.

Then there was the issue of discipline. We don’t believe in beating our kids, so there’s no reason at all for us to even think about sending our kids to school for someone else to beat them for us 😆 . At any rate, I just can’t see forgetting to bring to do their homework once or twice as any major indiscipline, or scoring below 85% in an exam as something that warrants beating.

Skye, my youngest daughter, is a kindergarten dropout for this very reason. Skye was slapped by a Chinese school teacher when she and some of the other kids weren’t synchronized in their dance routine for the school concert. I pulled Skye out of school that very day after telling the principal off !!

Beating or caning is never the answer. It only teaches children that hitting’s okay. Violence begets violence. So what are we really teaching our kids here?

A highly-controlled highly-regimented environment with little free time for anything other than homework and tuition would stifle a child’s sense of creativity and expression.

Worse, it might even kill their interest in learning and that would be tragic. It would be like stuffing them into a cookie cutter, only to have them come out the other end all in one shape, stiff and unbending.

Not every child is cut out for these highly-stressful environments, and many don’t do well and lose their self-esteem and self-confidence. Six years is a long time to a kid. So where’s the fun in learning? Where’s the fun of discovery? They lose interest in learning.

Well, when all is said and done, I’m pretty sure DH and I have made the right decision with our kids. If we’re wrong, well, they can always pick up Chinese anytime and still have a childhood to tell their kids about.

Put simply, you can never get your childhood back but you can always pick up a language, or two or three even. But then, that’s just us 😉 .

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