“I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.”
~ Natalie Portman
We’ve all been through it before – wreaking havoc throughout Art lesson, only to be greeted by incandescent stares and a rap on the knuckles for dirtying our hands.
However, what if the dirty hands weren’t from an Art class? What if the stains were from something else rarely meant for creativity, unlike art – pens? Pens not used for letting our creative juices flow, but rather, to vomit out the arduous year’s worth of content onto an examination paper, only to be responded with a grade that defines our future.
Blue pens for writing. Pens held… no, not just held – clenched tightly, as students break into a frantic race, scrawling fervently on the examination booklet, all just to cut the mustard in their academic endeavours. The motivation behind? Fear. Students nowadays hanker for success, not because of their genuine ambitions, but because of their fear of the dire consequences of failure.
Red – the only colour that appears in stark contrast with the rest of the content on an examination paper, not because of its brightness, but because of its level of intimidation. Each tick has become so imperative to earn that students have now turned to marks instead of the learning process for their source of achievement.
Green pens for corrections. While engineers cramp a bookish definition of a machine into their fragile skulls, students, too, are like machines – heads up, glimpsing before thereupon retreating their eyes to their papers, taking down the copious answers without fully assimilating the concept.
Black – the one that wipes out all colours of their visibility, just like how some are so blinded by the pursuit of academic success that they fail to cherish the joy of learning. The rest of us, on the other end, are stranded in pitch-black darkness, waiting for someone to light the way out for us, but never figuring to be the light for others.
There are no tints of cyan, yellow, or magenta in sight; the only complexity lies in the difficulty of coping with such high pressure trickling down from the workforce into the education system. However, there is little to no platform for students nowadays to let their creative juices flow, deviating from the structure of the education system by just a little to spark life into their learning experiences.
One day, what if the ink cartridges could no longer withstand the pressure, just like how the weight of the entire educational system is on us? “Brain juices” splatter out, no longer able to conform under the tremendous amount of stress. That’s how the education system has shaped us, almost as if students are asphyxiated by the rigid educational system, divesting us of exploration.
Will our knowledge increase? No; solely the pressure. We study in schools, not pressure cookers. If engineers were so highly revered as everyone speaks of nowadays, they would have invented a machine to calculate the mental pressure humans face in their everyday lives. Even a circus lion learns to sit on the chair in fear of the whip, but is labelled as “well-trained”, not “well-educated”.
With the high level of pressure in the workforce trickling to the education system in this success-driven society, it has become a matter of not ‘if’, but ‘when’. *Among boys aged between 10 and 19 years old, there were 19 suicides in 2018 in Singapore, which is famed for her unparalleled education standards – the highest since records began in 1991 and almost triple the seven cases recorded in 2017. Given that even countries with such inferior population sizes already face such horrifying death rates, the pressure driving students to suicide in other countries is beyond our ability to envisage.
As the adage goes, “Health does not always come from medicine. Most of the time it comes from peace of mind, peace in the heart, peace in the soul. It comes from laughter and love.” And the key to attaining that? Our right to enjoy our learning.
We can indubitably take a leaf out of Japan’s book, in which the emphasis of inculcating values takes priority over examinations in the early stages of students’ academic years. Finland’s education system has shown tremendous results as well, albeit its education system including early dismissals without homework to promote self-directed learning and innovations among youth. If other countries could let aside competition and home in on students’ welfare through learning from these countries, students’ learning experiences are bound to turn for the better.
Respect our right to learn. Respect our desire to learn. Respect our pride as learners.