My son, Ryan, started Primary 1 this year. One evening, a couple of weeks into the term, I asked him if he liked school. “Not really,” he replied. By nature, Ryan is a relatively easy-going person — he doesn’t complain much when I give him orders and still eats his greens (grudgingly), even though he doesn’t like it. So, things must be serious for him to give such a definite answer. “Why?” I pressed him. “Why does Primary school not have a toy corner? Why don’t we learn things the fun way?” he matter-of-factly asked.
The jump from preschool to Primary school is a big one. From a tiny class of 10-odd kids to one filled with 20-plus pupils in a much bigger school environment, these 7-year-olds move from a cosy little fish tank to the rough, choppy seas. And since it’s full steam ahead for holistic academic education, the philosophy of “learning through play” has been put on the backburner slightly. It seems to be asking too much to expect a 7-year-old to accept such a drastic change immediately.
“Well, this is Primary school, Boy,” I explained. “There may not be toys but I’m sure you’ll learn things — many more things, in fact — in special and different ways soon.” Ryan accepted my explanation — thankfully — but I could sense the question marks hanging over his head.
“I can see Ryan maturing in the new environment. Before Primary One, he had never really needed to buy food or things on his own… Now, he can buy his food and drinks during recess at the school canteen without any fuss.”
It’s been a month plus since Primary 1 started. I’m glad to see Ryan adapting to school life. Of course, he doesn’t relish waking up at six in the morning (who does, anyway? He nods his head vigorously at this time because he is standing next to me as I type this.). Neither does he really enjoy the homework.
But I can tell that he looks forward to going to school every morning — after he snaps out of his Zzzs mode, that is. Whether it’s an interesting story a teacher told or an episode of a classmate stepping out of line, he happily relates such anecdotes to us. All this means that Ryan is paying attention to what happens in school — and that is all that I ask for, honestly. Academic excellence can come at a much later stage.
Also, I can see Ryan maturing in the new environment. Before Primary One, he had never really needed to buy food or things on his own (yes, I admit I spoil my children!). Now, he can buy his food and drinks during recess at the school canteen without any fuss. Once, he even went to the school bookshop — all on his own ― to explain to the sales assistant that he was missing a textbook from our purchase. Another time, he brought home a beautiful art assignment, complete with colour blending. FYI, Ryan doesn’t fancy art, drawing or painting. It was his best-ever piece of artwork. Was I impressed and proud.
Like many parents, I was worried about how Ryan will cope with Primary school. I still am. I do, however, understand that it’s all part of growing up and that it’s for the better. Rather than focusing on whether the children can survive ting xie (spelling in Chinese) or solve maths problem sums, I believe it’s better to see Primary school as a chance for them to mature into responsible, young adults. Hopefully, in a few months’ time, Ryan’s reply to my “Do you like school?” question will be an emphatic “Yes!”.
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