Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What are exams to us?

A genie sits in the bottle, waiting to be opened. The bottle stays closed, safe in the hands of merchants and travellers, trading it like the antique it is but never wondering and considering to open the cork to marvel at the inside, only seeing it on the surface. Only the curious ever open it, and get their single wish before the genie and bottle disappear from his hands.

It appears in the hands of the first child. What do you wish for, boy?
"Every man to work for the greater good, and every man equal."
And soon he saw himself in a prosperous world.

It appears in the hands of the second child. What do you wish for, boy?
"The end to racial, gender, sexual discrimination."
And soon he saw himself a tolerant world.

It appears in the hands of the third child. What do you wish for, boy?
"The end to HIV."
And soon he saw himself in a far safer world.

It appears in the hands of the fourth child. What do you wish for, boy?
"The end to all wars."
And soon he saw himself in a war-free world.

It appears in the hands of the fifth child. What do you wish for, boy?
"World peace."
And soon he saw himself in a peaceful world. Perhaps some of you might argue - a nearly unchanged world, by this point. Perhaps so.
(Or maybe he found himself in a beauty pageant?)

It appears in the hands of the sixth child. What do you wish for, boy?
"The end to all examinations."
And the genie decided to rest.


I'm sure this isn't a new story to a number of you, just a variation of the story (or perhaps message).

The children (all of unique nationalities and races too, I'm sure readers would notice) all wish for something similar - something that would have greatly improved life in their world.

I'm not gonna go around shooting down my own culture since I'm quite fine with it and all (save NS but ah well) but it's always food for thought.

But today, here's the other question.

What WOULD happen if Singapore had no exams? None of the "study hard, take tuition, do your work" and all that. None of this 'exam hard or exam smart' attitude. For once beginning-of-term-3 gossip won't be about Chem Paper 2 Question 1 (which I have been misquoted on apparently - it is actually rather @_@)

School might actually be a fun place for learning. As the raven Corrax might point out, distant utopias of learning actually do exist. Not that I actually hate school or anything, I'm just certain that a hell lot of people out there do.

But then again, why is it that we consider examinations this annual antagonist that we always spar against and attempt to intellectually best? It's not as if other countries don't have exams, they just don't put the focus on it. You don't get parents who go about forcing other kids to find out their exam results in other countries, do you? So what happens?

Perhaps it's a culture here. (Derp I just went back to culture OH WELL) You can't take the queen bee out of the hive and tell everyone else "You're free! Run off!", can you? One of them'd just take over, naturally. It's part of the hivemind. Students in Singaporean schools that don't have major examinations - ahem IP - basically have projects to make up for it.

At the same time, I realize this is rather disturbing in the sense that such tests are so deeply engrained in our culture that it has become Singaporean to be like this (Perhaps it could even be generalized to 'Asian'. But I'm doubtful of that) - much like how it's 'Singaporean' for guys to all trade NS stories once they get out of it, and the like (Random thought. Someone should have a Singaporean TV show called Gossip Guy). Do we want this as part of our culture?

I remember a Y8 senior of mine (here's another thought here. Why 'Y8'? Will it eventually reach 'Y9' and 'Y10'? Do we never actually 'leave' school?) once talked about the identity of our school IB programme. He shunned the idea of girls in school, a somewhat understandable stand considering the pioneer batch just realizing JC life will never be as awesome as his 4 years in ACS(I) as a secondary student. But it was interesting how, as he said, the identity changed with the second batch. His class was one which took green forms for fun, screamed "LAST DAY OF PE" and ponned the whole day for soccer, and the like. The next class was nowhere like that. I'm sure mine isn't too bad, but nowhere near that either.

The most disturbing thing that he felt about the identity of an ACS IB student was how drastically different the second batch had turned it into. The idea of an "IB mugger" didn't exist originally. We created it. We, as a school, during the second year of our IB programme, had a student council that thought that the IB mugger was a good identity to put on your chest and pass it on proudly to the Y6s then, telling them "be proud of being a mugger" and passing them the ever-known mug, little stick ACSians included. That same council passed the cups on to us, a new batch which gladly embraced the identity set forth by our seniors, embracing it seemingly as a school culture almost historical in nature when it had just been fresh out of the oven but a year ago.

I won't try to say that this identity was the brainchild of someone, or some group, or some batch. While I'm not certain whether this identity ACSIB now bears is inevitable, I shall try to have faith (or perhaps in this case a lack thereof) that life would turn out this way whichever parallel universe we lived in. But this is the result of a national culture inherent in us! We embraced this identity willingly, marketed it, and integrated it into our two short years here!

So back to the point. What after exams? What of us IB Muggers?

Say the genie saw the 6th kid again. What would he ask for next?

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