Friday, 31 August 2012

Forum Letter 1: Let Children Play

The full letter is here:

Dear Editor,

I welcome the Prime Minister's National Day Rally reminder that children be allowed to play and enjoy their childhood. We should rightly insulate our kids from the kind of "hot-housing" that happens in other industrialised cities like Japan and Korea that can only lead to more stress, student-suicides, bullying, and tension within the family.

Instead of spending our energies in getting kids prepped excessively for academic performance, we should instead use our time and resources to ensure that they develop in other areas. Character for one, group dynamics is another. Decency even, so that in future we remain a gracious, big-hearted and tolerant people as our Prime Minister so exhorted.

For instance, I like what the NTUC My First Skool is teaching our kindergarten kids now. It has something to do with the use of unkind words. What results are kids who understand that they can hurt others with careless speech. In a world dominated by new social media, I find this teaching to be extremely valuable. More than that, it plays a huge role in mitigating one potent act of bullying in school. I just hope primary schools reinforce this kind of training. A national consensus is indeed needed and the setting up of a stat-board is a necessary first step.

Besides unkind words, kids can also learn basic words in other languages. This will help cement our tradition of inter-racial harmony and interlocution. Manners can also be taught, like how kids should be refrained from using social media 24/7, to learn to make conversation, lest it becomes a lost art. We all see the signs of it happening in our teenagers but we are really not hapless in doing something about it. We can start with the next generation, our preschoolers. It's not a forgone conclusion. Pre-schools/primary schools can reinforce what we parents dearly want back - a time when conversations with our kids was itself an act of discovery and wonderment.

With more time to explore, parents can also transfer emphasis to develop their kid's blind spots. Every kid has one, whether it is their inability to do math, draw, speak in front of an audience, analyse, etc. Rather than willy-nilly follow The Joneses, parents can reaffirm, recalibrate and refresh how they are buying enrichment courses for their children. Course centres can then better participate in helping a child develop, not just push out content that's only geared towards academic excellence. It's more a mindset change than anything else. But an important one. And it is one that will truly help a child grow, improve, and excel.

TC Lai

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