Many years ago, I knew if I did not rescue my son from the system he was in, he would drop out despite being in a top (and excellent) school, Raffles Institution. His interest in school was dying. He was not submitting his homework for any of his class, and his teachers were calling me everyday so that I would watch him do his work. Driving him to school was a chore and I was clueless as to what to do.
The resources on the Internet were not as comprehensive as they are today, people were not as open and certainly, there was no one to consult with or ask.
When he was in primary school, I told his principal that he was good at Math when he was in P4. The principal retorted that that he had another whole bunch more brilliant than my son, and was not interested in listening to what my son was doing or was capable of. I was hoping someone would guide me and help me, but such help was not to be found.
I realized at that point that educators (and they are the same in any country) may be very nice people, but nurturing talent is seldom their priority. They are more interested in raising the masses, their KPIs, and of course, their time.
They were more concerned with their school ranking and results, so if a boy missed out on his opportunities, then so be it. But “so be it” did not work for me, so I decided I had to search out a path for my child, and I kept believing that as long as I searched hard, I would find solutions.
I knew at that time that I was probably the only Singaporean seeking alternatives. In the end, my son embarked on a High School program equivalent to an A level when he was P5, all on his own. I tried to tell the principal, hoping he would lend me some support. But he again brushed it aside, saying his other children were probably better and smarter. After that second try, I decided to journey on my own.
I had second thoughts when he made it to a top secondary school. I thought that perhaps the more challenging work would help, but it didn’t. In the end, I continued to journey on my own.
Looking back, now I know that all these – the lack of support from educators, and the uninterested ministry all came into my life for a good reason. It is because of them that I became very resilient, I diligently researched institutions of interest in almost every English-speaking country, searched through all possible avenues, and spoke to thousands of people.
In the end, I chanced upon so many options and opportunities for my children. Thinking back, it is because of the lack of support, that we managed to carve out unique paths for my children, all of whom entered universities and broke records of being the youngest. A far cry from the helpless person I was a few years ago, and I know it was because I chose not to be helpless.
Some people say it is because I have very gifted children, but I say they were not even recognized or given opportunities by the system, some people say they have talents, but I’d say they were hidden. I have learned that we can achieve whatever our minds’ eyes can see if only we choose to believe.
So, I hope to encourage you all to just go for anything you want. Whether it is an Ivy League, a scholarship, an early entrant or just seeking an education for your child with a disability.
Yes, we can make silly dreams come true only if we would believe and then put that belief into action.
Thank you, my son, for making me work a little harder so that I can know the possibilities that one can achieve just if we look deeper.
*The above is what I wrote when Old Boy graduated from the university in 2012 when he was 18. Today, besides the Youngest One who will graduate in 6 months, all my kids have finished their bachelor’s degrees and are either working or finishing their doctorate/Ph.D. As for me, I have made what I learned into a system and gotten our programs accredited so that other children like mine have a chance to achieve their potential, and other parents like me can help their kids become the best versions of themselves.