The schools gone by
Some of the bloggers here reminisced about the days gone by when we studied very little and still got by with our lives with very little. Those were times when Standard 5 or equivalent of Primary 6 could land one a job as a Chief Clerk(tua chye hoo) in an organisation or even as a senior civil servant in the colonial civil service. And one could wear white long pants and white shirts, to be whiter and more similar to the white lords. Educational standards then were very low. Qualifications of teachers were equally low. It was a case of the blind leading the blind. The aim was to be able to learn the 3 Rs. That would be adequate. The colonial masters did not see the need for the locals to be too highly educated. The first Chinese secondary school, The Chinese High School, was a communal effort by the Chinese community to educate their own children. No, not the responsibility of the govt then. They paid for everything, including land and building and the teachers' salary. And school life was simple. As children, did we study? Play was all we knew, or staying out of the cubicles we called home. Sometimes home was a folding bed, or bed was a corner of a floor inside the cubicle if one was lucky. Or it could be the corridor or 5 footway. Staying out was the norm, at least for the children of coolies and odd job labourers. The outdoor was the living room. Tuition or proper guidance by parents in education was a luxury that few could afford. Even if some parents tried, the teachers were mostly school dropouts, whose parents could put them through a few years in school but they failed to progress to secondary school or at best Secondary Two. Anyway, who cared about education when parents too were illiterate and did not know anything that the children were learning in school except ABC? Life was simple and no big dreams. The common big dream of the labourer mothers was the 'tua chye hoo' or a pen pushing job in an office. That was a great achievement and improvement in the quality of life. A 'tua chye hoo' was the senior administrative staff in an office, and could often earned enough to own a car. In the minds of the children it was play and quickly grow up to work. Those who failed early were the joy of parents. They could start work earlier, in the kopitiam as kopi kias, or helping the kok kok mee to peddle the streets for business. When poverty was everywhere, no one felt that poor or miserable. The little corners of wealth were in the Bukit Timah, East Coast and Orchard Road areas when the Ang Moh resided and those enclaves of the babas who were mainly civil servants or working with the British forces as clerks. Stress? The only stress was when the legs were covered with cane strokes left by abusing parents. How to hide them in shorts at schools. Other than that, many passed their lives aimlessly. Life was unstructured and so was elementary education. What's happening today to our children? Striving to be the best that can be. We spent our times singing 'God Save the Queen.'