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Thoughts

I had this post typed up some time ago… but never got around to edit it properly.
Here goes:

I ended an emotional Biology remedial an hour ago, and as inspiring as it was, I was just glad to end school and head back to my room. (it’s a Friday!!)

Instead I was greeted with dark grey skies, and the pouring rain.

So here I am in the computer lab (Side note: Why is this a laboratory? What kind of experiments do you do here? hmNm), with nothing better to do (i’m blatantly ignoring the fact that I have to study, as usual).

Some incidents + thoughts today:
1. I spoke to Ms. A today for my mock examination arrangements + whether I could sit in her March class during practicals/AS, and the way she reassured me that it’s alright and i could definitely go ahead with it was… nice/ heartwarming. I was worried she was not keen to allow that (because she’s usually the teacher who follows strictly by the rules), but I was genuinely pleasantly surprised. She really seemed like she wanted to help, and I’m grateful for that. :’)

2. As I was speaking to her, she was trying to gobble down a packet of biscuits as quickly as she could, because after our 2 hour lab session, she still has a class to go to. (maybe even more) I couldn’t help but feel bad for her, as it suddenly dawned on me that the job of a teacher is not only tedious, but to a certain extent, lonely as well. Students come and go, and the teachers have such a jam-packed schedule they literally have no time to mingle around with the other teachers very often. All they have is pockets of time (other than lesson prepping, marking, perhaps even acting as teachers of clubs, organising events etc.) for themselves, and it’s just… tough.

This is particularly true for teachers in private colleges in Malaysia. We are very understaffed.

My Maths teacher has to combine 2 of her classes because if she didn’t, she would have to drop one of her classes. And which class would want to suffer having to change a teacher and adopting to a new teacher’s teaching style within their last semester, when the most rigorous content is being taught? We compromised. We no longer submit any written work because she no longer has time to mark anything, and all we can do is to approach her if we ever face any difficulties while doing the questions. But then again, she is already swamped from the long teaching hours in the week, and she also has to take care of her own commitments (note: family), so how much more personal contact time can I even get from her to clarify my doubts?

All of my teachers face the pressure of completing the syllabus before our mock examinations. This is because the A-levels programme in Malaysia is especially intense amongst many of the pre-U courses due to it’s relatively short time frame + heavy work load. In the world where people are looking for ‘quick’ ways to complete their pre-U examinations, as with the privatising of education, the A-levels programme is customised to suit the needs of our customers – to be completed in slightly less than 1.5 years, when it is originally designated to be completed within 2 years. (Some people even take the accelerated route – approximately 15 months, excluding holidays – it’s crazy)

With that, there are also 3 intakes in my college (and many others) for our programme. With three intakes this means there are huge flow of students in and out of the school every year. With different classes facing different examinations (eg. some would be doing AS, whereas some would be doing A2), the teacher would have to switch quickly and adapt to drastically different progresses. (In Singapore, it’s either J1 or J2, but there is only 1 A-level examination at the end of the year and only 1 intake per year, so the teachers don’t face the stress of 3 different intakes at once. Also, most teachers either focus on J2 or J1, they don’t usually do both. There’re also lectures, instead of tutorials, so teachers don’t have to teach that many hours because during lectures half the cohort would be in the Auditorium/Lecture Theatres – it also means that they have more contact time.)

Despite the exorbitant amount of school fees I pay, I get very little contact time with my teachers out of class. The quality of education I get is not directly proportional to my school fees. I pay RM45,000 (approximately) for a 1.5 year pre-University course, and it’s always a happy thought that this 45k cannot secure me a job after graduation, but merely serves as a stepping stone towards University. I (bobian) chose A-levels because it is (supposedly) rigorous (I want a smaller gap between University and pre-U), and I am also accustomed to this way of learning. (I would not survive if I did the IB sobs)

I don’t know how a simple thought linked to this (lol), but I can go on forever about what sucks in privatised pre-University education in Malaysia. Without a central functioning Ministry of Education, the quality of teaching is merely monitored by ‘heads’ or ‘directors’ of individual schools, and in many cases ends up being compromised. Without a team of people who constantly keep up with the standards of the education provided, (some) teachers are going to get by with whatever they have been doing for the past 10/20/30 years. 

The students (note: that includes me) are going to lose out in this rat race.

Some would like to say that learning is self-directed, and I agree wholeheartedly with that – it obviously is. But there is no denying that the role of the teacher is instrumental in how well the students can adapt to the content. (will talk more about this next time)

3. I spoke to my Chemistry teacher about the same issue as (1.) but lmao her reaction was so off-putting and intimidating. She agreed reluctantly and demanded to know (I’m not kidding when I say demanded – that was the vibes I got from her) whether I was going to take my AS/A2 mock and the way she asked me just made me feel terrible about myself. : ‘ / . But anyway I forgot to ask her whether she was okay with marking my paper lol. I really didn’t want to see the look on her face again so I emailed her in the end (to ask) hahaha.(admittedly I don’t have the best attitude in class for Chemistry lol so ya it could be an accumulated dissatisfaction towards me haha)

4. The Biology remedial just now was very very inspiring. I was glad I came, because the teacher reminded me why I wanted to do Science, and why I like Biology. (I wouldn’t say love at the moment, but I do have a strong interest in it) Science is the study of life, and it is always ongoing – we stand on the shoulders of the giants to look further, and from there we try to understand life on Earth (+ outside of Earth) in a better way. It reminds me how tiny I am, and that I am nothing more than a speck of dust in this vast Universe. I can only try to leave a positive impact on this world. I also loved it that she used everyday objects (like the classroom/doors/conveyer belts) to link it with scientific concepts.

Love it when I get to meet people who are so so passionate in their fields, and I hope that one day, I get to be remembered as somebody as such in my field of Medicine as well. :’)

Note* (That is not to say that the Singapore education system is flawless, I will share my thoughts on that next time perhaps)

I also really want standardised notes (screams)!!!!! (ie. notes designed by the entire department designated for the whole batch of students, and not notes by individual teachers, who vary drastically in the standards of the notes)

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