I only learnt my ABCs at 6 & my parents never sent me to tuition. I turned out ok anyway.
Good news is I never had to use the quadratic equation.
If you can’t tell from the cover photo, I have graduated from several phases in my life — polytechnic, secondary, and the proudest moment in my entire life — my kindergarten graduation.
Graduation ceremonies are a big deal to me, because I got to where I am without any tuition classes.
And it’s not that I’m too smart to require a tutor.
In fact, for the most part of my life, I’ve asked my parents to hire a tutor for me, only to be met with refusal.
Why I never got tuition
In 2015, Straits Times reported that seven out of 10 parents send their children for tuition.
But my parents are the other three parents, and for good reason.
It’s common knowledge that raising a child in Singapore is expensive, and one person even claimed (to much contention) that it costs about S$670,000.
So imagine having four daughters — tuition seemed more like a luxury than a necessity.
My parents placed their faith solely in our brains and Singapore’s education system, which is one of the best in the world, by the way.
Jealous of tuition-going friends
Compared to my three sisters who have done and are still doing well academically (their average PSLE score was 241), I am what most people would call a “late bloomer” (my PSLE score was 204, if you’re wondering).
My mother would always groan, retelling the story of how she struggled to teach me my ABCs which I only managed to grasp at six years old.
Growing up, I have always envied my friends who would sigh heavily when they had to go for tuition lessons after school.
Yes, I was that one crazy kid who would beg her parents for tuition classes because I was convinced that I could become an instant genius after going to one of those tuition centres with blown-up images of students who go from F9 to A1 after attending their classes.
But my requests were always denied because according to dear mother, “Your sisters can tutor you”.
I would always blame my failed tests and examinations on the lack of “real” tuition.
But years down the road, not having tuition has taught me more than a pile of Ten Year Series ever could.
More time for family
Since my parents refused to let me be taught by “real” tutors, my two older sisters were arrowed to teach me.
And because we were family, it didn’t make things any easier.
I, for one, didn’t like being nagged at for not reading my problem sums thoroughly, and my sisters didn’t like that I was a stubborn brat who refused to read my problem sums thoroughly.
At the same time, my sisters did help me to understand problem sums better.
A strengthened bond was a bonus since we practically spent evenings studying together at the dining table.
While my friends lost precious family and play time in exchange for better grades, I’m glad I managed to get the best of both worlds.
Learning to be independent
My sisters couldn’t always be at my beck and call since they can be busy with their own work.
So whenever I couldn’t understand something from class, the next best bet would be to ask my classmates.
Most times, any classmate who sat beside me would be willing to explain the theories or equations I missed.
One boy named Ben* (*not his real name), however, caught me by surprise.
When asked if he could teach me how to solve an algebraic equation, he replied:
“If I help you, then my parents pay for my tuition for what?”
As a 16-year-old teenager, his response came as a shock to me.
“Suck it, Ben. Knowing all the equations won’t get you all the girls,” salty me thought to myself.
But he also gave me an important life lesson: Not everybody will be nice. Sometimes you have to protect yourself because it’s every man for himself.
And of course I had to be more attentive in class lah.
Figured my strengths
Let’s get real, I’ve always been bad in math and science, but it got worse in Secondary 3 when I was consistently failing every test and exam (but they said consistency is a good thing, right…?)
I attended every night study session in school and almost all remedial classes in hopes of getting better grades, but all I got were D7s and E8s.
It sucked to put in a lot of work into something only for it to be in vain, but it was different for linguistic subjects like English, Malay and Malay literature.
These lessons were fun to me, and let’s just say that I’ve never failed these subjects terribly.
The difference in grades were so drastic, it was easy for me to figure out what I wanted to do later in life; either a teacher or a writer (yes, despite learning my ABCs at six).
But I couldn’t (and still can’t) stand kids, so I enrolled into a local polytechnic to pursue a diploma in mass communication.
I didn’t graduate with merit, but I did top the cohort in two modules and that’s enough achievement for me.
Most average person
Fast forward to 2019, friends my age are pursuing their degree while I’m temporarily halting my studies so I can work and contribute to my family.
Being average may not be the goal for a lot of people, but I’m content with being just average for now, because I earned it.
Top image from Fasiha Nazren