As a parent of two young children, I have had to think about what I want for my children as they grow up, what I would define as success for them. I have listened to the current debate on our school system and its flaws, and am trying to shape my views about what I want for my children.
My oldest child is now of the age where I need to start thinking about her primary school. Some months ago, after careful delibration, I decided that I would not enrol my daughter in an elite primary school, even though I am the alumni of one. There are several reasons why I arrived at this position, but the most important one is that I do not think she needs to study in an elite school to find success and happiness in life. I also do not want to be caught up in the 'arms race' to over-teach my children. I do not want my children to have their free time filled up with enrichment classes so that they enter primary school already knowing the things that they are supposed to be learning. I want my children to have a childhood, to figure out for themselves (and with my guidance) what they want out of life. I do not want them to feel that educational achievements are the only things that will guarantee success in life.
But what does success mean for us? In the course of my working life, through my own experiences and through the people I have met, I have started to form my picture of success as an adult.
I have been in the same job for the last 5 years and I think this job has given me lots of opportunity to learn and grow. I used to be embarrassed that as an alumni of an elite school, I did not 'succeed' as I did not get the right number of A's in exams, did not get a scholarship, did not go to a prestigious university. But I am now working in a job that I like and am doing well in (the perfect combination, as they say) - that, to me, counts as success. Success is not defined by how many of the 'right' choices you made, or whether you went to the 'right' places. Life is what you make of it, and you have to define your own success, find your own mountain to climb.
I read recently about two Singaporean mountaineers who were climbing virgin peaks (mountains that have never been scaled before by any man). Many people feel that Mt Everest is the definitive mountain to climb if you are a mountaineer, but there are many more mountains that exist than just this one. Do you know that there are so many people who want to climb Mt Everest that there is a queue system with a long wait list? I think that one does not need to climb Mt Everest to be defined as a great mountaineer, that you can find your own success and your own mountain to climb.
Now, at this point of time in my life, I think I have found success. I have a good career, a great marriage, beautiful children, a happy
My wish for all Singaporeans, especially those with children, is to take a step back and to have more perspective on what life could offer you and your children. There is more than one path to success, more than one way to achieve happiness. And happiness is also its own form of success. There is no point in having the right qualifications, going to right school, or landing the right job, if it is going to make you unhappy.