Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rags to Riches

Someone once said to me 'rags to riches indicate possibility, but possibility is not the same as probability'. So true.

Two weekends ago, I attended two very different social functions where I had passionate chats with several people about this topic. These experiences only further reinforced my long-standing views of the common factors in families that had consistently produced success stories.

Besides the key qualities to instill in the kids which I shared in details at the recent Coaching Bright Minds workshops, these common factors must have a tremendous effect on the upbringing and shaped the kids' characters and development.

Not long ago, I had a chat with an acquaintance who shared her thoughts on her sons' education. As a supermarket cashier, she works 6 days a week and together with her admin clerk spouse, they need both jobs to make ends meet. On their days off, the parents' priority is not to supervise their kids' schoolwork but to catch up on sleep, do housework or just rest.

She told her boys who are currently in Pri 4 and 5 that they have to depend on themselves to do well. When they face difficulties in their schoolwork, the parents can't coach them, nor can they afford to send them for tuition. They have tried cheap tuition classes offered at community centres before, but stopped soon after because they had better uses for the money. The parents also have low expectations to begin with and are contented as long as their sons pass their PSLE. Well, one of them is now a borderline case.

The stark contrast lies in the other group of people I know personally, who are marching their preschoolers and primary school kids to a long list of classes. Many spent between $1200 and $2000 per child for a few holiday classes during the June holiday. Some of these kids also attend as many as 8 enrichment/tuition classes a week during school terms.

While I don't believe that attending that many classes is necessarily a good thing for the kids, but the fact remains that there is a higher chance for these kids to have a head start or continuous help than those in the other group.

For those who can only depend on themselves, it takes the rare kid who is mature and hardworking enough, to triumph against all odds.

It seems only logical that the child who grows up in a family environment that places emphasis on his education needs has a higher chance of excelling academically, regardless of his innate abilities. In the cases that I've known, those with high-flying careers later on in life all started out with a family that emphasized good education and good schools. Even their grandparents went to good schools and did well in their professional careers.

Whenever I am at this topic, two contrasting examples always come to mind. And I know many others that also fall into these two categories.

A retired grandma, who had a remarkable education and was a successful career woman in her heyday. She married an equally successful doctor and has three kids who are now doing real well professionally.

Another retired grandma who also raised three kids, but had only a few years of formal education because she hated school. Her only career was a part-time job to make ends meet.

When both talked about picking primary schools for their grandchildren, the first insisted that her grandkids must get into good (read: branded) school as a good education lays the solid foundation and it all starts with good schools. Doesn't matter if the child is required to work harder because it will all pay off later. The second grandma didn't really care which school her grandkids go to, as long as it is one that isn't taxing on the kids.

I always find the differences fascinating.

Apparently, there was a study a few years ago that showed Singaporeans whose parents were at the bottom tend to remain at the bottom, while those whose parents were at the top tend to stay there. But I can't find the source.

Food for thought. 

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