I am leaving Hong Kong on Tuesday night and making my trip back to school in England. Unlike many years before, I am not looking forward to school to start. No, I don’t hold any prejudice on schooling. Conversely, I loved going to school. When I was in primary, all the way until the year of IGCSE, school was my life. I studied in one of the most prestigious boarding schools in Shanghai where thousands of upper-class families hope to send their kids to. I remember begging my parents to buy me an earlier flight back to school and not miss any school days because every day was so eventful. While I was constantly in the wave of playing ultimate, I have experienced the idea of “setting examples” for the school and those manipulating grading system of China. Moreover, the pressure by parents on the kids made me such a different person from kids in Shanghai.
I remember in Year 9, I was showing 15+ prospective parents around our secondary campus, one parent out of the crowd asked me “Do you take any supplementary lessons after school in the weekend?”. In China, supplementary lessons are something very popular among parents. They call it BuXi, “supplementary learning”. Yes, I did some English lessons when I was in primary when I first arrive in Shanghai because I wasn’t able to catch up with the English in my international school, I did some Olympiad Math lesson which I stormed out after two lessons, I trained for swimming everyday competitively for a year and more. However, since primary, I have never taken any other “supplementary learning” lessons. I replied to the parent who was questioning me “No, never (which was true because, in their standard, the lessons I took were out of pure interest and relaxing)”. The parent was so shocked and continued by questioning the whole crowd “How many of you don’t have supplementary lessons for your kids after school?” None of them raises their hands or answer. Every single one of them has BuXi lessons for their kids.
I couldn’t accept the culture where parents are eager and forced their kids to take numerous of lessons after school. I couldn’t accept the culture where the parents believe scores are more important than the learning of their kids. I couldn’t accept the culture where kids are learning for getting into “top” colleges and “top” companies. I just couldn’t.
(I use the word culture instead of environment because this is becoming the culture)
Yes, I spent hours every weekend trying to make the best out of my homework and yes there were times when I hope that someone could teach me how to do a math question. I still insist on self-studying and learning things which I am interested in. I read articles on BBC and the Economist whenever I have free time, I hold strong views towards environmental and human right issues.
I took the opportunities to go to England where I thought there are fewer pressures from parents around me. I was right, I never heard of people in my school taking supplementary learning lessons. However, I was in another extent where students themselves care less about studying and focus mostly on socialising. Over the year, I looked up for schools (mostly boarding schools) where the idea of self-studying and global issues come into one. Starting from boarding schools in Hong Kong, I came across to Li Po Chun United World College.
United World College is a movement where students from different socio, religious, ethnic, cultural backgrounds come together and hope to make the world a better place. I think this will be the place where people around me no longer treat me as a joke when I talk about global issues (this happen even in the so-called “prestigious” school in Shanghai) and where my peers are aspired to learn purely for themselves and by themselves.
I will send in my application this fall and hope to hear further information from them. Meanwhile, this will be the official start (hopefully) of my blog about everything that’s happening around me.